Yitro — “Jethro”
Portion for the week leading up to February 18, 2017
All is Accomplished
The children of Israel finally arrive at Mt. Sinai after a few months in the wilderness. God has redeemed them from their slavery so that they may be free to serve Him. They witness His great power and His revelation on the mountain, which was meant to inspire the people to keep His commandments so that all may go well with them. What relevance does this event have for us today?
When God was getting ready to give the people of Israel His commandments on Mt. Sinai, first He gave Moses instructions for how the people were to prepare themselves for His drawing near to them. Because God was going to descend upon the mountain and reveal His glory to the people, they needed to be ritually pure and they were not to draw near the mountain. This was not because God didn't like them or wanted to keep them at a distance, but because as human beings we are not pure enough to approach God's physical presence. This was also the purpose of the sacrificial system: so that God could let the physical manifestation of His glory dwell among the people (Exodus 25:8). Because God is holy, nothing impure can draw near to Him. These impurities do not necessarily equal sin, but rather our inherent human nature separates us in certain ways from experiencing the full revelation of God.
"Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently" (Exodus 19:18). God was revealing Himself to the people of Israel in a mighty way, and He went on to speak the Ten Commandments to the people. This revelation was overwhelming: "All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance" (Exodus 20:18). Part of the reason for this revelation was so that the people would recognize the greatness of God and His intolerance of sin. It also served to tie God's revelation of Himself with His commandments. Just as He revealed Himself visually and audibly through fire and the sound of a trumpet, so too He revealed Himself through His moral requirements.
An important passage about the commandments tells us of the words of Yeshua (Jesus), speaking of the longevity and relevance of the commandments to people in every age: "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Torah until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18). Some have asserted that all was accomplished when Yeshua was crucified (John 19:30), implying that the Torah has no value. But this fails to take into account the phrase "until heaven and earth pass away" in this passage, which indicates that all is in fact not accomplished.
The book of Hebrews also tells us that all has not been accomplished: "And His voice shook the earth then [at Mt. Sinai], but now He has promised, saying, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.' This expression, 'Yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:27). God shook the earth when He made His covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. So too, at the culmination of all things, both the heavens and the earth will be shaken so as to remove them from existence (2 Peter 3:7). We also will be purified and purged of our physical impurity and our sinful tendencies. The Torah will not pass away until this happens, because at that time the Torah will be completely written upon our hearts and we will be able to live out its requirements as part of our very nature (Jeremiah 31:34). Because this is not yet the case, however, we must allow God to continue this work within us, preparing us for the day when these earthly tents will be removed (2 Corinthians 5:1-3).
Just as the old covenant was marked by a shaking of the earth, so too the new covenant will be made complete with the shaking and removal of the heavens and the earth. The physical manifestation of God's glory on Sinai was intended to inspire the people to serve with reverence and awe. So too we are to set our hearts on the new heavens and earth, the heavenly Kingdom, and the eternal glory of God so that we may serve Him in godly fear and love: "For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven" (Hebrews 12:25). Because we know Yeshua and are aware of our heavenly calling, we have a greater responsibility to serve God and put to death our sinful nature.
While we sojourn here on earth, we are to have our eyes set on our heavenly calling, preparing our hearts and drawing nearer to God by allowing Him to write His commandments on our hearts. All earthly things will soon pass away, so let us look ahead, allowing God to work in us as He prepares us for service in love: "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29).