Parashat Yitro - Exodus 18:1-20:23

Believe in Moses?

This week’s parashah is one of the most pivotal in terms of human history. In this parashah, the Creator of the Universe begins to reveal Himself in a manner previously unknown to mankind. It is the pinnacle of the Exodus, and the very reason He delivered His people from Egypt. Hashem delivered the Children of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh in order to bring them to this moment. It was on Mount Sinai that the Lord called Moses and commissioned him to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. And now it was from Sinai that God would reveal Himself and His divine will to His people. His voice would be heard for the first time by an entire people. And for the first time He would call an entire people to Himself as a nation that would be set apart from all other nations on the face of the earth.

But in order for all of this to happen, Hashem had to set the stage to allow His people to hear His voice and accept the offer He would present to them. The specific thing He had to do for this to happen was to get the Israelites to trust in His messenger, his shaliach. Therefore, the Lord did great and mighty works through the hand of Moses so that they would fully realize he was indeed sent by Hashem:

Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses. (Exodus 14:31)

As the Israelites encamped at the base of Mount Sinai, the mountain was surrounded by various displays of the Divine Presence. Why? Because the Lord needed to remind the people to trust in His shaliach. He explained this to Moses:

Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever. (Exodus 19:9)

Believe in Moses forever? But isn’t it Yeshua that we are supposed to believe in forever? In his Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16), Yeshua demonstrates that belief in Moses is not optional, but foundational. In the parable, both Lazarus and a rich man die and enter the realm of the dead. Abraham attends to the needs of Lazarus while the rich man suffers torment. As the rich man is suffering, he begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to call his brothers to repentance. Abraham responds by telling him, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” Immediately the rich man objects, saying, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham’s response is striking, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Why was faith in Moses so critical for the Children of Israel fleeing Egypt? Because he was the one sent to guide them to their destination and facilitate God’s covenant with them. Why has faith in Moses been critical for the Children of Israel since the Exodus? Because he points them back to that covenant God made with them, reminding them of their responsibility to remain faithful to their Redeemer. Sometimes, however, we forget that our faith in Yeshua should also serve the same purpose. Yeshua’s job was to point us back to his Father and his Father’s covenant as well. Each self-disclosure of Hashem required that humanity might believe in His shaliach, but not to that end. They were to trust in His shaliach so that ultimately, we might see beyond the messenger to the One whom the messenger represents, and then they can hear His voice fresh and anew. Yeshua desired that the world believe in him so that they could ultimately hear the voice of his Father and be united for His purposes:

That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20–21)

Once we believe in the messenger, we can hear his message. The message of Moses was, “I am giving you a covenant with the Creator of the Universe. Cling to its details—loving God and others through the details of this covenant—and you will live.” Yeshua’s message was, “Repent—turn back to the covenant of your forefathers—because if you do, the Messianic Kingdom will come upon you.” We must do more than believe in the messenger. We must hear his voice and be obedient to his message as well.