Parashah Yitro (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

Moses’s father-in-law, Yitro, brings Moses’s wife and two sons to him now that he has taken the people close enough to their home on the way to Sinai. And after staying the night, Jethro (who apparently has converted from paganism after hearing about all that God did) sees Moses all day long judging for the people and advises him to learn to delegate. Moses takes that advice and sets up what is (in today’s world)  a system of circuit courts, with himself being the final court of appeal.

The people come to Sinai and God, in a thunderous cloud of smoke and fire, gives them (and us) the 10 Commandments, first identifying and charging the people to be a nation of priests unto the world. After seeing the majesty and fearsomeness of God, the people tell Moses that they will do as Moses says if only Moses, alone, will speak to God and then tell them what God said. They are too afraid of God to be in His direct, physical presence.

This parashah ends with God instructing Moses the way any altar to God is to be constructed.

The Decalogue is designed to make the people holy, i.e., separated from the rest of the world. Our Priests, Rabbis, Pastors, Ministers- whatever title we give to our religious leaders- are supposed to be above-board in everything they do. We are told in the Torah what kind of people they are to be and how they are to manage their household, and this is repeated in the New Covenant, as well. So, too, those who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are to be above-board. They are to be holier-than-thou, but not in the usual sense or meaning of that phrase.  The world thinks holier-than-thou means to be self-absorbed, overbearing and conceited. When God (and Yeshua says this too, and often) tells us to be holy He means the opposite of what the world means: God’s holiness is shown by meekness, humility and honoring God above all things. Being holy unto God means never honoring ourselves. We are to be a holy people, priests to the world, and as such we are to be an example of Godliness. We are to be holier in order to demonstrate to everyone else how they are to be; we are to be holier by being humble, meek, unassuming and self-effacing.

Those who worship God are to be an example of how God wants everyone to act. Yeshua told His Talmudim that the people will know they are His Talmudim by how they act (John 13:35).

The Jewish people were chosen to represent God’s system of worship and society. The Jewish people are the Chosen people not because they deserve it or are the greatest. We have proven our unworthiness over and over. It has resulted in the destruction of Shomron and Yehudah, and the disbursing of the Jewish people all over the world. Over the millennia we have proven we are obstinate, stiff-necked and ungrateful. We have proven that the Jewish people are just like everyone else. The one and unique difference why we were chosen is because of the righteousness of Abraham, and that righteousness was also shown by King David. Despite our the sinful and obstinate nature, shown throughout the history of the Jewish people, we are still a nation of priests. Subsequently, any and all who accept that God is God and, now that Yeshua has come into the world, accept that Yeshua is God’s Messiah and accept the grace we have available to us through His sacrificial death, are then inducted into the nation of priests.

And, as a member, you are expected to abide with all the laws that govern that group. Unfortunately, although every “Born Again Believer” is a member of the nation of priests, most Christian teachings have ignored the Torah (at least, most of it) and preached obedience only to the 10 Commandments. They use Yeshua (Jesus) as their excuse for not even trying to obey any of the other 603 commandments.

The bottom line is this: God has no religion. God has rules, regulations, ordinances, and laws. The main ones are here, in this parashah, and the rest are given throughout the Torah. As far as God is concerned, if you violate even a stroke of the Torah, you have violated the entire Torah. It’s that simple, it’s that plain, it’s that awesome. A nation of priests means to be holier than the other people in the world: not ‘above’ them, not ‘better than’ them, just separate from them. We are to be living in the world as a light in the darkness, and we are to be an example of what God wants from everyone.

And because we represent Godliness in a satanic world, we are going to be hated, derided, insulted and persecuted. So, well…it sucks, but it’s the way we must be. The world has only themselves to look to for hope, which means the world has no hope. We have God as our hope, we have Yeshua as the means of our salvation, and we have the Ruach HaKodesh as our Comforter. The job is  hard, the workplace is a horrible place to be, and our clients are mean, ungrateful and uncooperative.

If you want to be a member of the nation of priests, there’s no question about it: the job is tough! The Boss expects a lot from us, there are no vacations or personal days, and the people you are required to deal with will treat you somewhere between ignoring and abusing you to killing you. You really have to ask yourself if it is all worth it.

The answer is: YES!! Absolutely!! True, the job is hard and thankless, but the retirement plan is heavenly!

Still Crazy After All These Years

Yes, Mr. Simon, I am also guilty of suffering from this condition.

I have been a “Believer” for nearly 18 years. My testimony is available for you to see from when I was “newly reborn” on the About Steven page of this blog. I have read the Bible dozens of times, been involved in Ministry leadership, been on a Council (twice), and acted as Rabbi-Pro-Tem for about a year and a half. I also have a Certificate of Messianic Studies.

And after all that, I am still the same jerk I was before I was saved. I am just a saved jerk.

Why this confession? Last night I had a dream (oh- how I hate dreams sometimes!) and in it I had said something that hurt another person. It wasn’t a break-down-and-cry hurt I caused, it was just the truth spoken truthfully in a way that cut to the bone. I don’t know what I said, but I remember I was justifying and apologizing at the same time, which in real life can’t be done. I have often stated that I am passionate about my beliefs and opinions.

Passionate=discompassionate. At least, in my case.

Recently I have been reading in Shaul’s letters to the Philippians and Ephesians, and realized that passionate discourse doesn’t cut it if it is cutting to someone else. I think I have good ideas, and I am usually ahead of the crowd in meetings when we are discussing how to handle a situation. What I mean is, I will make a suggestion that is straight to the point, without sugar-coating it, and usually it comes across so straight-forward that people don’t understand it because,well, people don’t want to hear truths: they want to hear roses and serenity and everyone loves everyone else, and my answer would have to be, “World Peace!” Then, after about 10 minutes, someone else will say the same thing; it will be “smoothed out” and presented in a tactful and polite manner, and everyone will say, “Ooh- what a good idea.” My wife, Donna, has been with me during some of these meetings. She will look at me and I will look at her and we just smile. Thank God I have gotten to the point where I no longer really need (although I do like) the accolades for having “the idea.”

In any event, it’s nearly two decades later and I am still talking with my New Yorker attitude (Oh yeah? What’s it to ya?) and I should know better. I should know that we are to deal with each other with loving kindness and compassion. That we should think of the other person’s feelings before we think of our own. That we should be forgiving not just in what others have done to us, but in how we treat others who don’t really deserve to be treated nicely. Proverbs says to treat your enemy nicely- to give him food and water and it will be like pouring hot coals on his head. In other words, the enemy will be so surprised that he may stop to think about wanting to be an enemy any more.

They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That may be true, but who wants a bunch of flies hanging around? I would rather get a zapper and listen to them fry.

There, you see? I still think the way I used to, I still talk (less but too much like) the way I used to, and I still have those jokes in my head that got me in so much trouble when I was younger. It’s all still there.

I have prayed and prayed, and asked the Lord to excise the bad parts of my brain that make me think thoughts that aren’t proper, or look at people more like produce than images of God, and I asked Him, over and over, why he won’t just make it all go away. I told the Lord I want to give it up to Him: Please, take it!.

A few years ago he answered me. He said, “It doesn’t work that way.” And I knew what He meant. He was telling me that I need to learn to surrender to the Ruach, to learn to draw on it rather than allow my own thoughts and desires to rule what I say and think and do. And the reason why was because if God was to simply take away the parts I don’t want, how would I ever learn to rely on His Spirit for strength. And when the Day of Judgement comes, and the Tribulations are here, I will need to draw on the strength of the Spirit to survive. My life, and yours, should be Boot Camp for the End Days.

Shaul said that when he is weak, then he is strong. That’s because in our weakness God’s strength is made manifest. It’s another one of those spiritual truths that non-spiritual people think to be foolish: it is my weakness that makes me strong. Not because I am strong, but because God is all-powerful, and when I get out of His way (i.e., die to self) then through me He can do remarkable things.

When I am strong, God cannot do as much.

I am getting weaker, I see it, but like losing weight it is slow to work, and quick to fail. I can gain 3 pounds in a sitting, and it will take three weeks to lose it, only to get it back again. I just can’t seem to get it to pick up speed and keep going down.

I have the same problem with dying to self. I can do it sometimes, but I keep making these stinking lousy recoveries!

How’s your spiritual health? Are you dead to the world and alive and kicking in the Lord? If you are, Hallelujah for you! Really. There is great encouragement in seeing people who have been successful in allowing the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to fill them. It reminds me that there is still a prize to be won.

If you, like me, are not yet in that crowd, don’t despair. I really am not dissatisfied with myself, I am just impatient. I can find solace in knowing that God will not give me more than I can handle, and that His timing is perfect. And, I trust Him more than I do myself to know when the timing is right. In the meantime, I will keep running the good race and doing what I can.

I may be a jerk, but I am a saved jerk. As we read in Psalm 84, one day in the tent of the Lord is better than a thousand days elsewhere.  Even the court jester of old got to live in the castle, so I will be happy in my salvation and grateful to God for whatever improvements I make. Because, when it comes down to it, every step closer to God is worth whatever it takes to get there.

If I take three steps closer to God, then backslide for two of them, I am still one step closer. And if the rest of my life ends up as just one step closer, I will be very happy. So should you.