Last week in my daily Bible reading I came across a story that really made me think. In the book of Exodus, it tells the story of how God helped His people escape from their slavery in Egypt. Their journey came about after God did many signs and miracles (with negative effects that made Pharaoh decide he didn’t want the Israelites in his country) and began with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. At some point before all this happened, Moses sent his wife and children home to live with her family. After the crossing of the Red Sea, the Bible says this:
“Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt… Jethro…came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” (Exodus 18:1-6)
They were about to have a family reunion! When you hear that your in-laws or extended family are on their way, how do you respond? What kind of gathering are you anticipating? Do you brace yourself for a miserable few days or are you filled with excitement? Here’s what happened in Moses’s situation:
Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. 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. (Exodus 18:7-12)
What a great family reunion! I think there is a great model here that can transform any family reunion. Here’s what they did:
- Expressed joy and affection when they met
- Asked questions
- Were honest with each other
- Shared what God had done for them – how He had delivered them
- Worshipped God
- Offered help and encouragement for the difficulties in their present situations (verses 17-23)
- Gave Biblical advice (verse 23)
- Went on to live independent lives (verse 27)
Here are some questions to ask yourself before your next family event (whether it’s a big holiday, a birthday party or a simple Sunday meal):
- How can I let my family know I’m glad they are here?
- How can I turn the conversation to let them know I’m interested in their lives?
- Am I being honest (without overstepping our personal boundaries)?
- How can I encourage them by sharing what God has done for us?
- How can we worship God during our time together?
- How can I encourage them in their present situation?
- Am I ready to “tell them what I think,” or have I allowed God’s Word to fill my heart and mouth?
When I entertain family in my home, I really want it to look like that reunion between Moses and Jethro. Recently I’ve become aware of the responsibility that I now carry as an adult member of my family. It’s not just up to the patriarch or matriarch of our families to set the tone for a gathering – I have the responsibility and the privilege of creating an environment where God is the focus. Here are a few things I’ve done to achieve that (and I have a long way to go!):
- Plan ahead so I’m not stressed when family arrives
- Think of things to ask about their lives
- Discuss with my husband a certain time during the gathering that we can purposefully stop to share what God is doing in our lives
- Lead a time of prayer with family before they leave
- Play soft, uplifting music to create a calming atmosphere
- Most importantly – pray and ask the Lord to prepare my heart and help me be kind, loving and attentive to everyone’s needs.
I think the goal of a family reunion like the one Moses and Jethro experienced is important no matter your family dynamic. Whether you have a calm, loving family that usually always gets along or a crazy, dysfunctional family with little in common – God will honor your desire to worship Him and encourage others with your family time.
As a young wife, this is something I’m working on. Sometimes I’m the Moses of the family who needs encouragement and advice. There are other times that I can be the “Jethro” and I want to be prepared with Godly wisdom and a heart that’s ready to worship! Which one are you? How can you create the best kind of reunion for your family?