Exodus 18 Moses Learns from Jethro
Read verses 5-12 regarding the sweet reunion of Moses’s family, including demonstrations of great family love, respect, concern, testimony, and deep faith in the Lord. Next, Jethro (Moses’s father-in-law) observes something which leads him to teach Moses a leadership lesson. Read verses 13-26 and consider:
- Verse 14 says that Moses’s approach was not right “to the people.” Why do you think this is so?
- Verse 18 explains how Moses’s approach to judging would also affect Moses himself (see also Mosiah 4:27; D&C 10:4).
- Consider the ways in verses 19-23 that Jethro’s counsel would not only bless Moses, but also the people.
- In verse 20 Jethro counsels Moses to “teach them [the children of Israel] ordinances, and laws [and] shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.” This brings to mind the familiar quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith, in answer to a question regarding how he could “govern” so many Church members. He replied, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339).
- Based on numerous Old Testament references, some scholars estimate the total population of the Israelites at this time to be at least two million, while others consider this number to be excessive, deducing much lower numbers. We do not know the actual figure, but assuming a much smaller population of perhaps 100,000 people, the suggestions made by Jethro in verse 21 would result in:
—10,000 rulers of ten
—2,000 rulers of 50
—1,000 rulers of 100
—100 rulers of 1,000
This adds up to a total of 13,100 people serving as judges of the people, compared to only Moses doing it.
- Even reducing the total population to 20,000 (generally the lowest number suggested by scholars), we still end up with 2,620 new leaders, in place of one. Consider how much all this will bless these new leaders, in addition to blessing Moses and all the people.
- How does your service in the Church and among others bless and strengthen you?
Exodus 19 An Invitation to Become Holy
The Lord has placed His children on earth to help them learn and grow, often offering them His commandments and covenants to live by. After the children of Israel had been in bondage for over 400 years, He invited them to be His people:
- Look in verses 5-6 for the things the Lord invited them to do and to become.
- How did the people respond? (verses 7-8).
- What did the Lord say He would do to help the people believe in Him and in Moses as their prophet? (verses 9, 11).
- What instructions did the Lord give for the people to prepare to see Him? (verses 10-12).
- What did the people do that demonstrated their lack of faith? (verses 17-21; also Exodus 20:18-19).
The Lord revealed more about these episodes in Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-26, telling us the following:
- The “greater priesthood” (the Melchizedek priesthood) can bless us with the mysteries and knowledge of God, including ordinances through which God’s power is made manifest (D&C 84:19-21).
- The Lord revealed that the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood can lead us to seeing the face of God (to pass through the veil and see Him) and this is what Moses was teaching as he tried to help prepare the children of Israel to receive the Lord’s laws and covenants (D&C 84:22-23).
- However, the Israelites “hardened their hearts” and were thus unworthy to “enter into his rest” (D&C 84:24; this verse also defines “entering into God’s rest” as “the fulness of his glory”).
- Because of their rejection of the Lord’s offer—displaying their lack of preparation for a higher law—the Lord eventually “took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also” (D&C 84:25), leaving them instead with the “lesser priesthood” and the “preparatory gospel,” which came to be known as the law of Moses (D&C 84:26).
- Do we realize what the Lord is offering each one of us? What lessons for your own life can you derive from these scriptural accounts?
Exodus 20 The Ten Commandments
It has been said that the Ten Commandments—as revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai—are the basis for many of our civil laws today. They can be considered God’s laws for us in our relationship with Him (the first four commandments) and for our relationships with others (commandments 5 through 10). Additionally, commandments 4 and 5 teach us things to do, while the rest teach us things not to do:
- Commandments 1 and 2 (verses 1-6): What kinds of things or activities today could be considered “other gods” or a “graven image”? Is the Lord first in your life? President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities” (April 1988 general conference).
- Commandment 3 (verse 7): We often think of this commandment as referring to profanity—which it does—but Doctrine and Covenants 63:61-62 teaches us that another way to take the name of the Lord in vain is to say or do things in His name without having proper authority to do so.
- Commandment 4 (verses 8-11): In what ways does the law of the Sabbath bless your life? (See also Isaiah 58:13-14; D&C 59:9-13.) Are there ways you may better observe the Sabbath? President Russell M. Nelson taught, “I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father [see Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12, 20]. With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, ‘What sign do I want to give to God?’ That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear” (April 2015 general conference).
- Commandment 5 (verse 12): What does it mean to you to “honor” parents? What if embracing the restored gospel, or following its precepts, goes against a parent’s wishes?
- Commandments: 6, 7, and 8 (verses 13-15): Doctrine and Covenants 59:6 teaches that we are not to steal, commit adultery, nor kill, “nor do anything like unto it.” What could be “like unto” stealing, or adultery, or killing?
- Commandment 9 (verse 16): Bearing false witness can be manifest in many ways. Sometimes we justify ourselves because we say something that is technically true, but it also created a deception.
- Commandment 10 (verse 17): What things does the Lord specifically mention, that we are not to covet? What else might you add? What is wrong with coveting? What other wrong behaviors could coveting lead to?
Why do you think the first commandment is first? Which commandments do you think the world needs most today? Is there a commandment you feel you should better focus on?