17. Yitro (Jethro) Exodus 18:1 – 20:23

Can Anti-Semites Go to Heaven?...


Torah Portion for week 17: Exodus 18:1 – 20:23


Yitro (Jethro)

Though this week’s Torah portion is relatively short, it is without a doubt one of the most theologically dense Torah portions in the yearly reading cycle. Here we read about Moses’ encounter with Jethro, and Israel’s encounter with God on Mount Sinai, which includes the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Today as we consider Jethro, I’d like to ask the question, “Can anti-Semites go to heaven?” To appreciate this amazing man, we have to look at him in the context of the previous Torah portion; in chapter 17, just before Jethro arrives, we read that Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. Exodus 18 tells what happened when Jethro arrived:
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. . . . Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare [shalom] and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, 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 the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.” (Exod 18:1, 7-12)
Time doesn’t permit us to examine at length the amazing parallels between Jethro, a godly Gentile priest, who greets Moses with bread and blessings after a battle with the Amalekites, and Melchizedek, another godly Gentile priest, who also greets Abraham with bread and blessings after a battle with wicked kings. It is important to see how these two stories divide the Gentile world into two groups. On the one hand we have Jethro and Melchizedek, two people who represent those who bless the God of Israel, and consequently, the people of Israel. On the other hand, we see the Amalekites and the wicked kings who do not. The Amalekites viciously attack Israel. Jethro, however, worships with Israel and celebrates God’s victories on their behalf.
This brings us to a point which all anti-Semites had better consider: “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). There is just no way around the Jewish people, because there is no salvation apart from Israel’s God. By attacking the Jewish people, the Amalekites picked a fight against God forever. The text says, “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exod 17:16). How terribly ironic to think that there are people who claim to love the God of Israel and to follow the King of the Jews, yet despise the Jewish people. How can this be? The truth is, if your best friend isn’t Jewish, you can’t enter the Kingdom of God!
On the positive side, never forget that God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people, including the sending of the Messiah Yeshua, always results in blessings for the Gentiles. Having heard about God’s deliverance of the Jewish people, Jethro joyfully confesses, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they [the Egyptians] dealt arrogantly with the people” (Exod 18:11). Because of God’s goodness to Israel, Jethro comes to know and offer sacrifices to the God who is above all gods. And because of God’s goodness to Israel, you can enjoy the blessings freely given to both Jew and Gentile through Israel’s Messiah.