Torah: Exodus 18:1-20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 8:5-20
The parsha begins with the visit of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro (whose name forms the title of the parsha) to him in the wilderness, bringing his wife Zipporah and their sons Gershom and Eliezer with him. Jethro notices that Moses is struggling to sit as Judge over the whole of Israel himself, and advises him to appoint deputies to sit in judgement over ‘thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens’ of the people.
The people of Israel come to the Desert of Sinai and God stops them there and tells them to prepare for the giving of the Covenant and the Law, and the Ten Commandments (or rather, ‘Ten Words’ or ‘Ten Sayings’) are given, outlining the basis of the whole Torah.
The passages in Isaiah are, in chapter 6: Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly Temple, which the Tabernacle in the Wilderness is intended to symbolise and reflect.
“I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs…and they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’.”
And then in chapter 9: these verses which every Christian will immediately recognise as being ‘messianic’ in nature; that is, foretelling the coming of Christ:
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The passage in Matthew is the healing of the Centurion’s servant which refers back to another passage in Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” – Isaiah 53:4
Torah portions are usually named after the first word or group of some of the first words which occur in that section, and Parsha Yitro is no different. “Now, Jethro…” However, in having a portion named after him, it is a clue that the person of Jethro is a significant character, and from a Christian/ Messianic perspective, he may be viewed as a ‘type’ (symbol or foreshadowing) of Christ. In what way? In fact, this links perfectly with the ‘Great Commission‘ where Jesus appoints his disciples to act on his behalf to carry out His mission – not to ‘judge’ (although Paul later makes reference to a time when Jesus’ disciples would judge on Christ’s behalf) but rather to bring in the Kingdom, where Christ – the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – is King, and where healing can be found.
The Torah portion doesn’t go right up to the end of the chapter, but rather ends with:
“Wherever I cause my name to be honoured, I will come to you and bless you.”
– following the tradition of finishing the portion on a positive note, but also drawing attention to the idea that the Kingdom brings blessing.
The fact that the Haftarah selection refers to the reign of the Messianic king also links the Covenant to the Kingdom.
The New Testament selection links the Centurion to Jethro as a model for Kingdom advancement (discipleship) in that he recognised that he is a man under authority, with soldiers under him; as I learned in The Salvation Army, we are “saved to save”, which was the message in different words at Elim last week.
Finally, the ‘Ten Words’, when viewed as ‘ten commandments’ usually misses the primary phrase at the beginning , which in fact is probably the most important and foundational of all the commandments and indeed all of the Torah:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
THIS is the nature of the Kingdom, the nature of our God. Selah!
Thy Kingdom come.