Jethro and company are the first “friendlies” that we’ve met on The Way to Shavuot, and there is a concept in Exodus 18 that will repeat again and again throughout Scripture, and resonate for all time—the power of our testimony, through Messiah and Yah The Father.
Exodus 18:1, “Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and Israel his people, how YHWH had brought Israel out of Egypt.”
Exodus 18:8-11, “Then Moses told his father-in-law all that YHWH had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on The Way, and how YHWH had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that YHWH had done for Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Jethro said, “Blessed be YHWH who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that YHWH is greater than all gods…”
Notice how “overused” the word “hand” is in Exodus 18:8-11 above. Back on Day #24 we skimmed over the letters in YHWH’s name—but as a reminder the “Y”, the “Yod” is a picture of YHWH’s “mighty right hand”. Messiah’s name “Yeshua” begins with this same mighty right hand. Even “Israel” when spelled in Hebrew, is “Yisrael”—again, beginning with the “mighty right hand”. The last of Jacob’s children, Benjamin, is in Hebrew, ‘BenYamin’ with the “mighty right hand” in the center—and his name means “son of my right hand”. Of course, the New Testament says over and over that the ascended Messiah is sitting or standing exactly there, “But he [Steven], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)
The right hand is a reflection of power, (whether its the futile oppression by Egypt’s hand, or victory by YHWH’s hand) but we see again and again that YHWH’s hand is always the most powerful.
All the time.
The biblical concept of a “name” really means “reputation”. Our personal reputations, which when you get down to it, are defined by what people have “heard” about us, or in Jethro’s case what he had “heard” about YHWH.
Rahab has the same experience as Jethro in Joshua 2:10-11:
“For we have heard how YHWH dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og whom you devoted to destruction, and as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for YHWH your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”
The famous “Ark of the Covenant”, which called far more frequently the “Ark of the Testimony”, literally goes before Israel as they GO FORWARD. This is both an object lesson in following the commandments, as well as letting YHWH’s name and reputation always take precedence (go before us) in our walk. The reputation that YHWH presents for Himself in Exodus is merely (!) the foundation of the power of His Name. A foundation designed to be built upon—just as Rahab had added the defeat of Sihon and Og to the most recent list of YHWH’s defeated enemies. It is our testimony of what YHWH has done in our lives that needs to be what defines Him, and therefore what defines us. John says it best, as he always seems to do:
“Everyone who believes that Yeshua is Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith….If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (John 5:10-14)
People can, and do, argue about theology all day long—even Satan himself used scripture again and again to temp Messiah to sin in the wilderness—but no one can argue with our own testimony of what YHWH and Yeshua have done to free us, and what they have done to bless us through our keeping of the Holy Commands.
Paul says the same thing in Romans 10:13-21, “For everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Messiah. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.””
That last sentence is a warning which matches the clear pattern in the Torah, matches Messiah’s words, and aligns with every Epistle. If we as Israel (or even as sojourners!) live our lives contrary to the reputation of His Name, we are polluting, defaming, and blaspheming His Name. This of course is the real meaning of the commandment set in stone in Exodus 20:7, “You shall not take the name YHWH your god in vain, for YHWH will not hold him guiltless who takes in name in vain.” It’s also the meaning of this warning by Messiah himself in Mark 3:28-29, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
As a primary example, look how the testimony that Jethro heard about how YHWH rescued the people from Egypt contrasts with Aaron’s shockingly lame testimony in Exodus 32:1, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this man, Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Just as Aaron is about to replace YHWH with a golden calf, his FIRST sin was actually replacing YHWH with Moses himself. This is so easy to do with our own testimonies—we either take credit for victory, or assign it to other humans, or even give credit to “coincidence”. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight, but the always-present temptation is to give credit to the people and circumstances we can SEE—thus robbing YHWH of deserved glory and inadvertently diminishing the power of His Name at the same time.
Like Aaron, we in the “Torah-keeping” community also have tendency to lift “Moses” (i.e. the Law) above YHWH, the source of the law. This is equally sinful as lifting up a false and lawless “Jesus” (for example, the one who eliminated the Seventh Day Sabbath or endorses pagan holidays as his own.) Both of those spirits are forms of idolatry–and both errors can easily lead to powerless testimonies and a resulting lack of victory.
Instead, this is supposed to be what the still future finish-line should look like for the faithful:
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God [of blasphemy]. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:10-11)