Shalom All, Welcome to Yitro (Jethro), this week’s Torah / Bible study section. (A supplementary sermon on this part of scripture is “Law by which to be saved”).
“Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 18:1). In last week’s study section, God brought Israel out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea to save them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God provided for the needs of His people in the wilderness by raining down manna from heaven and bringing forth water from a rock. This week, in section “Yitro”, Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), comes from Midian along with Moses’ wife and two sons to meet him at the Israelites’ camp after hearing of all the great miracles that God had performed to deliver His people.
Note Jethro was a priest of God. Through Moses God told His people, the Israelite’s, of His ways. Obviously Jethro knew how to be a priest before Aaron and must have learnt of the ways somewhere or from someone. This shows the ways existed before they were, as many today claim, given to the Jews at Mount Sinai. Remember Moses’ wife knew of the importance of circumcision before it was again passed on to the Israelites via Moses (Ex 4:25). Two places in Exodus where we can see the pre-existence of God’s ways before Mount Sinai (Exodus 20) is His judgements were known and taught by Moses before God gave them to the people as a whole after Exodus 20. Exo 16:28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? It was not Moses; but the people who did not keep them. Exo 18:16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. See Also Gen 6:12.
Moses Learns How to Delegate.
“So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?’” (Exodus 18:14).
Yitro rejoiced with Moses over all that God had done for them; but the next day, when Yitro saw Moses spending long hours judging the people, he was concerned about the strain on Moses.Moses’ father-in-law wisely advised him to appoint other men to occupy positions of leadership to help carry the burden, lest Moses wear himself out.
“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus 18:21).
We must also be careful not to allow our work, no matter how demanding, to occupy so much of our time that our well-being and relationships suffer as a result (even those doing God’s work need recoup time so there can go on further than if they did not take that rest. We must find others to whom we can delegate some of our duties in order to give more balance to our life and those concerned about their providers, whether spiritual or physical like a parent, should take on some of their load if seen they are struggling all on their own.
However, on the other hand there is a danger of dedicating our time to our church. We have less time to study for ourselves what God requires of us and thus follow traditions of men as learnt and passed on by most pastors. This does not mean you only study from within or with those of the same belief otherwise you may be as those in 2Co 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
We must first use what time we have to study to make ourselves approved before God not a pastor or denomination. We must find others to whom we can delegate some of our duties in order to give more balance to our life. The Word of God tells us which qualities to look for in choosing potential leaders: capable, God-fearing, honest people. A principle also repeated in Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
The Word of God tells us which qualities to look for in choosing potential leaders: capable, God-fearing, honest people. “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus 18:21).
Life is not designed to be a “quick sprint;” it is a marathon. If we are to endure to the end (just as Jethro advised Moses), we must not overwork ourselves.
“Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4–5).
Thankfully, Moses listened to his father-in-law, which reveals Moses’ beautiful character trait of humility. We should be grateful, and not defensive, when God sends someone into our lives to give us necessary correction for our own good and the good of others.
The Voice of Yahweh (the Lord).
Only three months after the children of Israel had left Egypt, God tells them His plan for them and its condition.
“ Exo 19:4 -6 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure (segula ) unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel (which included non birth right descendants i.e. the mixed multitude of Ex 12:38).
On the mountain, Yahweh instructs Moses to tell the “House of Jacob” and the “Children of Israel” that He is making a special promise to the people: they are to be His own special nation, a kingdom of priests (mamlechetcohanim) and a holy nation (v’goykadosh). If the people of Israel listen to God’s voice and keep covenant with Him, then God will embrace them as His special treasure. The people of Israel do agree to keep God’s commandments and to obey Him: “Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that Yahweh has spoken we will do.’” (Exodus 19:8). So any acceptance by God as His person is conditional on obedience to His righteous living instructions. It is foolish to think they are nolonger required. Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Through the New Covenant with Israel and Judah, all obedient Believers in Yahshua (called Jesus by many) are sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; therefore, we are all royalty, kings and priests unto Yahweh God. Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Heb8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Heb12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
“He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” (Revelation 1:6).
Moses consecrates the people of Israel and prepares them to meet with God to receive the law at Mount Sinai. This was the whole purpose of the exodus from Egypt; for Israel (God’s first nation) to receive God’s Torah (righteous living instruction) and live according to them out of the control of other human kings. “When you will have brought the people out from Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12). Then to be an example and light to the other nations and kingdoms.
Meeting with God at the Foot of the Mountain.
Standing at the foot of the mountain on the third day, the people of Israel met with God, as He descended with thunder, lightening, thick clouds, and the loud sound of the shofar (ram’s horn). The whole mountain was covered with smoke, since God came with fire, as it is written, “The Lord is a consuming fire.” (Deuteronomy 4:24).
It was such a fearsome sight that the people trembled and told Moses,“You, speak with us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak with us, or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19). I always draw attention to verses 20:18-21 and say if the people had not interrupted God’s speech, the commandments would have gone unto end of chapter 23 as was written in the book of 24:4, as one uninterrupted list. To the Jews, there are not 10 commandments; but about 613. I doubt we would say we only had two commandments if the interruption came at 20:3? God’s instructions was always tell the congregation of Israel Exo 20:22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Exo 20:23 Ye shall not...
Today, obedient followers, are therefore entering a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are entering “the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim; to myriads of angels in festive assembly; to a community of the firstborn whose names have been recorded in Heaven; to a Judge who is God of everyone; to spirits of righteous people who have been brought to the goal; to the mediator of a new covenant, Yahshua; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better things than [the blood of Abel].” (Hebrews 12:22–24). That new covenant not being new un-righteous instructions as would be the case if ALL the law was nailed to the cross as many claim; but simply a better blood sacrifice than that of animals for those with knowledge of their sins, confessing and repenting of them. Be careful to know what is sin and what is not. The definition has not changed 1Jo 3:4 Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. The penalty of which is eternal death Rom 6:23.
Even though we are under the mercy (grace) of the New Covenant, in which the laws of God are written on our hearts, the commands of God are eternal and true for all people in all covenants.
Exo 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (see also Deu 5:10; 7:9; Neh 1:5; Dan 9:4).
Keeping His commandments is how we show our love for God. His commandments provide a guide for a healthy, happy, productive, and harmonious life in relationship with God and with other people.“For this is love for God, to keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3).
Yahshua has not set us free from sin so that we can live lawless lives. The Word of God even warns that our prayers may not be heard if we are walking in blatant disobedience to God’s laws. “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9).
The law of God guards our relationships. The first four of what we list as ten, deals with our relationship to God. The next six deals with our relations with our neighbour. That is why Yahshua said that loving God and loving our neighbour sum up the commandments. (Matthew 22:37–40).
The God of Israel is not an impersonal “force,” but a God of love who becomes intimately involved with the affairs of mankind to save, rescue, redeem and deliver. This is the God who is worthy of our love and devotion, and no one else. 2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
I strongly suggest you either read or listen to the whole list; at least from Ex 20 – 24 to get a glimpse of the mindset of a fair and thoughtful God. Then, if you wish to complete the task listen to the forgiveness system set up in chapters 25-32. What to do and how to be forgiven. The latter replaced by the Messiah’s blood. You should note some are called “judgements” (21:1). God was always gracious (22:27) and if you master the knowledge of them you would understand instructions given in the New Testament.
YHWH The perfect Bridegroom.
At Mount Sinai, God officially proposed to Israel (so to speak) offering to make them His people (bride) if only they would obey Him and keep His covenant. As a metaphor, the Holy One, came to Israel as a suitor proposing marriage to His beloved. The Almighty was the bridegroom. Israel was the bride. The Torah was their wedding contract or vow (ketubah). Moses played the role of the “friend of the bridegroom” as a liaison between God and the people. In Jewish wedding customs, the friend of the bridegroom served as an intermediary between the suitor and the woman. In other customs, the father gives away the bride. In the wedding, he presented the bride to the groom. As the friend of the bridegroom (or father to congregation), Moses was responsible for negotiating the match. He brought the bridegroom’s proposal to the girl, and he carried messages back and forth between the two parties. Finally, Moses led the people to the foot of the mountain and presented them to God:
In the Gospels, John the Baptist played a similar role. Once, his disciples came to him, warning him that Yahshua of Nazareth was growing in popularity and that His disciples were baptizing people. John’s disciples felt as if Yahshua’s ministry infringed upon their ministry. John corrected them, pointing out that he only came as the forerunner of Messiah. Just as the friend of the bridegroom gets out of the way, relinquishing the girl under his charge to the groom, so too, John needed to relinquish his ministry to Yahshua. John seems to have alluded back to the story of Moses at Mount Sinai by comparing the people of Israel to a bride, Yahshua to a groom, and himself to a friend of the bridegroom: John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30).
Jealousy and Faithfulness.
Jewish tradition maintains that the first commandment is the commandment to believe in God. Christian tradition has the first commandment as the prohibition on worshipping other gods. Eastern Orthodox reckoning agrees that the second commandment is a prohibition on idols. All of these commandments teach us to worship God alone and not to make representations of Him or any other gods. God explains these commandments by saying, "I, YHWH your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5). Does this mean that God is jealous in the sense of a petty, selfish jealousy that takes offense when attention and affection are directed anywhere else? Of course not. God is jealous in the sense that a loving husband is jealous over his wife.
If your spouse told you, "I don't care whether you see other people; it doesn't bother me," you would be alarmed that he or she no longer holds your wedding vows as sacrosanct. It would bother you that your spouse had such little affection for you that infidelity was not even an issue. It would be a clear and certain sign that your spouse cared little for you or for your relationship. The Hebrew word for jealousy (kana, קנא) is also translated as "zeal." The term "jealous God" could be translated as "zealous God" or even "impassioned God." God is passionately in love with His people. He is like a steadfast and faithful husband who does not waver in his affection or commitment to his bride. Because of that, He will not tolerate the worship of other gods, nor will He allow for the worship of idols. He feels the same way about idolatry and paganism that a faithful husband would feel about his wife having an affair. God's fidelity should encourage us to adopt the same standard of jealous devotion to Him. Just as a faithful and steadfast wife would shun the affections of other men and refuse their flirtatious gifts and suggestive advances, we should be resolved to give no room to idolatry in our lives. God is passionately in love with us. We should return that passion.
We see from the second commandment that anything we place in our lives as a deity other than God is not pleasing to Him. The difference between commandment two and three is that not all deities (gods) are idols i.e. graven images. Many worship planets and “host of heaven”, even fallen angels.[Deu 4:19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.]
God is, by His own admission, a jealous God. The Hebrew root of kanna (jealous) means the just indignation of one injured. Sadly today many continue in a “host of heaven” sun and moon system the planets from which we get Sun day and Moon day!
When we choose another over God, system or try and blend the two, He is injured, as a husband or wife is injured by an unfaithful spouse. I was reading Exodus 33:5, 7 and thought why did God remove His tabernacle from the midst of the camp? Because the people had defiled the ground / camp with their golden calf incident. I think God does not stay in polluted places, hearts or systems. Note the innocent animal was not permitted at the mount Exo 19:13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
Today the world is filled with idols: wealth, fame, power, position, money, work, sexual relations, celebrities, sports, even religious systems and apparent angels of light (2cor 11:14). We so often make these desires our priority, tending to put our trust and confidence in other things or people to help us meet those desires; however, only God is absolutely trustworthy and His desires for us are pure and holy. God’s prophetic word promises that one day His people will no longer tolerate any idolatry in their lives; but the day will come when Yahweh shall say, “What have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.” (Hosea 14:8).
May this be the generation that seeks and begin to serve in spirit in truth the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and may we become united in the love of Messiah. Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Yahshua (Jesus?).
FUNDAMENTALS OF OUR FAITH.
When God revealed Himself to us, He did not give us a systematic theology, creeds, recipes, or diagrams. He gave us a legal code consisting of covenant terms and obligations. He gave us laws, and each law brings a fresh revelation of His person.
He did not give the laws of the Torah just to tidy up human society. Each commandment communicates a piece of divine revelation, a piece of godliness. More than just rules for governing human behaviour, the laws of the Torah reflect the Lawgiver. Our Master told us that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” When God broke the silence and spoke to His creation at Mount Sinai, He spoke from the fullness of His heart. Each law and commandment, no matter how small or seemingly irrelevant, communicates a piece of revelation from God, an overflowing of His heart. The Commandments are moral absolutes. They were spoken aloud by God, and everyone heard them. They require no further justification. They are non-negotiable.
The first ten Commandments are well known. Even non-believers and people from other religions are more-or-less familiar with the concept of the Ten Commandments. The popular culture abounds with jokes about breaking the Ten Commandments, but most people reflexively accept their moral authority and logic. In Hebrew, they are called the Aseret haDebarim, which literally means the “ten words,” but could more loosely be translated as “the ten matters.” Many say they relate to Ex 20:1-17. I say the ten matters refer to the sanctuary system of Ex 25 – 31.
Some of those who say it relates to Ex 20:1-17 also say “ten matters” summarize the 613 commandments of the Torah, but they cannot be separated from the Torah or from each other. Some Christian teachers claim that the Ten Commandments are still valid but the rest of the laws of Torah is obsolete. Even Christian Sabbatarians have, for the most part, divorced the Ten Commandments from the rest of the Torah. The Bible itself makes no distinction between the commands of the Decalogue and the imperatives and prohibitions that follow in the rest of the Torah. The same God spoke both. He bound them upon His people with equal measure. A person should not imagine that the Ten Commandments in the Decalogue are the only real commandments and the other six hundred and three are merely suggestions.
DAY OF THE COMMANDMENTS, DAY OF PENTECOST.
Most Christians know the story of Pentecost: the mighty wind, the tongues of fire, the Holy Spirit, and the apostles speaking in every language. Most, however, are unaware of the significant background behind the story. The church holiday known as Pentecost was not originally a church holiday at all; the festival goes back to the days of Moses.
Christianity celebrates Pentecost as the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in tongues of fire IN Act 2:1-4. The first Pentecost happened at Mount Sinai. Long before the tongues of fire fell upon the apostles in Jerusalem, the fire fell upon Mount Sinai. The children of Israel arrived in the desert of Sinai in the third month, as the Torah says. On the sixth day of the third month, God descended onto Mount Sinai to give Israel the Torah. He came in blazing fire heralded by the loud blast of the shofar. Just as Passover memorializes the exodus from Egypt, Pentecost memorializes the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. For that reason, Pentecost is called the festival of Mattan Torah (מתן תורה), the “Giving of the Torah.”
To commemorate the day that He gave His Torah to Israel, Yahweh commanded the children of Israel to observe the day of Shavuot as an appointed time. Pentecost means “fifty.” The festival is called Pentecost because it comes fifty days after the first day of Passover (not necessarily falling on a Sunday). The Torah refers to it as the Festival of Weeks (Shavu’ot, שבעות) because it occurs seven weeks after the first day of Passover. Henceforth we will use the Hebrew name of the festival: Shavuot. Our Torah / Bible portion this week tells the story. On the first Shavuot, a thick, dark cloud covered Mount Sinai. The whole mountain shook and trembled as the sound of a loud ram’s horn trumpet, a shofar, split the air. God spoke and all Israel heard His voice. As the disciples of the risen Messiah gathered to celebrate Shavuot in Jerusalem, they gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. The festival already carried heightened significance for the disciples of Yahshua because it came fifty days after the day of their Master’s resurrection. The Shavuot-miracles that accompanied the giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 allude to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The mighty wind, the tongues of fire, and the speaking in other languages commemorate Mattan Torah.
Isaiah: some verses to note. 6:9-10 compare to Mat 13:15 ; Joh 12:40; Act 28:27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 6:13 see Ezra 9:2, Mal 2:15.
1 John 5:1-11. See 1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 1Jn 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
1Jn 5:6 …And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 1Jn 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.