Who are you talking to?
Torah Portion: Yitro (Jethro) Sh’mot/Exodus 18:1-20:23
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Today we look at the Torah portion of Yitro/Jethro. This portion was named after the father in law of Moshe. It contains many things that could occupy pages of discussion. However, I will only deal with a few of them today.
I want to begin with my question about Shavuot or the holiday of weeks. This holiday happens on the fiftieth day counting from the first day of Passover. I know we have covered this more than once but I believe it is worthwhile to go over it again, lest we forget from where our faith came.
In Hebrew this day is known as Shavuot. In Christian churches it is usually called Pentecost. Pentecost is a Greek word meaning fiftieth. The issue that arises is, a majority of Christians have no idea that the day they celebrate is actually based on a Jewish festival.
In Acts 2:1-4 we read where the believers in Yeshua were gathered together in Jerusalem celebrating Shavuot when a mighty wind blew and tongues of fire settled on the worshipers. They began to speak in other tongues. In our reading today in Exodus, we read of G-d meeting the people and giving them the Torah. In chapters 19-20 we read the details of what happened on that day.
The interesting point is that the events on that day in the desert are reproduced in Acts with the believers who were gathered together in Jerusalem. Remember, Yeshua was resurrected on the first day of Passover. So here the believers were gathered together to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot which corresponded to fifty days after Yeshua was resurrected. I believe the symbolism would not have been lost on them. As we read both Exodus and Acts we should be able to make the connection between Judaism, our faith as believers in the Messiah, and the wonderful, orderly plan of G-d.
Now, to my first question of the week, how do we handle unsolicited advice? We see this occur in Exodus 18. The chapter begins with Jethro, the father in law of Moshe, coming to Moshe and bringing Moshe’s wife and two sons back to him. Beginning in Exodus 18:13-27, we read about the advice given to Moshe by Jethro.
First, a few words about Jethro. As we read in chapter 18, Jethro was not a man of no importance. He was a pagan priest of Midian. It is clear that he had heard about how G-d had delivered Moshe and the people from the hand of Pharaoh, and from the Amalekites. He recognizes that G-d is above all the idols he had been worshipping as a priest of Midian (Exodus 18:9-11)
We see this man Jethro and his descendants appear in other places in scripture such as Numbers 10:29. In these verses he is referred to as Hobab. Here, it looks like Jethro/Hobab ties himself to the Jewish people and their G-d. In Judges 1:16 we read of him again and also in I Samuel 15:6. In I Samuel Jethro’s family lived near the Amalekites and Saul was careful not to harm them while fighting the enemy Amalek. All this gives us a clearer understanding of who this person Jethro, was.
Back to the encounter between Moshe and Jethro. One thing is very clear. Moshe had a great deal of respect for Jethro. He did not feel enmity or religious superiority toward Jethro. He listened to what Jethro had to say about how he was dealing with the crush of people coming to him each day for advice. Moshe also was not antagonistic with his father in law. He was willing to listen to Jethro, consider his advice, accept it and act on it. Jethro was teaching Moshe how to delegate authority and make the structure of administration work more effectively.
All this brings me to my point. Often, as believers in Yeshua, we think we have no need to hear from anyone else on how to run our church or any other religious institution, or for that matter, to take advice on anything. Often we offer little or no respect or honor to the leaders or people of other religious convictions. We see this same hardness come out not only in matters of faith but also in other relationships.
If I were to ask you how Yeshua saw the Pharisees what would be your immediate response? In Matthew 23:1-3 when talking to the people and His disciples He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moshe’s seat. Therefore, they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works for they say and do not do.” Here we see Yeshua giving them the respect that their position deserved but not agreeing with how they lived.
We can disagree, even strongly disagree with other brothers. We should do it in such a way that still gives them respect and love. We can be clear in our opinions but do not let it degenerate into name calling and hatred. We are all on the road together and even if we don’t agree we must not sin in that disagreement.