Parashat Yitro (Jethro)
Shemot (Exodus) 18:1–20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1–7:6, 9:5–6 (6–7)
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14 (19:15 In the Hebrew Bible).
I started this week's commentary with this verse because it is my heart's desire to write my thoughts in a way that will honor God while helping my fellow countrymen who are yet to know the Rock and the Redeemer of the world — Yeshua the Messiah — to see Him. I also hope to help those who do know Yeshua to understand more clearly His plan for Israel. It matters for us all.
As I have previously written on this week’s Parashah, we read of God’s call to the children of Israel:
And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own jewel (treasure) among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
God’s call to Israel has always been to be His people, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation through whom He can display His holiness. God is holy and, in our text in Exodus, we see the beginning of a more precise description of the precepts He desires us to live by in order to display His Holiness.
In Exodus 20, we find that after God had spoken directly to the children of Israel the first ten words (known as the "Ten Commandments"), Israel did not understand what God was saying; they only feared and asked for Moses to interpret what God was telling them. I love Moses's reply to them when he says:
Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you will not sin.
Even Yitro (Jethro), who was Moses's father-in-law but himself not a Hebrew man, recognized the incredible power of God and the acts of wonder He did on behalf of the children of Israel:
So Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they acted insolently against the people."
Jethro acknowledged and understood what, sadly, even the people of Israel did not.
Despite their promise to follow all that God had commanded in Exodus 19:8, we know that Israel was disobedient. Throughout the history of the people of Israel, we turned our backs on God and did not follow Him over and over again. Why is this? I cannot tell you how many times people ask me why my people, the Jewish people, reject God? Can’t they see Him?
In our Haftarah portion, we read the famous words of the prophet Isaiah:
And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not understand; and keep on looking, but do not gain knowledge.’ Make the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes blind, so that they will not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”
Dear reader, the reality is that someone who is physically deaf cannot hear and someone who is physically blind cannot see. This is a reality that we can all see and agree upon. However, what we often fail to see is that, in the spiritual realm, it is the same.
There is a verse in this week's Haftarah portion that, in my opinion, is one of the greatest indications that the Son can also be God, which is a notion that many Jewish people reject with regard to Yeshua.
For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonder, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of armies will accomplish this.
This verse is one of the most profound verses in Scripture to clearly show a divine child would be born, a son, and one of His names would be "Mighty God", and He will be our Prince of Peace. Yet, over the millennia, the vast majority of my people have rejected this, and still reject it to this day. Why? Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) very clearly addressed this in the book of Romans:
What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to hear not, Down to this very day.” And David says, “May their table become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them. May their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs continually.”
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? Far from it! But by their wrongdoing salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their wrongdoing proves to be riches for the world, and their failure, riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Therefore insofar as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry if somehow I may move my own people to jealousy and save some of them. For if their rejection proves to be the reconciliation of the world, what will theiracceptance be but life from the dead?
God has a perfect and whole plan of redemption, which has been put in motion from the creation of the world. And He still has a perfect plan of redemption for His people, Israel! He allowed us, the Jewish people, to reject that plan as a whole, so that the Gentiles could also receive redemption. However, the day is coming when the time of the Gentiles will come to an end, and only then will God Himself remove the veil from the eyes of the people of Israel. What a glorious day that will be!
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