The breakthrough Moses needed came through a relationship. When God wants to raise us to a new level, this is his preferred method. Relationships are the key to life. The answer to the thorny issue hidden in the mysterious mist of our frustration often comes through friendship. I don’t think Moses had a bunch of buds. He drew strength from his time alone, in communion and meditation on the things of God. We don’t need a ton of amigos. Just one good one can make all the difference.
Let’s look at Exodus 18:1, “Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.”
Growing up in Pharaoh’s palace, Moses never truly knew his dad. When he was 40 and a fugitive, he ran into Jethro. This priest of Median and follower of Yahweh, took him in, gave him a job, and his daughter Zipporah. Hundreds of miles from his people, Moses found a spiritual father figure. While Jethro was a gift, Moses was a blessing to Jethro. After living with seven daughters all his life, he finally had a son. But after the burning bush, and 40 years of service, Moses took his family and headed back to Egypt.
Finally, Jethro received an update on what God did through Moses. Most likely, the news came through Zipporah, for Moses sent her back with their two sons (Exodus 18:2). We don’t know why he sent her away. Were they fighting? Was their tension in the home? Zipporah, who once called Moses a “husband of blood” was no wallflower (Exodus 4:24). Or, was Moses protecting them from Pharaoh? Whatever the reason, she came back to dad and told him the amazing news. Moses, the misfit prince, had overcome mighty Pharaoh and freed the Israelites from slavery. The refugee of Egypt, the stuttering shepherd, was now shepherding the people of God to the land of promise. Jethro was blown away.
When Zipporah came back home, she took their two sons – Gershom and Eliezer. We find their names in Exodus 18:3. Gershom, whose name means “a foreigner there” was born while Moses was a fugitive in Midian. The name of the second son was Eliezer, which means “my God is my helper.”
Parents think long and hard about the names of their children. We don’t want to be like the boxer George Foreman, who gave his seven sons the same name – George Edward Foreman. On his website, Foreman says he did this so his sons would always have something in common. We want to know what a name means. The birth of our children mark the most important seasons in our lives. For Moses, the names of his sons told the story of his life. In his early years, he felt like a stranger, a foreigner with no place to call home. But the God he came to know and love was his helper and delivered him, even from the sword of Pharaoh.
We should be careful not to beat Moses up for sending his wife and kids away. Let’s not label him an absentee father, for he would later write in Deuteronomy 6:7 advising parents, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Moses wanted to connect with his family but had to send them away.
Exodus 18:5 says, “Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God.” Jethro heard the Israelites were camping near his home, at the mountain of God. Seeing an opportunity, he packed the RV and headed into the wilderness to reunite the family. As Jethro and the family drew closer, he sent word ahead, “Get ready! We’re coming to see you. I’ve got the wife and the kids in tow!”