Yitro – “Jethro”

This week’s Torah portion is titled Yitro or in English, Jethro. It covers Exodus 18-20:23.We learned in the preceding Torah portions that after some 400 years of slavery, the Lord had freed the Jewish people from the bondage of Egypt. Three weeks after departing from Egypt, the nation of Israel find themselves in the wilderness at the base of Mount Sinai.

This parasha starts with Yitro (Moses’ father in-law) hearing about all that God had done for the Jewish people, and that Moses and the rest of the Israelis were heading his way. So he took Zipporah, Moses’ wife and their two children, Gershom and Eliezer, and went out to greet him. After a heart-felt reunion, Moses and Jethro retired to Moses’s tent where he recounted all the events that led up to the nation’s freedom from Egyptian slavery.

The discussion of events solidified in the heart of Yitro that truly the God of Israel was above all other gods. In coming to this conclusion, Yitro professes the following:

“Blessed be the Lord,” Jethro said, “who delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, yes, by the result of their very schemes against the people.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to partake of the meal before God with Moses’ father-in-law.

Bear in mind Yitro was a priest in the Midianite community, this being pagan in origin. So, we may be seeing the conversion of a pagan priest into someone who is fully professing his faith in the God of Israel.

I like to think of this as a prophetic glimpse of God’s redemptive plan for the future salvation of the rest of the pagan peoples. It should be noted, Yitro’s faith didn’t take root throughout the Midianite community.

The book of Judges recounts how the Midianites were Israel’s enemies, and Gideon defeated them along with their co-conspirators, the Amalekites.

In chapter 18, we learn how Moses was the sole judge for the whole nation of Israel, dealing with minor issues to major disputes among the people.

Yitro explained to Moses that this was too much to bear for one person and that it made sense to distribute the responsibility to a tier-based management, those of exemplified qualities. Theses men were to possess the fear of God, trustworthiness as well financial integrity.

Chapter 18 closes with Moses taking his father in-law’s advice and Yitro returning to his home.

Chapter 19 starts with Moses going up the mountain to speak with the Lord. The Lord spoke, reiterating what He had done for the nation of Israel thus far and, if they were to remain faithful by keeping His covenant, they would be His treasured people among all the nations.

Additionally, they were to be God’s kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. A nation set apart, unique and treasured, one that would live in opposition to the profane nations throughout the known world.

Moses gathered the elders and the nation, explaining to them what God had said. In one accord, all the people agreed to be committed to the covenant.

After Moses relayed their response to the Lord, the Lord responded by saying: Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.

The Lord’s purpose for speaking to Moses in the presence of all was, to solidify Moses as the leader and intercessor for the nation.

So boundaries were set around the base of the mountain to set it apart until the time and, if any person or animal were to pass said boundaries, they would die. The nation of Israel was to be pure, washing their clothes in preparation for being in the presence of the holy God.

On the morning of the third day, all the children of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, where the Lord descended with thunder, lightning, billowing smoke and fire, and the blast of an ever amplified shofar.

The Lord then declared the foundation of spiritual and moral conduct required of the people, this being the Ten Commandments.

The parasha ends with the terrified Israelis begging Moses to be their mediator lest they die in the presence of such a powerful and holy God.

In summary, I would like to make two points: the need to be holy and the need to be obedient. God tells Moses if the Jewish people were to obey Him fully and keep His covenant, they would be His treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

They were to be a holy nation sanctified, set apart for God’s purposes. Today, as we contemplate our faith and relationship to Almighty God, we are reminded of our calling in which we’re to be separate and distinct from the rest of the world. We are to be a holy nation – not conforming to their way but, directing our lives to the standards of our faith.

With the right attitude and pure heart, we need to separate from the world and the world’s way of doing things in order to stay close to our God so we can be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests who – bring others closer to God and bring God closer to others. The need to be holy.

Second, there is obedience. At Sinai, the Israelis ceased from being a group of individuals and became for the first time, a nation of citizens under the sovereignty of God whose written constitution was the Torah.

Like Israel did at Sinai, we have committed ourselves to fulfilling our covenant, Messiah’s New Covenant, and our obligations to God. Like Israel at Sinai, we too have laws to fulfill and responsibilities to meet.
Instead of thinking of our commandments as harsh regulations, we must remember that they are given to us through God’s love.
Just as a human father, loves his children and keeps them from harm by telling them the right things to do and the wrong things not to do, our Heavenly Father tells us, as His children, what we are to obey. God’s intention in giving us His laws is love.

Yeshua reminds us to prove our commitment to Him by being obedient.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. Our submission to the Lord in obedience to His Word shows our love to Him and is proof to the world of our relationship with Him.

John too tells us that obedience is essential to true faith and a genuine relationship with God.
This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked
(1 John 2:3-6).

The Jewish people were chosen by God to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests because of His love. He chose them and He chose you, through the atonement of His Son Yeshua, because of His love. Now is the time to love Him by being holy and following His commandments!