A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas before the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper on November 4, 2018.
Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.’ And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God (Exodus 18:8–12).
Having delivered His people from Egyptian slavery, the Lord led them across the parted Red Sea and crushed Pharaoh and his army under its weight. He led them into the wilderness quenching their thirst with the bitter water of Marah, made sweet. He fed them on quail from the sky and bread from heaven. He poured out drinking water from the stricken rock and gave them strength to defeat Amalek in battle as the staff of the Lord held high as a banner.
The Lord worked mightily for His people through the humble Moses, prophet called from birth. God’s Word reveals more details about the life of Moses than other prophets, including details about his family. We learn of how he met his wife, their marriage and children. We learn of God’s calling Moses from a burning bush and his return to Egypt. In the eighteenth chapter of Exodus we learn that his wife and children had remained with her family in Midian while Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.
In this beautiful family reunion we learn the names of Moses’ sons, which tell the story of Israel: Gershom, which means “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land,” and Eliezer, which means “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh,” were living, breathing testimonies of the Lord’s deliverance. Then, Moses begins to tell his father-in-law, Jethro, about the Lord’s deliverance.
Surely he told him about how the Nile was turned to blood, and about the plague of frogs, and gnats, and flies. Surely he told him about the plague upon Egypt’s livestock, even the death of every Egyptian horse, donkey, and camel. Surely he told him about the boils upon the skin of every man and beast in Egypt, about the hail that rained down upon the fields and trees, of the locusts which devoured the Egyptian crops, and then the nationwide darkness that further blinded the dark heart of Pharaoh.
Surely he told him of the land of Goshen, where the Egyptian slaves were safe and blessed, watching from a distance the wrath of God unfurled upon the mighty empire of Egypt. And then, he surely told of the Passover, of the lamb without blemish slain, of the lamb’s blood upon every doorpost, of the meal of passover lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Surely he then told him of that last and awful plague, when the Lord struck the first born from least to greatest in Egypt but saved each household of Israel by the blood of the lamb. We can only imagine the retelling of Israel’s deliverance and the look on Jethro’s face as Moses reached the grand finale with the defeat of Amalek and Moses’ staff held high. While we do not know all the details of Moses’ account nor do we know the look on Jethro’s face, we do know the words of his mouth, words of praise for deliverance.
Praise for Deliverance
Jethro exclaims, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.” He does not congratulate Moses and Israel on their keen insight, superior wisdom, and cunning ability. Why not? How much did Israel have to do with their deliverance? About as much as we do with ours: Nothing!
Jethro rightly responds with praise to the story of deliverance as should we! For while Israel was delivered from the temporal slavery of Egypt, in Christ we have been delivered from sin and eternal punishment. Like Jethro, let us cry, “Blessed be the LORD,” when we hear: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). And, “thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The truth of our deliverance from slavery to sin is no less true and of greater significance than Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Therefore, like Jethro, let us praise the Lord for His deliverance.
Profession of Faith
Jethro testifies, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people” (Ex. 18:11). Consider what had been revealed to Jethro. Certainly Jethro remembered the account of Moses’ calling, of the burning bush and Moses’ burning zeal for Israel’s liberty. He remembered Moses’ return to Egypt to fulfill God’s calling upon His life. But now, it was not simply an individual account on a mountain. Now, it was the account of God’s sovereign act of deliverance of the children of Israel,
I’m reminded of what our Assistant Minister says about “personal testimonies”: In summary, get past your personal story and get me to the gospel! Jethro’s profession of faith is based on the witness of the LORD’s sovereign act of deliverance. So also is yours and mine. As Jethro professed, “Now I know,” based on the testimony of the Lord’s deliverance, we profess faith in Christ, who “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). In this sense, the personal testimony of every believer is the same: salvation by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.
As the Lord delivered Israel, we profess that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14). Our profession of faith, like Jethro’s leads to rejoicing in the Lord’s deliverance, a rejoicing done with others rejoicing in the Lord’s deliverance. Such assembled rejoicing is a participation in communion.
Participation in Communion
Having praised the Lord for His deliverance and professed faith in the Lord, Jethro brings “a burnt offering and sacrifices to God” (Ex. 18:12). Jethro knows that he is a sinner. He knows that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). He knows that part of a believer’s praise is bringing an offering. This is worship in the life of an Old Covenant believer, but he does not worship alone: “Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.” In communion with God’s people, Jethro worships God. In communion with God’s people, Jethro eats bread before God.
What a beautiful picture of worship: from praise to profession to participation, worshiping the one true God in communion with His people. Yet this is not an isolated event for Moses’ father-in-law, nor is it exclusively an Old Covenant practice. We, like Jethro, “offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb. 13:15) for the once and final perfect sacrifice of His Son. As Aaron and the elders gathered to break bread before God, we assemble on this Lord’s Day to break bread before God in communion.
As we celebrate the sacrament today, do you come to the Lord’s table rejoicing in deliverance? Isn’t that part of the message of this supper? As we see and taste the bread as the sinless, broken body of our Lord, as we see and taste the wine as the atoning blood of our Savior, our right response is praise, praise for deliverance.
So also the words of institution and instruction lead us in professing our faith in Christ. As we see and taste the bread as the sinless, broken body of our Lord, we remember in faith His words, “Take, eat; this is My body which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” As we see and taste the wine as the atoning blood of our Savior, we remember in faith His words, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink from it all of you.”
So, this is a meal for all who are in Christ by God’s grace through faith in Him. We do not rejoice in isolation but together, as a family in Christ, participating in communion. Rejoicing in our deliverance, together in communion through faith, we praise: Blessed be the Lord who has delivered us out of the hand of our enemy.