Torah Portion: Sh’mot Exodus 18-20 Yitro (Jethro)
HafTorah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Tonight we read a Torah portion that is rare in its name. Why? It is named for a non-Jew and it isn’t just any Torah portion, but it is the one containing the Ten Commandments, the Covenant G-d made with Israel. Yet, it is named after a pagan, a priest of false gods. The Ten Commandments were also not given in the Land of Israel but in a non-descript mountain in the middle of nowhere, a place without a name. It would seem Jethro was a pagan who wanted more. He had been touched by what G-d had done with Israel. In the opening verse of our section is where it says, Jethro had heard what G-d had done for Moshe and the people. This had moved him to the point he wanted to be part of it. He recognized that G-d was G-d and everything else paled before that. He was touched and changed by what he knew. Which causes us to think about our own lives. We can go through our lives and not be touched by anything. We can remain unmoved and uninvolved. We can lose ourselves in our own limited existence. Things such as Facebook, TV and other modern technologies can allow us the ability to live a life of solitude. But is that what G-d wants? I heard an interesting parable this week. We can be like a wheel on the chariot of the King but that would require us to go where He goes. Or we can be our own wheel stuck in our own rut.
Jethro did not want to continue in his own rut but to grab hold of G-d and go where He went. Amalek, on the other hand, had heard the same things Jethro had heard but he remained unmoved by what he had heard. In fact, he fought against what he heard. He had no desire to change. Which are we? Are we a Jethro or Amalek? We can get stuck in what is comfortable, what is uncomplicated. Change is sometimes perceived as a threat. That is not how G-d has for us to live. G-d wants a relationship. Interesting but here in this Torah portion in Exodus 18:17 we read Jethro’s advice to Moshe and in this verse we find two words, “Not good” The only other time in the Torah we read those exact two words together is in Genesis 2:8 where G-d says it is “not good” for man to be alone. So what is the connection? Both times these words are spoken it is about relationships. We cannot lead alone nor can we live alone.
G-d wants a relationship with us. I think Jethro saw that between G-d and the people. In some ways it is what we are created for. We are not to live a solitary life but one that is involved, one that is led by the King. Sometimes that can be messy and sometimes it seems that evil pursues us the more we are involved in G-d’s purpose. Guess what happens here in our section of scripture? Evil in the form of the Amalikites, pursued Israel and tried to cool off their fervor for G-d. In fact, that is one translation of the word Amalikites, to cool off. In our lives evil takes us on directly trying to dissuade us, to defeat us, to get us off tract.
Why didn’t G-d just punish the Amalikites? Why did He allow evil to pursue Israel? Why does He allow evil to pursue us? I think this is how we grow in our relationship with G-d. If we were never challenged by evil we would remain babies in our faith. Our relationship with G-d takes work and investment. We do what G-d wants not because it is about us as much as it is about other people and it is what the Father desires. We were created with free will. We are given the opportunity to choose, to choose life or to choose death. When we lose ourselves in ourselves we choose death. As children of G-d, we are here to do what He wills, even if it means we bump into Amalek on the way. We grow through struggle. Jethro saw this in Israel and wanted that, a relationship with the L-rd of lords.
Think about Haman, in the book of Esther. He was an Amalekite. When the King told him that he wanted to honor someone in the kingdom Haman assumed it was him. He thought of no one outside of himself. We can’t be taken in by that way of thinking. It isn’t all about us. It is about relationship. It is about pleasing the Father and never losing faith in Him even when evil pursues us.
Each week we study G-d’s instruction book. G-d gives us a program of how to live, a program that never fails to bring us life, a program that will last forever. Yeshua and His disciples lived everyday by G-d’s word. Our faith calls us to live our lives by His example, which is what we study each week.
Bless you all with a fresh vision of G-d’s will for your life. Ours is a social faith to be involved and shared.