As the Israelites prepare to leave Mount Sinai, Moses invites his Midianite in-laws to come with them. “Come with us ands we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.” (verse 29) Initially, Hobab refuses; he is reluctant to leave his own territory (for it is only natural to cling to what we know), and perhaps is also unsure whether he, as a non-Israelite, will be able to participate in Israel’s covenant.
But Moses doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He wants Hobab’s help (for God usually meets our needs through the ministry of other people). Hobab’s intimate knowledge of the area they are about to travel through might well be part of God’s provision. And although his family are not Israelites, they can still put their faith in God’s promise and share in His blessings.
We often think of the old covenant as being restricted to the descendants of Jacob; but that is an over-simplification. Jacob’s household had always included servants of other nationalities, and when the Israelites escaped from Egypt many other slaves took the opportunity to escape with them (Exodus 12:38). So there was always a certain ethnic mix – but all who were willing to make a spiritual commitment to Israel’s God and enter into Israel’s covenant (by being circumcised, in the case of the men) were granted full rights under that covenant. Hobab did accept Moses’ offer – and although his descendants (the Kenites) retained their own cultural traditions, they settled in the Promised Land and played a part in Israel’s later history (e.g. Judges 4; Jeremiah 35).
How much more eager should we be to invite outsiders to join us on our pilgrimage! “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” (II Corinthians 5:11) We need to be realistic in what we offer: there is a journey to make through the wilderness before we reach the fullness of God’s blessing. But God will give us many ‘good things’ along the way. If we have confidence in His promises, others will be encouraged to trust Him as well.