Every Relationship Needs a Jethro!

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, Moses, Jethro, Tzipporah, 1998, (c)DreamWorks

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, Moses, Jethro, Tzipporah, 1998, (c)DreamWorks

We remember Moses for lots of great reasons—parting the Red Sea, receiving the 10 Commandments, leading God’s people through the wilderness for 40 years—but we don’t often talk about “Moses, the Family Man.” Maybe we should? After all, tucked away in the narrative of Moses is a fantastic relationship tip that we all can learn from. To sum it up, “Everybody needs a Jethro!”

Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law but he was much more than that; Jethro was a trusted advisor who spoke practical wisdom to Moses at strategic times in his life and marriage relationship.

We see it first when Moses is single:
Exodus 2:18 – 21: When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah.

I can remember my mom telling me, “Why don’t you take Kristy to the movies or something?” I was like, “Uh, no Mom, I don’t need your help picking a girl to ask out.” Well, after 15 years together and two kids, I’m glad I didn’t let my pride get in the way. You see, when you’re single, your “Jethro” can see what you need in a partner more clearly than you can sometimes. Don’t be so close-minded to the gentle nudgings that the Jethros in your life give.

But, before we go any further, we should define who does and doesn’t qualify to speak words of guidance and direction into your life. Again, the biblical person of Jethro is helpful and instructive:

  1. Your Jethro should be a godly person. The Bible says that Jethro was a priest (See Ex. 2:16, Ex. 18:1) and that he worshiped the Lord (Ex. 18:10-11). If your Jethro doesn’t love and serve God then you should not follow his/her advice.
  2. Your Jethro should know you well. Over the course of Moses 40 years in Midian with Jethro, the two men build a close relationship. Jethro also knew Moses’ wife, his daughter very well. It is important that your Jethro not have a one-sided view of things.
  3. Your Jethro should give wise counsel. The whole point of identifying and listening to an advisor is that the advice they give actually helps the situation. If your Jethro is just popping off at the mouth, be leery of heeding his/her advice.
  4. Your Jethro should be trustworthy. Relationship issues are among the most private things you can share and they are also the most devastating if they ever leak. Don’t confide in someone who has loose lips. If they talk about others in your presence then they talk about you when you’re not around! If you’re married, make sure your spouse knows and approves of your Jethro—your spouse doesn’t have to know every time you talk to your Jethro but you don’t want to breach marital trust by letting others into the sacred privacy that spouses alone share.
  5. Your Jethro has nothing to lose or gain. Don’t pick an advisor who is afraid to confront you when he/she feels they will lose your friendship or respect unless they do or say what you want to hear.

Jethro was aware of what God was doing in Moses’ life but he was also careful to remind Moses that just as  much as the two million Israelites needed him, his wife and two boys needed him! It’s so easy to get caught up in the frantic pace of life and to lay aside the primary responsibilities of home. I fear that Moses would have done it had Jethro not intervened!

In Exodus 4:20, the Bible records how Moses’ wife and two sons accompanied him on his journey back to Egypt to deliver God’s people but by Exodus 18:2 we find that at some point Moses’ sent his family back to Midian to live with Jethro. It’s reasonable to suspect that Moses was thinking about their safety when he told them to return to Midian but Jethro obviously thought that the separation had been long enough and he stepped in to do something about it.

Does your marriage have a “Jethro?” I can remember a wise older man that I worked with when I was in my 20’s. He was many years into his second marriage and he would sometimes tell me about the challenges he had faced in his first marriage. There were many times when I would sneak over to his office to get wisdom on how to handle problems I was facing at home and at work. Each time, his wealth of understanding and experience helped me navigate choppy marital waters with grace. Without his wise guidance, I would have made many more mistakes along the way. If you don’t have that godly, older person who knows you, knows your situation and is filled with the Spirit of God and wisdom, begin asking God to show you who He has placed in your life to help you make good choices and realize that the person God uses to help you in this season may not be same as it was last season. Stay attentive to who God is bringing in and out of your life.

Roland Hairston

Roland Hairston loves God and loves people. He wrestles with ideas about life, faith, leadership and church and wields strategy, technology and communications to move people to action. As Publisher of Gospel Today, Roland has the joy of sharing information, inspiration, education and empowerment with the world.

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