This week’s parasha is entitled Yitro (Jethro) and covers Exodus Chapter 18, verse 1 through Chapter 20, verse 23.
Jethro is Moses’ father-in-law. After Moses escapes Egypt after killing an Egyptian, he flees to the land of Midian and ends up settling with Jethro and his family. Moses marries Zipporah, one of Jethro’s daughters, and stays there for 40 years before the incident at the burning bush where God tells Moses to return to Egypt to bring the Jewish people out of 400 years of slavery.
Chapter 18 opens with Jethro hearing about what God had done to bring the Israelis out of Egypt and so he journeys to meet Moses. When Jethro hears from Moses about all that God had done to free the people from their bondage, he says in verse 11, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” The people of Midian worshipped a multitude of gods, so in Jewish tradition, Jethro is known as Ger Tzedek, a righteous convert, since he comes to a recognition of the identity of the True and Living God.
While Jethro is with Moses, he notices that Moses spends his whole day judging the disputes of the people and advises him to make some changes.
First off, Moses needed to do the work, or be in the role, that God had set before him. Moses’ role was to be God’s representative to the Israelis. Secondly, in verse 20, Moses was to be the teacher of Israel and instruct the people regarding God’s statues and laws and how the people should live by following these teachings. Thirdly, Moses needed to be the one who would select other capable men to be leaders, to help him mediate the minor disputes so that Moses could focus on greater tasks that were at hand.
In his advice to Moses, Jethro makes 4 points about leaders. First off, these men needed to be capable. We need our leaders to be competent. Second, they needed to be godly men. Third, they need to be truthful, and know the difference between truth and spin, which is what we see so often in today’s society. Telling the truth is not easy, and in today’s, “politically correct,” world it is not often appreciated, but the Bible says that this is what leaders must do. Finally, they must be men who, “hate dishonest gain.”
Moses accepts this wise counsel, which is another great quality of leadership. Moses does not consider himself too lofty to utilize good guidance from others.
In Chapter 19, the Jewish people arrive at Mt. Sinai. This period goes from Exodus, Chapter 19, until Numbers, Chapter 10. We can look at the history of the Israelis from Egypt to The Promised Land in roughly 5 stages. The first stage is the time they spent in Egypt as slaves. Over this, roughly, 400 years, they picked up many aspects of Egyptian life and culture, which probably included aspects of Egyptian polytheistic worship. The second stage is the miraculous demonstration of God’s power and the sudden departure from Egypt. The miracles were enough to convince the Jewish people to leave Egypt, but they were not enough to turn the people fully towards God, as the grumbling began soon after departure. The third stage is the more than one year they spend at Mount Sinai. Here, they began to be instructed in the true ways of theLiving God. The Lord’s statues, precepts, laws and way of worship were communicated to the people by God, through Moses. However, even this more than one year teaching was not enough for the people to truly follow God. The 4th stage is the almost 39 years that followed and the growth and development of the next generation before the majority of the people whole-heartedly followed God’s teaching. Which brings us to the 5th stage, which is the entry into The Promised Land, which is discussed in the Book of Joshua. I think of the Book of Joshua as the book of the Old Testament where the Jewish people, as a whole, followed the Lord’s direction the best.
One of the key points about Chapter 19 is that prior to the people meeting with the Lord at Mt. Sinai, they needed to have 3 days of preparation, in other words, time to think about and prepare for this awesome event. So it should be for us. Prior to spending time with, or communing with the Lord, we should take time and prepare and set ourselves apart for these special moments.
In Chapter 20, God gives the 10 commandments to the Jewish people. Basically, these commandments can be broken down into 2 categories. The first 4 deal with the relationship between God and man and the last 6 deal with the relationship between human beings. Messiah very aptly summarized these commandments in Matthew, Chapter 29, verses 36 – 40 saying that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. And second, He said to love your neighbor as yourself. This is a summary of the 10 commandments.
Our parasha for this week ends with the people trembling in fear of the power of the Lord as he descends on Mount Sinai and asking Moses to be the mediator between them and God, which dispels the mistaken thought in rabbinical Judaism that there is no need to have a mediator between man and God. Just as Moses was the mediator between God and the people of Israel in his time, so too Messiah Yeshua is the mediator between God and believers today, as He sits at the Lord’s right hand of God and intercedes for us.
So, what can we take away from today’s parasha? I think the key point is how much Messiah Yeshua lived out the central themes of these chapters. He was an able leader, who loved God and told the truth at all times. He hated dishonest gains just as He overturned the moneychanger tables at the Temple. He selected good men and delegated, for example, sending out the 12 to spread the Gospel and heal others. He focused on, and taught about, God’s statues and laws and followed every single one of them. And, Messiah Yeshua spent the last three years of his life preparing for the greatest event in history, His death on the Cross, which means eternal salvation for all who believe. Interestingly, Jethro, Yitro, in Hebrew, means, “His abundance.” I hope that when you read this passage, you will think of the abundance that God has bestowed upon us by sending us His precious Son, Messiah Yeshua.