Parashat Yitro (Jethro)
Shemot (Exodus) 18:1–20:23
In this week’s parasha, we encounter a very famous portion of Scripture known as the “Ten Commandments”. There is no doubt that the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact not only for the Jewish people, but also many gentile believers from around the world, throughout the millennia.
Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Often when I hear people speak about the Ten Commandments, there is an emphasis on the commandments themselves. However, as I was rereading the portion above, I realized how important the first two verses are:
Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the LORD your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
God Himself was the one who spoke these words, which is something that we must pay attention to. He declared that HE Himself is the LORD God and that He was the one who delivered Israel out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Why might God mention this?
I believe the reason is to emphasize that redemption must come first, followed by obedience. In other words, God was reminding Israel that He is the One who redeemed them and as a result, they are now to walk with Him in a very specific way.
As I am writing, I am thinking about Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul’s) words to the Ephesians when he wrote,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Our works will not lead us to salvation! However, if we truly understand our salvation, then we should walk in a manner pleasing to God — and not just pleasing to ourselves.