Exodus 18–20: Ten Commandments reveal the Creator and Savior of Israel and the world

Much of the world knows that happened in Egypt long ago, when the Holy One of Israel turned slaves into victors through 10 devastating plagues and the Red Sea crossing. And at the time, many in the surrounding Ancient Near East knew about it, too, even without the benefit of social media or CNN.

In Torah reading יתרו Yitro (Exodus 18:1–20:23)​, we learn that Yitro (Jethro) wanted the inside scoop, the real story on this victory over a superpower of the time, so he took his daughter and grandsons and tracked Moses down in the desert of Midian. Israel also got the inside scoop on Who their Savior was, through the 10 Commandments. But they and we must learn to treat the Holy One with respect.

“Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 18:1 NASB)

The tribe of Midian were descendants of Abraham’s son Midian through his wife Keturah. Abraham had taught Midian about the one true God and Abraham would have circumcised Midian, yet 400 years or so later, Midian’s descendants are polytheists and do not circumcise their sons. Their knowledge of the Creator has been greatly compromised and diluted. When Yitro hears of God’s great deeds, he realized that even though he was a priest of his people, he had a lot to learn and that Moses was the one who could teach him.

When God appoints someone as His agent, God gives him or her His power to accomplish the mission He gives them. God gave most of the prophets miraculous powers to prove their anointing to the people. God gave Moses and Aaron such authority and power.

God can set aside a person (such as Moses) or a place (such as Mount Sinai or the Temple). He can do this on a temporary or a permanent basis. This is His sovereign right as the Creator.

However, even though God had blessed Moses with his friendship, Moses is still human and he has spread himself out very thin, instructing the people and judging their disputes.

John Chrysostom tells us:

“Although Moses had done mighty works in God, he was still only a man and needed wise counsel. Similarly, wise leaders in the Church seek the godly counsel of others, for they are not dictators. Rather, they are counselors who seek the wise counsel of others.”

In Parashat Yitro, we see that Yitro has something he can still teach Moses, too. When Yitro arrives, he observes Moses’ busyness, the long lines of litigants and penitents queuing up in front of Moses’ tent next to the mountain of God.

“It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’” (Exodus 18:13–14 NASB)

Yitro, as a priest, knows how to manage people. He knows that one person can only do so much work in a day. Messiah had the same experience of attracting large groups of people who want to hear His instructions and wanted Him to mediate their legal disputes. The Messiah also experienced the same weariness and exhaustion and soon Yeshua had to delegate some of His authority to others so as many people would receive His blessing as possible.  A nation of priests always has someone above them.

“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.” (Matthew 4:23–25 NASB)

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” (Matthew 10:1 NASB)

“When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.” (Matthew 11:1 NASB)

We know that Moses took Yitro’s advice, but we also know that this episode (Exodus 18) happened after God gave the 10 Commandments.

“The LORD also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’” (Exodus 19:10–11 NASB)

We know that this occurred near the festival of Shavuot, which is called Pentecost in English. This happens in the third month of the Hebrew calendar. The 10 Commandments are directly connected to the Spirit of God. If we say we are following the spirit of God, we are following the 10 Commandments. They are interchangeable. If a “spirit” moves you in direct opposition to the 10 Commandments, that spirit is not of God.

1st Word: Remember the One Who brought you out of slavery

The first thing God does when He begins to speak is to identify Himself. The other “gods” don’t matter, they don’t exist.

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.’” (Exodus 20:1–3 NASB)

The Creator is greater than the creation. The Creator is above us and we are above those things we have created.

2nd Word: Remember the One Who brought you isn’t a work of mankind

When we elevate something we created above our fellow human beings, we are committing idolatry. When we elevate the government above our fellow human beings, we have made it an idol. Anything you raise something up above where it belongs, you are creating an idol.

God does not hold a child guilty of his or her father’s crimes. He repeats this several times throughout Torah. Then why does God say this?:

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:5–6 NASB)

When Esau and Midian did not teach their children about Him, there were consequences for their descendants. Esau, Ishamel and Midian’s failure to pass on Abraham’s instructions to their descendants, made them lawless and they eventually became enemies of God and God’s people.

When a descendant of a lawless patriarch comes to his senses and breaks the chain of lawlessness and follows God’s law, that descendant and his descendants start a generational blessing rather than perpetuating a generation curse.

The 10 Commandments are categories of law. There rest of the Torah are subsets of the 10 Commandments.

3rd Word: Remember to protect the reputation of the LORD

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7 NASB)

Taking God’s name in “vain.” What does that mean? Numbers 30 tells us what it means to use God’s name and how His name is taken in vain if the person who makes the vow doesn’t follow through.

4th Word: Remember the Creator’s weekly memorial

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–11 NASB)

When God introduces Himself in the 10 Commandments, He introduces Himself as the one who liberated them from Egypt but when He introduces the Shabbat, God hearkens back to creation, not to the Exodus to explain the validity and specialness of the Shabbat. God created Jew and Gentile and both Jew and Gentile need to keep the Shabbat.

Did God give the Law to cause people to sin?

God created rebellion. Rebellion is not inherently bad. It is an important tool. When we rebel against evil, we are actually acting righteously. It is a tool of our free will.

How can we honor God when don’t honor those who we can see, such as our parents, grandparents, employers, etc? If you can’t honor those around you, you won’t be able to honor God, who you can’t see.

Law of God vs. Law of Sin & Death

All the 10 Commandments have more meaning than what is recorded in Exodus 20, they are all expanded upon in other parts of the Torah. When we obey God’s law, we are above the law. When we break the law, we are under the law and under a penalty. That penalty may be small or great, depending on the law. As long as the law is above you, you are in sin. God defines sin, and He defines for us how to deal with our sin.

We want to live in the Law of God, not in the Law of Sin. The Law of God brings life. The law of Sin leads to death. The Aaronic priesthood were there to show us how to deal with the Law of Sin. Messiah came to show us how to live the Laws of God.

We can only know of the sins that God has shown us. The question is what we do about those sins. We can’t deal with the sins God hasn’t seen fit to show us nor will God penalize us severely for our unknown sins. The solution to all of this comes to us through the Messiah.

Summary: Tammy.

Banner photo: At Mt. Sinai, God made trespassing a death penalty offense. “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. ‘No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” (Exodus 19:12–13 NASB) Photo by onixxino via Creative Commons License from Freeimages.com.

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