Sunday, 04 March 2001 00:00

The Kiss of Encouragement

Exodus 18:1-8 (KJV)

When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses father in law heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt; Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back, And her two sons: of which the name of one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh: And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them.

Jethro is the father-in-law of Moses and is mentioned in just four chapters of Scripture (Exodus 2 where he is called Reul or Jether; Exodus 3, Exodus 4 and Exodus 18). There is one word that comes to mind when I think of him—"encourager." Encouragement comes from the Latin—"to pour strength into the heart." Someone has said "encouragement is the oxygen of the soul." Jethro was an encourager to Moses, his sever daughters (including Zipporah) his grandsons (Gershom and Eliezer), and eventually an encourager to all of Israel (Exodus 18). I see five characteristics of an encourager in his life.

  1. An encourager is eager to sacrifice personally for the sake of another.
    Moses was a blessing to his father-in-law Jethro because "the shepherds came and drove Jethro's daughters away: but Moses stood up and helped them" (Exodus 2:17). Yet when God called Moses to Egypt, Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace" (Exodus 4:18).
  2. An encourager is able to rejoice openly in the successes of another.
    "And Moses told Jethro all that the Lord had done... and Jethro rejoiced" (v.8). There is no envy, jealousy or contempt for the success of others in he who encourages. "Every time you turn green with envy, you are ripe for trouble." (Anonymous)
  3. An encourager is willing to speak honestly for the survival of another.
    After escaping the bondage of Egypt, the people of Israel continually asked Moses for help in resolving disputes. Moses set up his court, but when Jethro saw it, he said, "The thing that thou doest is not good, thou wilt surely wear away" (Exodus 18:17). "Nothing is more stimulating than friends who speak the truth in love." (Os Guinness)
  4. An encourager is quick to forgive fully the sins of another.
    When Moses left Midian to return to Egypt, he got in trouble with God for "the Lord met him, and sought to kill him" (Exodus 4:24) for violations of the covenant. Zipporah saved her husband by circumcising their son and after this event, Jewish writers say, Moses sent Zipporah and his boys back to stay with Jethro during the entire Exodus. Can you imagine Zipporah explaining to her father the event and can you imagine Jethro taking care of his daughter and grandsons for several years without Moses? Yet Jethro never makes an issue of it. C.S. Lewis said, "Everyone says forgiveness is such a lovely idea until he has something to forgive." An encourager will forgive!
  5. An encourager is free to praise liberally the strengths of another.
    Jethro told his son-in-law "every great matter the people shall bring to thee" (v.22). While on one hand, Jethro spoke the truth in love, on the other hand he recognized the strengths of Moses and never hesitated to push him with praise to perform well. Will Rogers once said "We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by." May God give us the grace to be people who are encouragers to others.

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