Torah Portion: Yitro (Jethro) Sh’mot (Exodus) 18-20

HafTorah: Isaiah 6:1-13

Tonight we look at the Torah portion Jethro, who was the father-in-law of Moses. This portion contains the 10 commandments and G-d meeting the people at the mountain of G-d. Here we see for the first time G-d speaks to a nation. Up until now G-d had communicated with a person but here to a people. This changed everything. No longer did Israel have to depend on the stories they had heard from their ancestors. Here they saw and heard G-d for themselves from the smallest to the greatest. They all saw the words of G-d and heard the shofar. Then we come to verse 20:19 of Exodus. They ask Moses to hear G-d for them and relate the message to them. Jewish scholars look at this as a lost opportunity. In fact Moses exhorts them to not be afraid but to press on.

What can we learn from this? Moses goes on to say, G-d had come to test them that the fear of G-d be upon them so they would not sin. Had they pressed on and submitted to G-d’s voice they might not, in a few days, commit the sin of the golden calf. But they stood afar off. Do we sometimes stand far off from G-d when He speaks to us? Do we prefer for someone else to tell us what G-d is saying? Do we believe we can do what He wants so we stand afar off? I urge you to stand as close as you can get so you do not miss a word that G-d is trying to tell you. G-d wants us to draw close so we will not sin.

In many ways we have all stood at the mountain and heard the marriage proposal that G-d speaks to Israel here. I want us to look at these verses as a marriage ceremony between G-d and His people. What are the elements? The proposal is Exodus 19:4-6. Here G-d recounts how He has rescued the people bringing them on eagle wings to His place (Mt. Sinai) and asks them if they are willing to enter into this union with Him and be His priests and a holy nation. They respond in Exodus 19:8 with, “all the L-rd has spoken we will do.” The ring is on the finger. The next is the ketuba. G-d then sets out the marriage agreement. What the responsibilities are for each party. It defines the relationship between both parties. Like a bride the people are to purify themselves for three days. They are to come to the huppah clean and pure to meet their groom.

Then comes the ceremony when G-d comes down on the mountain and the shofar sounds with a mighty blast. The people hear and see the voice of G-d as He speaks to them. Hebrews 12:18-29 talks of this revelation at Sinai and brings it to us as, if this was true then how much more so now with us. The first does not cancel the second but is saying if Sinai demanded obedience how much more so does this revelation of heaven demand it.

So here at Sinai G-d takes Israel as His bride. Now to us… Does our spiritual adoption into Israel follow this same pattern? For sure the second coming of Messiah is related in both these New Testament scriptures, Luke 17:24 and Mark 13:26. In our life can we look at our encounter with G-d as a marriage? The Messiah comes to us and speaks to us about our condition and that the Father wants to draw us close to Him and take us to the heights, to love us and protect us and shelter us under His wings. We can answer, “All that He has spoken we will do,” or we can walk away from the proposal. If we answer positively He seals us with the Messiah and takes us into His tent and we become the bride. Our contract, like Israel’s, causes our life to change. We live with the obligation of faithfulness, to live our lives in a different way, to be obedient to the voice of G-d. We enter into this partnership to change the world that it be filled with the glory of G-d.