Sermon

No Lone Rangers! (Exodus 17:8-18:27)

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There are no Lone Rangers in the kingdom of God. You remember the Lone Ranger, don’t you? From 1949-1957, the Lone Ranger TV show told the fictional story of the “lone” survivor of a patrol of six Texas Rangers who were ambushed and killed. The surviving Ranger disguised himself with a black mask and fought for law and order in the American west of the late 1800s. The story of the Lone Ranger made for a great TV show, but God does not call and equip Christians to be Lone Rangers. God calls men and women and equips them in such a way that they are most effective when they work in cooperation. God calls us to have a personal relationship with Jesus, not a private relationship. For this reason, Jesus established the Church. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt 16:18). In Exodus 17:8-18:27, we have two examples of this principle in action: 1) how God allowed the Israelites to win their first war with an enemy army and 2) how God used Jethro to show Moses that his burden was too heavy for himself and he needed to delegate.

Israel and Amalek

Amalek was the grandson of Esau and his tribe lived in the land near Rephidim. When they became aware of the Israelites, they “fought against Israel” (17:8). Deuteronomy 25:18 tells us that Amalek “met [them] along the way [from Egypt] and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.” Moses told Joshua “to go out and fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand” (17:9). It is easy to understand the significance of Joshua leading the army into battle, but what does Moses plan to do on the hill? While it is not explicitly stated, it seems clear that Moses was obeying the Lord’s instruction. Moses took Aaron and Hur with him and “when Moses held his hand up…Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed” (17:11). Moses was able to hold up his staff for a little while but needed the support of Aaron and Hur throughout the day so that Joshua would overwhelm Amalek and be victorious in battle. Why did the Lord do it this way? The Lord wanted it to be very clear in this battle—their first—that victory depended on Him and that His victory would come through their cooperative participation. Everyone had a role to play to secure victory and the victory belonged to God.

Moses and Jethro

After this, Moses met his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro heard all that had happened and brought with him Moses’ wife Zipporah and his two sons. It is not mentioned in Exodus, but it appears likely that Moses sent Zipporah and his sons back to Jethro either after the incident mentioned in Exodus 4:24-26 or after meeting with Aaron on the way to Egypt. We are told that Moses named his second son Eliezer (My God is help) because he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh” (18:4). Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people” (18:11). He then offered a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. 

Jethro saw that Moses judged every dispute of the people from morning until evening. He knew this was not good and proposed a hierarchical structure that allowed faithful men to judge more common matters and leave Moses available for the most difficult cases. Moses listened to Jethro and put this into practice. Exodus 18:26 says, “They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.” Moses might have been qualified to judge every dispute that arose within the Israelites, but he was not capable of doing it all himself. The Lord spoke through Jethro to show Moses the best way of handing the needs of the people. The Lord would settle the disputes of the people through the wisdom He granted to Moses and through those whom the people designated as elders. It was through their cooperative participation that they would receive the wisdom they need for a flourishing society.

No Lone Rangers

The Lone Ranger was a great story but misleading. It is misleading because the Lone Ranger was not alone; he had a partner named Tonto. God has designed all of us to need one another. As mentioned earlier, God calls men and women and equips them in such a way that they are most effective when they work in cooperation. God has given each Christian spiritual gifts which are designed to be used “for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). This means that my giftedness is intended to bring glory to God and good to others. Paul continues, “you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27). You have a role to play for the expansion of the Gospel and this role is primarily worked out through the local Church so that my giftedness is maximized alongside others.

Let us work together to bring glory to God and good to others around us. Let us commit to being faithful and cooperating so that we can tell others about Jesus. The Gospel expands exponentially when God’s people delegate diligently. Remember who first told you about Jesus. Now remember how many other people told you about Jesus. God used all those people to reveal Himself to you. Think about the difficult times and struggles you have had in the past few years. Now think about how many different people helped you, prayed for you, supported you. Let us cooperate with one another as we look to the Lord for help, strength, wisdom, and victory.