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Turning things inside out (Exodus 18)

MP3: Exodus 18 - Turning things inside out, 43mins, Frontiers Church Exeter
“One day whilst out enjoying the sunshine Narcissus came upon a pool of water. As he gazed into it he caught a glimpse of what he thought was a beautiful water spirit. He did not recognise his own reflection and was immediately enamoured. Narcissus bent down his head to kiss the vision. As he did so the reflection mimicked his actions. Taking this as a sign of reciprocation Narcissus reached into the pool to draw the water spirit to him. The water displaced and the vision was gone. He panicked, where had his love gone?...Frightened to touch the water Narcissus lay still by the pool gazing in to the eyes of his vision. He cried in frustration. He did not move, he did not eat or drink, he only suffered. As he pined he became gaunt loosing his beauty. “
What an echo of our culture?! Perfect self-obsession. Planet Facebook: no-one picks out a bad photo for their profile… maybe you’ve even googled yourself – the modern day equivalent of getting stuck at Narcissus’ pool – searching for our own reflection. How do we break the mirror? How can we be freed from this self-ism?

Week by week, page by page we’ve been walking through the 2nd book of the Bible, Exodus. Paul Blackham notes that Exodus is “the biggest prophecy of the cross”. 1st half – How God defeats his enemy, frees his people by the blood of a Passover Lamb and bringing them from death to life through the Sea of Reeds. 2nd half – The blueprint for humanity’s relationship with with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in The Tabernacle. All of this showing us the God who is jealous for his own reputation, and in love sends his Son to save his people. `This morning: Chapter 18.

V1. Jethro. Midianite. An Abrahamite, not not an inheritor, an outsider with some Christian connections.  V1. There has been a global event. Do you fight like Amalek? Melt like Canaan? Or come and find out how this small ethnic group overthrew a superpower? V2-6. He comes with GERSHOM and ELIEZER. Their names prophesy the story of God's salvation.  V7. Met with a friendly welcome. Like Jesus' welcome, and so too his disciples love one another - the anti-narcissm that Jesus makes possible. 

But Jethro hasn’t just come for conversation, he wants to find out what’s the LORD is doing, and Moses is the man to tell him. V8. Moses tells all that the LORD had done _ how the LORD had delivered them. It’s Theology! It’s talk about God and what he has done. It’s good to talk Theology. Christians are a people who love to talk about Jesus who is God. Moses loves to speak of Jesus’ rescue of his people. Notice what Jethro didn’t hear. It wasn’t a message about Jethro’s needs or Jethro’s sins. Moses told what the LORD had done. 

Adam Crozier was Chief Exec of the Football Association.: “What was interesting when I arrived was how little time people spent talking about football.” As for Moses, Jesus should be our subject. For Moses it must be like telling the story of Wilberforce ending the slave trade, but on a greater scale, with greater significance. Deliverance of Israel from Egypt is only a picture, painted on the canvas of international politics of a greater deliverance… God the Father sent his Son into the world to set us free from our slavery to sin, in the process displaying his love and his justice to his creation. This is what He has done. How should we respond to such news?

V9, V10, Jethro REJOICES for all the good that the LORD had done, and blessed the LORD. God’s people are a singing people, and Jethro joins the choir, pointing away from himself to the LORD. V11. Jethro says: Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods…A true Christian confession, turning from idols at Narcissus' pool to the LORD.  V7-12. BURNT OFFERING IN THE TENT. 1st picture – the story Moses has told a Passover Lamb and passing through the Sea of Reeds. 2nd picture - The burnt offering. Hardly normal life for us!? Next book of the Bible Leviticus, explains it...

See: Seven aspects of a burnt offering.

That’s Jethro, where are you?
1, Jethro hears about Jesus. Like us, by songs, prophecy, my words. Thoughtful investigation.
2. Jethro get’s it and responds with joy... when we doubt we do so by believing something else - usually doubting God saves by trusting that we can save ourselves. 
3. Jethro is later called Reuel which means Friend of God.

God sent 60 people to Egypt. He brings out over 2 million out. Massive increase! Problem, one man can’t lead 2 million on his own… Early church had the same challenge as they grew rapidly from 120 people to 10,000. The principles they use seem to derive from what we find here as do those in the letters to Timothy & Titus about leaders. Useful for us! Moses brings God’s saving word to the people in every matter, like Jesus representing them before God. Jethro states the obvious (v18): you’ll burn out soon. You can’t do it alone - can't orbit round one person, no personality cult, no burnt out. Think body working together.

We’re made like the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our God is not just one person, but One God in Three Persons, The Triune God, The Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit don’t vote on what do to, they do the Father’s will, and he enacts his will by his Word, Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. There are roles and order. Those who know Jesus are to look like him together. Jethro tells Moses to find, v21, TRUSTWORTHY men to be made, v25, HEADS over people. Two words capture the gist of what is said here. Why Trustworthy Heads? These are men like Christ to whom the Father gave all authority, knowing that he would be the Trustworthy Head of the church.

  • The Father knows his son will not usurp him, he is trustworthy. Those entrusted with service in the church don’t use it overthrow others. And those who show themselves trustworthy, before being given a role, find that trustworthiness recognised.
  • The Father entrusts his Son with the church – he doesn’t abuse her, he cherishes and nourishes her. Having trustworthy leaders means Andy can be away today knowing no-one will need to say to him “you wouldn’t have liked what happened when you were away”. Trust is given not to be abused but exercised.
God’s plan doesn’t just rescue people alone, he creates a people – the church. A family on mission like God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the ultimate missionary family.

To close, Four Ways We can Look like Jesus
1. Trustworthy men as elders in the church, not just pragmatic but a theological methodology- together we display Jesus as heads or under heads.
2. In marriage, husbands are to be trustworthy heads like Christ who laying their lives down for their wives. Wives are Trustworthy in not usurping that God given leadership. As a church family let us encourage and support that pattern, rather than undermining it.
3. At work too. A Christian is Trustworthy as Employer or Employee, not because they’re good but because they become like Jesus. Christian staff should be sought after, reliable +dependable, not argumentative or lazy.
4. Church, not just our ordering but our mission echoes God. The divine family is on mission, overflowing in love for the world... shapes our methods.

God has disturbed the water to draw us away from staring at ourselves. His church is a place that looks like Jesus – open to all, ordered to look like Jesus. His church is a place that will sounds like Jesus, Jesus’ name always on the lips of the church – a people who can’t help but tell of all that Jesus has done.


  1. Well I did wonder how you would manage to give a truly Christian interpretation of the whole of Genesis 18 without distorting the text. But I think you did it.

    Excellent stuff. I loved it. I thank God that he provided you as a trustworthy teacher of his word.


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