Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #17: Yitro (Jethro) Sh’mot (Exodus) 18:1-20:23
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 6:1-13
B’rit Chadashah: James 2:8-13
Yitro, who is the person of interest in this week’s parashah played a major role in Moshe’s life, even though he was not an Israelite. One of the first important points about this man is that although he was a Midianite priest. he respected the G-d of Israel and followed the sacrificial laws (Ex. 18:12). We don’t know if Yitro worshipped the G-d of Israel after that because we read in Ex. 18:27 that Moshe let his father-in-law leave and return to his own country.
Not requiring those who emigrate to other countries in our contemporary society as did Yitro poses many problems, some of which we are witnessing today. Note that Moshe and the Israelites did not change their language or beliefs when Yitro arrived. Rather, Yitro honored G-d’s laws for the Israelites and anyone who attached themselves to the community. He fulfilled G-d’s plan to establish judges to assist Moshe in leading the people on through the desert. The crux of this event is to teach us that no man is an island. We all need help in maximizing our ability to glorify G-d and we are to be discerning in choosing those who will assist us in fulfilling our calling, whether it be in the religious or secular realm. A chain-of-command is established for settling disputes and for teaching and explaining G-d’s laws and teachings (Ex. 18:16). Note that the people chosen to help him are to be G-d -fearing people, incorruptible, and honest. This is critical, for if a leader allows anyone to teach people what they don’t fully understand themselves, incorrect teaching will be perpetuated throughout the body. This is why it is so important to check out sources for anything we believe to be from G-d’s Torah and check with the leader of wherever you attend services for correctness and consistency. Leaders may be incorrect at times, making a Biblical research all the more important. Just because something is done in a synagogue or a church, does not mean it is commanded or even permitted in G-d’s Torah. We must be very careful not to confuse tradition with G-d’s instructions. There are many religious institutions Christian and Jewish who have added to and/or subtracted from G-d’s Torah. We will all be accountable for this sin when we stand before the True and Righteous One.
Yitro makes another valid point in explaining to Moshe that he (Moshe) is a representative of the people before G-d and that disputes and other issues should be brought before G-d for His decision, not necessarily Moshe’s (Ex. 18:17-20). Yitro assures Moshe that G-d will guide him as he teaches G-d’s laws, teachings, and shows them how to live their lives, and the work they should do as G-d leads. Ex. 18:23 reminds us that if G-d directs our path, we will be successful to endure all things. Yitro’s honesty and humility in this matter is revealed in his actions. He was a Midianite priest, a man of reputation. He could have suggested that Moshe choose him as a “right hand man” and be given authority to help rule the people, but he did not ask for any authority. Rather, he instructed Moshe rightly, according to G-d’s plan. We can learn from this interaction between Moshe and Yitro. There is something to be learned from every encounter. Perhaps we will observe something we want to incorporate in our behavior, or something we want to make sure we avoid in the way we act or speak toward others. The encounter between Moshe and Yitro is another example of Jew and Gentile working together to glorify and make known the Name of Adonai.
Contrary to our current social philosophy and what is taught in Christianity today about G-d’s laws, there are limits; the boundaries of which are defined by G-d’s laws, statutes, and rulings. Although this parashah is the first place we see the giving of the 10 Commands, G-d made some of His perpetual commands long before the 10 commands were given; (Ex. 15:25), redemption of the first-born (Ex. 13:11-16), Pesach observance (Ex. 12:14), circumcision (Gen. 17:11), and Shabbat (Gen. 2:3). Interestingly, the first command is one that is seldom acknowledged: “I am Adonai your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.” The second command expounds on the first commanding us not to worship any other in any form, for He is a jealous G-d. Like so many other words and verses in the Bible, the commands have been distorted, changed, omitted, mistranslated, and misunderstood by individuals who have an agenda that is not in keeping with G-d’s Torah. This has been done by some sects of Judaism and Christianity; on “both side of the isle.”
The people were specifically told not to touch the mountain even at its base or they would be put to death. They were not allowed to touch it until G-d chose to have the shofar sounded (Ex. 19:12-13). Mount Sinai takes about three hours to climb so Moshe’s trek was not easy. The people were to prepare themselves according to G-d’s directions for the third day including washing their clothing. This act is a metaphor for repentance also mentioned in the context of the white robes worn by Yahshua’s bride in Revelation. Interesting that in this third millennium we fully expect HaShem to return after the Rapture as He comes to reign for another millennium. After that time, Israel (all true believers) are wearing white robes (Rev. 7:9) as they prepare to meet their Groom (Yahshua). Another parallel to Revelation and the marriage of Israel to Yahshua may be seen in Ex. 19:20: “Adonai came down onto Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; then Adonai called Moshe to the top of the mountain” just as a bride walks the isle to her groom. Next, the wedding contract is presented; not by the wife as in traditional Judaism, but by G-d. An important qualification must be made at this point. Although we know that Yahshua is G-d, in His role as G-d, He divorced the 10 northern tribes of Israel but remained cleaved to Judah and Benjamin, the 2 remaining southern tribes (Jer. 3:8). Levi was included but was not a tribe at that time Note in the book of Revelation that Levi is considered a tribe. This is for another lesson, but I want to mention it here in case you compare the tribe designations between the Old and “New” Testaments. They are different and for good reason.
Because a man cannot remarry a previously divorced wife (Deu.t 24:1-4; Mat. 5:32), this leaves the 10 northern tribes on their own for a time. However, G-d in the role of Yahshua is eligible to marry Israel (10 northern tribes) as she repents and is regathered (Jer. 32:36-7; Isaiah 66:7-8; Zech12:3-6). Therefore, we are witnessing the original marriage between Israel as G-d’s chosen people before the split of the two kingdoms and G-d.
As the people heard thunder for the first time, see the lightning and the sound of the shofar, they were extremely fearful as would be expected. Moshe tried to calm them and inform them that G-d was testing them and attempting to establish a relationship whereby the people will love, fear, and obey Him for their ultimate good (Ex. 20:17-18). I use a difference in language tense to illustrate the need for a continued love, fear, and obedience to G-d throughout the generations.
G-d can manifest himself in any form, evidenced in His Torah. Listen intently for his voice. Remember, although He came to the Israelites in thunder, lightning, and a cloud when He gave them the commands, He was not found in the wind, the earthquake, or in the fire witnessed by Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13). This time G-d was in a quiet, subdued voice that reassured Elijah nowhere at the same time. Let he who has ears hear G-d’s voice in everything as the Ruach walks beside us to guide our every thought and deed.
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 6:1-13
This week’s haftarah discusses Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly Chariot (the merkavah), a revelation that all the Israelites experienced when G-d spoke the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Isaiah perceived sitting on a throne surrounded by angels. Isaiah describes the angels and their behavior in terms we can understand. During the course of his vision, Isaiah volunteers to be G-d’s emissary to transmit His message to the Israelites. He is immediately given a depressing prophecy regarding the exile the nation will suffer as punishment for their many sins and the Land of Israel will be left empty and desolate. An interesting comparison can be made between the scenario at Sinai and the vision of G-d’s throne Isaiah describes in Is. 6:1. The house is “filled with smoke, the s’rafim (guardian angels) are singing ‘Holy, holy, holy!’, and the doorposts shake “at the sound of their shouting” (Is. 6:2-4) Yahshua hears the voice of G-d and says, “Send me!” On Mount Sinai G-d surrounded the mountain with a thick cloud (Ex. 19:9). The mountain was smoking (Ex. 20:15). The thunder (Ex. 20:15) can be likened to the shouting of the s’rafim. Moshe can be compared to Yahshua in his willingness to be used by G-d.
An interesting point in Isaiah is found in reading Isaiah 9:7: “to the increase of His rulership and to completeness, there will be no end.” The Hebrew for increase begins with a mem sofit (final mem). This alludes to the fact that the whole peace of G-d is yet to come! We have not “arrived” yet; we are not “eternally saved” in one instantaneous moment. It is a process, so teaches the Bible.
B’rit Chadashah: James 2:8-13
“If you truly attain the goal of Kingdom Torah, in conformity with the passage that says, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, your actions constitute sin, since you are convicted under the Torah as transgressors. 10 For a person who keeps the whole Torah, yet stumbles at one point, has become guilty of breaking them all. For the one who said, ‘Don’t commit adultery, also said ‘Don’t murder.’ Now if you don’t commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the Torah. Keep speaking and acting like people who will be judged by a Torah which gives freedom. 13 For judgment will be without mercy toward one who doesn’t show mercy; but mercy wins out over judgment.”
James was the brother of Yahshua, and he was well-grounded in the Old Testament. His teachings paralleled those of his brother and L-rd as we read the above passages. James reminds us that we need take great care not to judge others lest we be judged. This parallels Yahshua’s teaching to those who wanted to stone the adulteress. Those without sin were invited to cast the first stone. We see examples of people judging others on a daily basis. We are quick in our religious circles to condemn those of other religions forgetting from where we may have come prior to the calling out of apostate religion. In the context of a synagogue, some people condemn others for dancing or not, smoking, wearing their hair too long or too short; practicing too much liturgy or not enough, etc. Yet many of these same people do not tithe, do not keep the festivals of G-d, or celebrate the New Moon. None of us are righteous. Yet, YHVH/Yahshua reserves the right to show us mercy or not. As people who profess to love and follow YHVH/Yahshua, we are to show mercy, allow and encourage people to grow into the faith and truth even as we grow. Sometimes encouragement takes the form of admonishment or rebuke. We will be judged as we judge. If we see someone teaching another or openly judging another in error, we have a responsibility to correct that individual, privately when possible.
Dan is no longer a tribe as noted in the book of Revelation during this time (Rev. 7:5-8). If we go back and read the “blessing” of Dan by Jacob we read in Gen. 49:16-17: “Dan will judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a viper on the road, a horned snake in the path that bites the horse’s heels so its rider falls off backward.” We must give others an example to follow by our own lifestyle. That’s how Yahshua taught his disciples; one day and one mile at a time. That is a big order. However, if we realize we are to be a people set apart and act like it, we can assist others in their growth by leading a consistent lifestyle based on our continued learning and adherence/obedience to our new knowledge. Are we setting a good example as a representative of the Messianic Jewish faith? Are we glorifying Yahshua in our thoughts, speech and actions? “Don’t deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it! Whoever hears the Word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
“So everyone who hears these words of mine and act on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does NOT act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed- and its collapse was horrendous! (Matthew 7:24-27)
Sh’mah Israel! Adonai yimloch l’olam vaed.
Rabbi Tamah Davis