This week's parasha is called Yitro, which is the Hebrew way to say Jethro. It refers, not to a hillbilly from Tennessee, but to the Midianite father-in-law of Moses. It encompasses the text from Exodus 18:1 through 20:23. Of course, the most significant part of this reading is the text that gives us the Ten Commandments; however, that is not our focus this week. Obviously, these should always be our primary focus, but I will draw my teaching from some more overlooked aspects of the text.
Exodus 18:12 tells us "And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices for G-d;" This indicates that Jethro, although a Priest to the gods of the land of Midian, became a follower of the One True G-d of Israel. This was an incredible example of a Gentile coming to faith in G-d; and not just a Gentile man, but a leader of those who worship a foreign god. May this example soon be followed by many who today lead millions to worship Allah, Buddha and the myriad of Hindu gods. Please do not overlook that the terrible loss of life in the recent Tsunami were almost all worshipers of false gods. Do not miss the fact that G-d does not change and He requires those whom He created to worship only Him, according to the first of His Ten Words given in this week's Torah portion. Yes, we must pray for those whose lives were spared and do whatever we can to make their lives return to whatever normal may become for them, but we must, first and foremost, do as Moses did; we must be an example to them of what following the True G-d looks like so they may know Him as we do.
Chapter 19 contains this, beginning in verse 3, "and Moses went up to G-d. The Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Me. Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel." Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and put before them all that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered as one, saying, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!" And Moses brought back the people's words to the Lord."
The people were terrified to hear the voice of G-d speak to them directly, so they begged Moses to go hear from Him and tell them what to do. You know, many Christians are just like the children of Israel. For one reason or another, we really don't want to seek G-d on our own, preferring to have a pastor or teacher seek His word and just bring us the Cliff Notes! The ancient Rabbis tell us that the people heard the first three commandments themselves and grew more and more afraid with each word. But, even in their shrinking back, they made a declaration that assured them of their position with HaShem. They said, in chapter 20, verse 16, they said to Moses, " we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die." They agreed to obey, even before they heard what the L-rd would command, but His power was so awesome that they knew they really had no choice but to do what He instructed.
Now, thirty five hundred years later, we have complete knowledge of what He instructed them and us to do. We have multiple translations, commentaries, sermon notes and instruction available on the radio, television, online and even in books; yet we still do whatever we can to avoid doing the one thing that Israel agreed to do, even before they knew what was coming. We do not obey His instruction to us!
Rather, we twist and turn in the wind of every new revelation and doctrine. Mathew 5: 17 says, " "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." We have been told since we could sit up straight in Sunday School that Jesus "fulfilled" the Law, so we do not have to live "under" its restrictions. But, what did the Master really mean? He gives example after example in the following text of how His Hebrew mind thought about fulfillment. Read verses 21 through the end of the chapter and you will see how He enlarges the requirements of Torah to include not just the letter of the law, but its intention as well. He expands the sin of adultery and of murder to include lust and hatred. He taught His followers then, as well as us now, that the requirements of His commandment are forever our duty to obey.
Let's go back to verses 18 to 20. There, we find His words, ""For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 'Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 'For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.'" The clear word of the L-rd is that not the smallest bit of the Torah has passed away and shall not until it is all accomplished. And, no, His last words, "It is finished" could not have applied to this completion, for if all Torah was accomplished in His first coming, for what shall He return? Today, anyone who teaches Christians their responsibility to live according to Torah is called a legalist. Y'shua called him "great in the kingdom of heaven." Those whose churches are filled with happy, comfortable folks, "doing their own thing" are, according to the word of the Messiah, "least in the kingdom of heaven." He goes on to tell us thatour righteousness must greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees. Not His righteousness, imparted to us by faith, He said that our righteousness must exceed that of some of the most careful Torah observant followers of G-d to ever walk the earth.
Dear friends, please do not neglect the word of the L-rd. He is speaking to you in ways that you may never have experienced before. When He speaks, you must not only listen, but you must obey. You must decide ahead of hearing from Him that you will follow His instruction and walk in the way He leads, no matter where that may take you.
I realize, as I am writing this that I am talking to myself, but you are welcome to listen in! The L-rd has been showing me some new things that He has called me to develop that will challenge everything I have ever considered as part of our ministry. He is leading me into some new arenas that will shake up my comfort zone and stretch me beyond anything I have ever done before. He is calling me to allow Him to get me out of the way and allow Him to do things in me and through me that could change the church like nothing has in the past 100 years. I will tell you more within the next month or two. In the meantime, please pray that I will hear His voice and will follow Him closely.
Chapter 20 continues with the giving of the Decalogue, and concludes with these observations: "All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance. 'You speak to us,' they said to Moses, 'and we will obey; but let not G-d speak to us, lest we die.' Moses answered the people, 'Be not afraid; for G-d has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.' So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where G-d was."
Psalm 27: 7 & 8 says "Hear, O L-rd, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, "Your face, O L-rd, I shall seek." Now is the time, dear friends for us all to seek His face.
May His Face be seen by us all, clearly and soon.