Scripture is ambiguous about the spiritual orientation of Jethro. He is simply described as THE priest of Midian. The Midianites were descendants of Abraham, but in the general engagement through the centuries of Israel’s relationship with them, they were deemed to be followers of other gods, not the God of Israel. So we don’t know where Jethro stood with Yahweh during the decades Moses was part of his family.
After the Exodus, when Moses gave a report, Jethro overtly validated Moses’ God. We don’t know whether Jethro became monotheistic, or simply acknowledged that Yahweh was a cut above the gods he served.
“So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them. Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, ‘Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.’
“Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.” Exodus 18:7-12 NIV
The Gentiles generally acknowledged multiple gods. There was a hierarchy with a god who was greater than the rest, but there were also specialty gods who could be served for a particular asset which they were supposed to deliver. My guess is that Jethro was simply acknowledging that in the pantheon of gods, he was recognizing Yahweh as supreme.
The point however, is that there were three components to this worship. First, the unambiguous declaration of the greatness of God and the attitude adjustment that he, Jethro, had experienced. “Now I know . . . ”
Second was the animal sacrifices. There was the traditional burnt offering for sins and then “other” sacrifices for food for the party.
Third, there was the feast.
From the beginning, food has been the central meeting place for God and man. There was no religious protocol at all in the Garden of Eden. Just God and man talking and walking. When the first post-fall sacrifices were offered, it was two different kinds of food in competition. Through the season from Cain to Mt. Sinai, both the righteous and the unrighteous celebrated their gods with food. At Mt. Sinai, God instituted a massive eating-centered religious structure.
When the complexity of the Mosaic Law was reduced to two ordinances in the New Testament, one of them involved eating – and in the Church of the apostles, it was not a crumb and a sip. The elements for Communion came out of a full meal.
In eternity, at the marriage of the King and the Bride, there is no mention of any ceremony or vows or symbols other than the clothes of each. But central to the ceremony is food.
Today, one of the greatest triumphs of the enemy is to secularize food. Broadly speaking meal times at home or at church are times for fellowship and feeding. The body and soul get all the attention. There is little spiritual consideration other than perhaps the token prayer at the beginning.
Ironically, the most spiritual thing we do with food is to abstain from it! Fasting is considered a high spiritual discipline. Feasting is considered a concession to the crass body cravings.
That simply is not the picture Scripture portrays.
Feasting was central to worship.
The challenge we face is that we are so far behind, we don’t even know what questions to ask to begin to dig out of our ignorance.
What are the spiritual implications of boiled meat versus broiled? What combinations of meats and grains produce which spiritual results? What kind of food would comfort the brokenhearted? What kind would produce faith? What kind would be best for an evangelistic meal? Why is meat central to God’s worship services and not veggies? What are the spiritual qualities of different grains?
Bottom line: Hebrew worship was mostly anchored in food. And our worship is rarely even peripherally related to food. We have lost a huge treasure in knowing how to worship God with feasting.
Copyright February 2016 by Arthur Burk
From the Hub