A Kind Man (Exodus 2:15-22)
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells of spending an evening with his two sons. They did a variety of things, ending with a movie. Four-year-old Sean fell asleep during the movie, and when it was over Covey picked him up in his arms, carried him to the car, and laid him in the back seat. It was very cold that evening, so Covey took off his coat and gently arranged it around the boy.
Later that evening it came time to “tuck in” six-year-old Stephen. Covey tried to talk to him about the evening, to find out what he had liked the most, but there was little response. Suddenly Stephen turned over on his side, facing the wall, and started to cry. “What’s wrong, honey? What is it?” asked Covey. The boy turned back, chin quivering, eyes wet. “Daddy,” he asked, “if I were cold, would you put your coat around me, too?”
Covey wrote, “Of all the events of that special night out together, the most important was a little act of kindness–a momentary, unconscious showing of love to his little brother.”
People profoundly remember little acts of kindness. I remember very vividly my first book fair when I was in kindergarten. I had chicken pox and couldn’t go, but I had looked forward to that book fair for weeks. The school secretary lived directly across the street from us, and she brought me home for or five books from the fair–I remember she brought me The Tortoise and the Hare. Virginia performed a little act of kindness that I remember to this day. I’m sure that all of you could recount memories of a kind act someone went out of his or her way to do for you.
Moses went out of his way to do an act of kindness, an act we remember millennia after the fact. Interestingly, Moses commits this act of kindness shortly after he committed murder. When Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he looked to make sure no one was watching, killed the Egyptian, and hid his body. When Moses discovered that he had been seen committing murder, he fled to Midian. Midian was likely in northwest Arabia. Dry and desolate, Midian would have been a far cry from Moses’ home in the royal court back in Egypt.
This evening, we want to look at Moses’ kindness to see what we might learn about kindness in our own lives. You might wonder, “Why spend time discussing kindness? There are so many other things we need to worry about; why preach about kindness?” Jesus preached about kindness:
- “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Matt 5:41-42).
- “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12).
If Jesus saw a need to discuss kindness with His disciples, how can we, as His modern disciples, not discuss kindness amongst ourselves?
As we look at Moses as a kind man, we see two aspects of kindness:
A Demonstration of Kindness, vv 15-17
When Moses fled to Midian, he sat down by a well and saw injustice. Moses went into Midian and sat down next to a well. Moses had been on the run for days and he’s in an arid climate, why not sit down next to a well? In the ancient world–where indoor, running water was unknown–wells were extremely important. Genesis 29:1-2. When Jesus entered Sychar, a Samaritan town, we read: “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well” (Jn 4:6). If Jesus were tired from his journey, why would he sit down next to a well? The Lord was thirsty–it’s not like he could go to a spigot and get water or go to 7-11 and buy bottled water.
The seven daughters of the priest of Midian come to draw water for their father’s flock. Women did not serve as shepherdesses–that was a disgrace–the only way, in all likelihood, that these women are shepherding their father’s flock is if their parents had no sons. Some shepherds came along and ran these women away from the well. This adds to their disgrace. Not only were they women forced to do a man’s job in a man’s world, but they were mistreated by the men in that profession.
Moses defends the women and waters their flock. Moses doesn’t always go about it the right way, but he does have a sense of justice. When he was in Egypt, he saw injustice and he killed the perpetrator of that injustice. Here, he doesn’t take the law into his own hands and become a vigilante, but he deals with the injustice, nonetheless. I imagine that Moses could have thought, “It’s not my problem. There might be another well around here some place. These girls can go over there and get water. They don’t really need my help.” But, he did make it his problem.
Making it our problem is the essence of kindness. What are we going to do when we see someone struggling–will we look away or will we help? We have a buggy full of groceries at Kroger, we get in line, but the little lady who gets behind us just has bread and milk. Are we going to be in such a rush that we make her stand there while we check out, or will we let her go in front? A co-worker needs to take her mother for chemotherapy, but she can’t find anyone to take her shift. What about us? Can we work a little longer to help her out? Our neighbor’s car needs to go in the shop, but he only has the one car and he doesn’t have a way back from the shop. Can’t we give him a lift?
We’ve been called upon as the people of God to care and to be kind to others. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor 13:4). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). “As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col 3:12).
In 1928, a very interesting case came before the courts in Massachusetts. It concerned a man who had been walking on a boat dock when suddenly he tripped over a rope and fell into the cold, deep water of an ocean bay. He came up sputtering and yelling for help and then sank again, obviously in trouble. His friends were too far away to get to him, but only a few yards away, on another dock, was a young man sprawled on a deck chair, sunbathing. The desperate man shouted, “Help, I can’t swim!” The young man, an excellent swimmer, only turned his head to watch as the man floundered in the water, sank, came up sputtering in total panic, and then disappeared forever.
The family of the drowned man was so upset by that display of callous indifference that they sued the sunbather. They lost. The court ruled that the man on the dock had no legal responsibility whatever to try and save the other man’s life.
The Law of God is different than that law in Massachusetts–we’re to care, we’re to be compassionate, we’re to be kind. Are we kind to our fellow human beings?
A Reward of Kindness, vv 18-22
When Reuel (whom we know better as Jethro), the girls’ father, was surprised to find that his daughters had returned so early, the girls told their father of Moses’ kindness. The girls told their father, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.” Notice that Moses was identified as an Egyptian–apparently, he was still wearing Egyptian clothing.
Moses rescued the daughters from the shepherds. The wording here–that Moses rescued the girls from the shepherds–may well indicate that Moses did more than simply wait until the shepherds were finished and draw water for the girls; he may very well have run off the shepherds. The wording here may also indicate that the girls were constantly harassed by the shepherds. Notice that they don’t go to their dad and say, “Dad, these mean shepherds came and mistreated us.” They mentioned the shepherds in passing, referring to them as “the shepherds,” as if their father were well aware of the situation. Moses also drew water and watered the flock–It seems that even though chivalry as we know it wasn’t yet around, Moses served and ministered to these women.
I want you to notice something. Even though these seven women did not know Moses’ name, they remembered his act of kindness, and they reported it to their father. If we are kind, might others not also remember our kindness and report it to others?
Moses benefited from this kindness. Reuel told his girls to go back and get Moses and invite him home for supper. Look at Reuel’s question to his daughters: “Where is he? Why is it that you have left the man?” It’s almost as if Reuel is saying, “Uh, girls where are your manners? Go, say, ‘Thank you.'” Tammy and I had a hard time getting our boys to say “Thank you” when someone did something nice for them, and it really appears as though Reuel is wanting to teach his daughters the same lesson.
An invitation to dinner was important in the ancient world, and I wonder if Reuel doesn’t realize that Moses is a traveler.
Reuel is a “priest of Midian.” This is before Moses was given the Law, and Reuel may very well have been a priest of the true God. Whether Jethro served the God we serve or not, he was a religious leader among the Midianites and he would have known who was in Midian and who wasn’t. When he hears there’s an Egyptian in Midian, he had to realize that this man didn’t live around there.
Notice also that the daughters refer to Moses as “an Egyptian.” Moses had to have some identifying marks as an Egyptian–whether clothing (as I personally think) or something else. If Moses lived in Midian, he probably would have assimilated into that culture rather than still looking like an Egyptian.
Moses stayed with Reuel, was given his daughter in marriage, and had a son. Because of his kindness, Moses was no longer homeless, but he had a place to live. Because of his kindness, Moses was given one of Reuel’s daughters–Zipporah–to marry. Because of his kindness, Moses had a son whom he named Gershom. Granted, the text does not say that Moses had a son because of his kindness, but otherwise he would never have married Zipporah and had that union blessed with a son.
Notice what these verses are teaching us: kindness begets kindness. The more kind I am to others, the greater the likelihood others are going to be kind to me. We live in an extremely wicked world–a world where little kindness is often expressed. Yet, you and I have the capacity to help bring about change–to be kind to others that we might, in turn, encourage them to be kind.
A man rented a house. There were no trees around it, and his wife suggested that they set some out. It would have been easy to walk down to the woods, dig up a few small trees, and set them out in the yard. But he refused; he said it was his duty to pay the rent and that was all.
The years went by but the man never set out any trees. Every month for twenty-five years he paid the rent. Then one day he bought the house and it belonged to him–but there were no trees in the yard. If the man had gone just a little beyond his duty, if he had shown some generosity and kindness, if he had gone the second mile, he would have ended up with nice trees of his own to give him cooling shade. But he didn’t.
You know that we don’t just receive blessings from our fellow man for kindness; God rewards us for kindness. “Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matt 10:42). “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Lk 6:35). We know “that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Eph 6:8).
Is your kindness begetting kindness in others? Is God going to reward you for your kindness?