Torah: Exodus 18:1–20:26 [heb]
PROPHETS: Isaiah 6:1–7:6; 9:6–7 [5–6 TaNaKh]
APOSTOLIC WRITINGS: Matthew 5:8–20
These devotionals are designed to supplement, not replace, your Bible reading.
Torah 1 & 2
Yitro Worships God
God has freed us from Egyptian slavery and is about to enter into national covenant relationship at Mt. Sinai. The actual covenant ceremony will be in next week’s portion but this week we have important beginnings.
We are reintroduced to Moses’ father-in-law who is a priest of Midian. Most likely Yitro is not a proper name, but a title meaning “His Excellency” (cf. 3:1; 4:18). This honorable man’s name was probably Hobab (cf. Numbers 10:29; Judges 4:11). His father was probably named Reuel (Exodus 2:18; Numbers 10:29) and is referred to as “father” of Moses’ soon-to-be wife according to the tradition of calling grandfathers “father” (cf. Genesis 32:9).
Yitro brings Zipporah, Gershom and Eliezer (vv. 2–5) and meets up with Moses in the desert (vv. 6–7).
Moses gives him a full report of God’s saving grace.
Yitro’s joyful response (v. 9) includes blessing God (v. 10; cf. liturgical Barchu) and confessing his faith (v. 11; cf. liturgical Shema).
Finally, Yitro worships at the altar and fellowships at the table.
Yitro Advises Moses
The next day, Yitro sees Moses providing counsel to all the people and questions him about it.
Moses explains that people come to him because they want to know God and follow His ways! They are seeking discipleship! But one man can only do so much. Even Messiah Yeshua only focused on twelve men for intensive discipleship.
God’s plan for equal access to knowing Him and for the distribution of wise and discerning, Spirit-led leadership is reflected in Yitro’s counsel to Moses. Moses is learning to provide godly leadership by sharing the load with others (cf. Deuteronomy 1:9–18). What specifically qualifies these leaders (cf. 2 Chronicles 19:4–11, esp. vv. 7 and 9; Proverbs 9:10)?
Torah 3 & 4
Judges Appointed Over Israel
Moses heeds Yitro’s counsel (vv. 24–26) and bids him farewell (v. 27; cf. Numbers 10:29–32 where this farewell occurs at the end of the year at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Thus, either the events of Exodus 18 actually happened after the Sinai covenant was ratified but before they leave Sinai, or perhaps just the farewell happens later but is recorded in Exodus 18 to conclude Israel’s dealings with Yitro before describing Israel’s dealings with God).
Covenant Proposed to Israel
In the 3rd month after leaving Egypt, we arrive at Mt. Sinai (19:1–2) in fulfillment of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (cf. 3:12).
Moses goes up onto the mountain (v. 3a) and God speaks to him there (vv. 3b–6). God is proposing a covenant between Himself and the nation through Moses (cf. Genesis 31:44 for this covenant proposal between Jacob and Laban). This proposal is not the actual covenant ceremony. The proposal involves God saying, in effect, “You’ve seen My power and experienced My saving grace (v. 4); you have a unique relationship with me and thus a unique calling (v. 5); that calling is to be a holy and priestly nation (v. 6).” What is the function of a priest? How can a nation serve a priestly function among the nations of the world?
Peter applies a priestly function to those who follow Messiah in 1 Peter 2:9. What in this verse specifically defines our means of accomplishing this priestly calling? How can you fulfill this calling today?
torah 5 & 6
The Prophetic Calling
Moses goes down the mountain and proposes God’s covenant to Israel’s elders.
The answer is affirmative, “count us in” (v. 8a)! Moses goes back up to give God their answer (v. 8b).
Before Moses speaks, however, God announces His plan to come down and enter into covenant relationship with the nation and His goal to do it in such a way that encourages faith in (trust and obedience to) God’s representative.
When Moses then reports to God Israel’s acceptance of His invitation (v. 9b), God gives instructions to prepare this unholy people to encounter and meet with this holy God (vv. 10–13).
Moses goes down and prepares the people (vv. 14–15).
God descends to the top of the mountain (v. 16) and the people come to the foot of the mountain to meet with Him (v. 17).
God’s Presence is again seen in the visible form of cloud and fire (v. 18; cf. 13:22) and formal national face-to-face relationship begins (v. 19).
Adoption of the Nation
Exodus 19:20–20:17 [14 TaNaKh]
When God calls Moses back up the mountain to meet with Him, he goes up again (v.20).
God’s warnings against unauthorized approach foreshadow the tragedy of Nadab and Abihu (vv.21-23; cf. Lev.10:1-3).
God instructs Moses to go down the mountain and bring Aaron back up with him (v.24). As Moses goes down the mountain, God probably descends as well.
Thus, the people hear God’s voice thundering behind Moses speaking the Ten Words/Commandments as they descend toward the people (19:25-20:1; cf. Deut.4:36; 5:4, 22-23).
The Ten Words generally summarize God’s basic obligations for His covenant people.
1) I Am the LORD (v. 2; cf. Deuteromny 5:6; John 8:58; 18:6). This introduction establishes the authority for making the following requirements.
2) No Idols: Foreign Gods and Images (vv. 3–6; Deuteronomy 5:7–10). There are minor differences in the way various traditions number God’s words/commandments. In traditional Protestant and Greek Orthodox theology, for example, the first two “commandments” are 1: “no foreign gods” (vv. 2–3) and 2: “no images” (vv. 4–6).
3) No Misusing the Name (v. 7; cf. Deuteronomy 5:11).
4) Keep the Sabbath Holy (vv. 8–11; cf. Deuteronomy 5:12–15).
5) Honor Your Parents (v. 12; cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:1–4). This first half of the Decalogue can be viewed as regulating man’s relationship with God while the second half can be viewed as regulating man’s relationship with man. Each of the first five words all have the phrase “the LORD your God” in them while the latter five do not. This fifth word regarding honoring parents is interesting in that we are first introduced to God through our parents and our view of Him is often colored by our experiences with them.
6) Do Not Murder (v. 13; cf. Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21–26).
7) Do Not Commit Adultery (v. 14 [13b TaNaKh]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 5:27–30).
8) Do Not Steal (v. 15 [13c TaNaKh]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:19).
9) Do Not Witness Falsely (v. 16 [13d TaNaKh]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:20).
10) Do Not Covet (v. 17[14 TaNaKh]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:21; Romans 7:7–8). In traditional Lutheran and Roman Catholic theology, the numbering is slightly different as well. The first commandment is a combination of what is 1–2 above—1: “No Idols: Foreign Gods and Images” (vv. 2–6) and the last commandment above is divided into two—9: No Coveting Neighbor’s House” (v. 17a) and 10: “No Coveting Neighbor’s Property and Wife” (v. 17b).
Prayerfully read and apply Matthew 5:19 to your life and faith-walk.
torah 7 &
Seeing and Trembling
Exodus 20:18–26 [15–23 TaNaKh]
In response to God’s mighty Presence and thunderous words, the people draw back in fear. When I try to replay the scene in my mind, I see God descending the mountain speaking His Words and the people not trusting that the boundary at the foot of the mountain that Moses constructed at God’s command would actually hold. They thought God would overcome them and not “stop” at the boundary.
As a result of their fear, they draw back and plead with Moses to be their mediator (vv. 18–19[15-16 TaNaKh]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:22–27).
Moses reassures the feeble sheep by telling the people that this is all part of God’s plan to create a healthy “fear” of Him, which is the starting point of right understanding because it puts us in right relationship (vv. 20–21[17–18 TaNaKh]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:28–29; Proverbs 9:10; and Jeremiah 32:40, where the nature of the new covenant is that God puts this “fear” into our hearts so that we can live in right relationship with Him).
Exodus 20:22–26 [19–23 TaNaKh]
The portion concludes with God’s demands for exclusive worship (vv. 22–23 [19–20 TaNaKh]).
He also gives instructions for building and using altars, the primary mode of worship in the ancient Near East, that will allow this unholy people to maintain relationship with a holy God (vv. 24–26 [21-23 TaNaKh]).
By focusing on God’s availability to you as a new covenant believer, has your “fear of God” become somewhat dulled? Can you see how cultivating this “fear of Him” (reverential awe) will promote intimacy with Him? When is the “fear of God” most real to you? How can you cultivate this worshipful posture in your life?
Isaiah 6:1–7:6 [5–6 TaNaKh]
At his commissioning, the prophet Isaiah sees a vision of the LORD sitting upon His throne.
The house is “filled with smoke,” the seraphim (guardian angels) are singing “Holy, holy, holy!” and the doorposts shake “at the sound of their shouting.”
Isaiah hears the voice of God and says, “Send me!”
But the people are being hardened for judgment. The kings of Syria and Israel conspire against Ahaz, king of Judah, to remove him and install ben Tav’el (the son of Tabeel) as a puppet government (v. 6). Isaiah takes his son, Shear-Jashub (A Remnant Will Return), and tells Ahaz to stay calm and not fear (v. 4). The Haftarah then skips ahead two chapters to announce that the zeal of Adonai-Tz’vaot (the LORD of Hosts) will guarantee the Davidic throne. Messiah will come (9:6–7[5–6 TaNaKh]).” *(Walk Exodus! A Messianic Devotional Commentary, Jeffrey Feinberg, p. 96)
Keep My commandments
Some think it silly that the LORD could talk to Israel from a mountain top at Sinai. Here, Yeshua speaks His famous Sermon on the Mount. Various groups receive favor from God: “How blessed are the pure in heart! for they will see God” (5:8). Yet, David has already written, “The earth is Adonai’s…Who may go up to the mountain of Adonai?…Those with clean hands and pure hearts"“ (Psalm 24:1–4). Another favored group, the peacemakers, will be called sons of God (5:9). Messiah, the promised Son to sit on David’s throne, is named Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6 [5 TaNaCh]).
In the Sermon on the Mount, the LORD extends His offer made at Sinai. The righteous and holy may draw near to God. They are permitted even to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But standards are extremely high. Their righteousness must surpass that of the Torah-teachers! Read Matthew 5:19. Why does Yeshua say, “Whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven”? Explain Kefa’s (Peter’s) words (Acts 15:10), in light of Yeshua’s teaching.” *(Walk Exodus! A Messianic Devotional Commentary, Jeffrey Feinberg, p. 97)
Rest. Fellowship. Discussion.