Thursday, February 9, 2012

Yitro

Shemot 18:1-20:23

This weeks Parasha is titled Yitro which means Jethro. It begins with a visit from the Midian Priest Jethro, Moses father in law, and Moses wife Zipporah and two sons Gershom and Eliezer. Moses shares with Jethro all that HaShem had done to save Israel. Jethro was pleased to hear all that HaShem had done, and he had brought burnt offerings and other sacrifices for HaShem. Moses, Aaron, Jethro and the elders ate bread in the presence of HaShem.

Moses began his duties as judge for Israel and was kept from morning till evening every day listening to the people and giving the will of HaShem to them. Jethro, in his wisdom suggests to Moses that he should teach everyone the commandments of HaShem and then to set Judges under him to hear and settle easy cases while Moses dealt with the difficult cases. Moses found the advice of his father in law to be good and did just as he suggested.

In the third month after Israel left Egypt, they find themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai. The beginning of the covenant, the marriage covenant, between HaShem and His people. Moses is directed to remind the children of Israel what they had seen and how HaShem delivered them from their slavery. Moses is also directed to tell the Israelites the desires of HaShem. As stated in Ex 19:5-6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The term “treasured possession” deserves a little attention. Treasured possession does not cary the same weight or sting in our English westernized minds. The term “treasured possession” in the Hebrew is “Segullah” and its meaning is “Personal property, signifies a private possession which one has personally acquired and carefully preserved. Used to refer to the people of Israel as God’s possession, because He chose them, delivered them from Egyptian bondage, and shaped them into what He wanted them to be.” With this understanding of the word Segullah, we can better understand that we are not just something HaShem has a fondness for, but we are His property to do with as he pleases. The mixed multitude that stood at the foot of Mount Sinai would have understood the full implications of this statement before they replied “We will do everything that HaShem has said” Ex 19:8. They were to be “Property of HaShem” and reminded of this several times throughout their journey. Moses reminds them of this while reiterating the covenant of HaShem in Deu 14:2 when he says “for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession,” or segullah, or His property. I can’t continue until I add a little support from the Brit Chadashah on this point as well. 1 Ptr 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” The term “belonging to God” comes from the Greek word “Peripoiesis” and means “possession or property”, just the same as “segullah”. What’s interesting in this verse from 1 Peter is that he states that before you became HaShem’s property we were not even considered a people. It was not until we came into covenant, when we said ‘we will do all that HaShem has said’ or “I do” as a bride and groom would confirm their vows, that we are now considered a people.

Many books and teachings have been written on chapter 19 and 20 of this weeks parasha. The relationship of the giving of the Torah and the Ruach HaKodesh, the mixed multitudes at Sinai and the mixed peoples from many nations in the upper room, the signs and wonders of HaShem speaking to His people from the mountain and the very closely related events in Act 2. Moses was commanded in Ex 19:10, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” In much of the same way Yeshua gives the same instructions to his disciples in Acts 1:4-5 “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Moses was commanded to consecrate the people and to be sure that they have been cleaned. It was to be the action of Moses to accomplish this. Yeshua takes it to another level by having the Holy Spirit do the cleansing. At Mount Sinai they were to be ready in three days, in acts they were to be ready in a few days. What did these disciples do during these days of waiting? Acts 2:12-14, “Then they returned to Jerusalem - When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying - They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Yeshua, and with His brothers. They were purifying themselves in preparation for what Yeshua promised them. They understood that they needed to do these things because it was the same approach that was given to their forefathers at Mount Sinai. As continued in the parasha, HaShem speaks to Israel the ten words, or the ten commandments. The people fear for their lives if they are left to speak and hear from HaShem. Moses assures them that they are being tested in this way so that they will learn to fear HaShem and keep from sinning.

The relationship to HaShem is best put into perspective in this Torah reading. The seriousness of what it means to be in covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not to be taken half heartedly. If we declare that “We will do all that HaShem has said”, we’d better understand that we are not only just a people, but we are Hashem’s people, His possession, and He is a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him, but showing love to a thousandth generation to those who love Him and keep His commandments.

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