5. The Torah of Internal Affairs - 2.Mose 18:16
The fifth time the word Torah is found in Exodus 18 verse 16 and we are still two chapters away from the law of Sinai.
כי יהיה להם דבר ושפטתי בא אלי והודעתי והודעתי בין איש ובין ואת רעהו והודעתי את חקי האלהים ואת תורתיו׃ תורתיו׃
If they have one thing, it comes to me, and I judge between one and the other and make known to them the statutes of God and His laws.
This is about practice. If anything is to be judged between one or the other, then this law applies. The people are to come to Moses only when a matter between two persons had to be clarified and the two could not settle the matter themselves by mutual agreement. It is not easy to order things within the people of God, to be of help to the brothers and sisters. (Cases before a civil court should in particular restore peace, i.e. heal the legal peace between two parties who do not come to an agreement).
Father-in-law Moses therefore gives two important pieces of advice: He, Moses, should bring the difficult cases before God and choose men who fear God for the less difficult cases, called men of truth here; they should judge the smaller things. As the rulers of the people, they are to preside over them as judges in disputes.
What are men of truth? Moses, the father-in-law, would have spoken well today. More than in former times, many men and women today stand up and claim to proclaim the truth and only the truth. The spectrum is still growing and the color ranges from black to white. How do I recognize the men of truth and where do I find them?
As we explained briefly at the end of the last chapter, the teaching letters of the New Testament describe the internal affairs of the people of God. Moses received the law directly from God and so he wrote down everything the Lord told him. Nothing of the words he heard from God were handed down orally, but Moses says that he wrote everything down to the people. Thus the so-called oral Torah falls out when it comes to internal matters.
Now there are indeed things that we humans can hardly solve. There are two opponents against each other and nobody is able to judge the matter.
Let us listen again to what Moses (but actually God) says about it: If they have a thing, it comes to me, and I judge. This is a powerful and also miraculous thing: If they have a thing, it comes to God. With this, the Lord lets us know that he does hear and see things. He will arrange things in his time. It does not say in the text that God judges, but it says: So I make known...
The only prerequisite we need to hear and understand God's doing is to have things explained to us in meetings with the Lord. So it says in Psalm 25:14:
The mystery of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and His covenant to make it known to them.
The mystery of his covenant points to the covenant with Sarah and her story, as we explained at the beginning of the book, it must be understood metaphorically. We will only understand this mystery if we are ready to accept the allegorical way of speaking, not blindly, but with healed eyes healed with the Lord's eye ointment.
King David, who wrote the Psalm, gives us an example:
My eyes are always on the Lord, for he will lead my feet out of the net.
The bird-watcher already laid out his net in the Garden of Eden. When David expressed his confidence that the Lord would lead his feet out of the net, he was already in the middle, in the middle of the danger zone.
So are we today. We are already ensnared and do not notice it yet. May our words contribute thereby the Lord pay attention to his people and rescue them from the stalemates of the enemy. The adversary, the enemy of men, still walks around like a roaring lion, but also creeping like a snake.
As we will still see, the fifth law prophetically points to our time, this becomes clear after we have taken a closer look at the text from Exodus 18 and understand the circumstances that led to this law.
The father-in-law of Moses, Jethro, heard in the land of Midian about the great deeds of God in his people, as he had delivered them from Egypt and safely led them into the desert, the Midbar. Then Jethro takes his daughter Zipporah and her sons Gershom and Eliezer and sets off for Moses. Why did Zipporah stay with her father? This only becomes understandable when we take a closer look at the second verse:
And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after her home sending ...
The word home sending, Hebrew Shilluach - שלוח - means dismissal, divorce. One hears and marvels, the reader is informed that Moses had divorced from the Zipporah.
Now Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, goes out with his daughter and two grandchildren to the desert - Midbar - to come to Moses. We even learn what time of day Jethro arrived at Moses. The Hebrew word for "store" means, among other things, "sun rays decreasing on the horizon". The word also describes an activity that had to be done at this time of day, and so Jethro may have encountered his son-in-law "pitching the tent. At the same time, the word also describes the reasons for erecting the tent: on the one hand, it served as a "siege" and, on the other hand, it was erected "to live there".
Now then, when Jethro arrives at the mountain, he lets Moses know that he, his father-in-law, has arrived and with him also Zipporah and the two sons. Moses goes to meet him. The scene is characterized by mutual respect and friendship. Together they go into the tent and tell each other about their well-being. Then Moses talks about the experiences in Egypt and how God proved himself to the king of Egypt as lord of the lords and king of the kings. But he also tells him about the difficulties and anger they had in the desert and how the Lord had "torn them away" from all of them, so literally saving the word.
Full of astonishment and admiration at the Lord's deeds, Jethro took burnt offerings and sacrifices for God. Not only Moses did eat it, but Aaron and the elders of Israel also took part in the meal.
The next day Moses sits down on the judgment seat and begins his first session, which lasted from morning until evening. Jethro is beside himself, tells him that the matter is not going well, for both the people and Moses would wither over time. This is an apt illustration that the plants are watered too late. God's plants need early and late rain, otherwise they will not thrive. It is not enough that we only listen to a sermon once a week, we need daily the water and the bread that is offered to us by men of truth. A good custom, we think, are the daily meetings among the Egyptian brothers. Perhaps this good habit has also been preserved to this day because things have always been very hot in this country?
Who are the men of truth? One thing is certain, Diotrephes, whom we examined in more detail in chapter 4, cannot be it, nor can his priesthood. Demetrius cannot belong to the men of truth either, because he needs tutoring to recognize the truth.
One thing is certain, the apostle John belongs to the men of truth and also the apostles Peter and James and Judas and of course also the apostle Paul. But where do we find such men among us today? That too is certain, they must be men and not women. With this, the prophetess Ellen G. White already falls away. But also we cannot say the same about Joyce Meyer, who reaches millions of people with her missions. No, she does not belong to the men of truth either. We need even more criteria, so let's listen carefully to what recommendation Jethro gives his son-in-law:
Now listen to my voice, I will advise you, and God will be with you: Be you for the people before God, and bring the things to God;
And explain to them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they walk and the work which they are to do.
And thou shalt see unto thyself of all the people men of valor and fear, men of truth, who hate the unjust gain, and thou shalt set them over them: ruler over a thousand, ruler over an hundred, ruler over fifty, and ruler over ten, that they may judge the people at all times; and that they may bring every great thing before thee, and that they may judge every small thing themselves; so make it easier for thee, and may they bear with thee.
If you do this and God commands you to do it, you will be able to stand, and all this people will also come to their place in peace.
Moses should bring the matter before God, actually the words, because it is always about the word of God. Moses asks God the questions, tells of the things that are too difficult and incomprehensible for the people. God explains his word in a trusting togetherness. Moses then explains what he has learned to all the people. Now Jethro recommends that he should direct his ministry of the Word to those things which the superiors appointed cannot explain or illustrate. The men of truth should make the small things understandable and clarify them. And so already a young man, who is supreme over 10, grows more and more to a supreme over 50 and later perhaps over 100, yes, possibly even over 1000.
As Christians we should all prove ourselves to be men of truth and be able to present the words in an understandable and practical way even in small groups. We will succeed in this if we, like Moses, are in a trusting togetherness with the Lord. In such hours we get to know him better and understand what he says about himself and how his example can be reflected by us in our everyday lives.
Already in the fourth chapter, starting on page 209, we have seen how Christians can learn to deal with one another in a loving way. And should we have forgotten it once, then simply take the Bible to hand and read the letter to the Philippians again (). The men of truth have three striking features:
1. they are capable;2. they are God-fearing;3. they hate the unjust gain.
1. Capable Men
Jethro says to Moses, You look out ... men. What does it mean to look out? Moses shall perceive the men. Not only should he look at them, but he should also look closely at the men from all sides with spiritually healthy eyes, i.e. perceive them spiritually and with joy whom the Lord chooses. - The word is, as it were, connected with a vision. We find such a choice in the history of Samuel. God instructs Samuel to anoint a new king, but only in the visions is it shown to him who God has chosen, namely the youngest, David.
Now we look at the word carefully. We are going to stagnate at what the Hebrew language describes with the word. And again it becomes clear to us that the best translation cannot exist, we must always consult the original languages of the Bible.
Vigorous then means:
1. to be a man with power and violence (spiritual kind). How many men and also women talk to us and it does not tear us from our stools, but allows the listener a healthy church sleep during their sermons?
2. to be a rich man. From his great wealth he can draw from the full and, as Jesus once said, from the Old (Testament) and from the New (Testament) bring forth new treasures, this can be read in Matthew 13:53.3. to be a courageous man. In our opinion, this points to Timothy, who served the Lord as a faithful soldier. "Take part in the tribulations as a good warrior of Jesus Christ," the Lord also calls to us. Do we hear and understand it?"Take part!That is an order or not? What we would least expect from a soldier is the participation in the tribulations, but in fact the Lord wanted to say through Paul: "Timothy, my command is: Put yourself in the same trouble as the sisters and brothers, do not escape their needs. This requires courage, much courage.4. be a virtuous man. The word virtue, Greek: arete, means to be manly or male. It describes what constitutes a true gentleman in English: He is a man of honor who not only gives a beautiful appearance, but his whole behavior is of the noblest kind. The word virtue thus only appears in the New Testament, five times in four verses. In Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 2:9; in 2 Peter 1:3 and in 2 Peter 1:5. The root of the word shows us more about the gentleman. When he raises his voice, his spirit remains under tension, which means that the horses do not go through with him, but he restrains his spirit and constantly keeps it dependent on God. The words, like those of a friend, come with all gentleness. But why male or manly? Here, too, a second root of the word gives us an indication. The Greek word arrhen (αρρην) defines the masculine as the stronger to lift something up or hold it up. God takes the man to the responsibility and demands it also from him, this does not apply to a woman.
2. God-fearing men
What kind of people are they who fear God? Let us take a closer look at the Hebrew word for fear, because human definitions do not help. In Hebrew, fear means jare (ירא) and means fearful, reverent, respectful. The root of the word directs the focus on fear, worship, honor, homage, and causally it means to be frightened, anxious, and terrified. Let's start with the word root and its translation variant "to be terrified". It is the same word we find in Genesis 3 when God called Adam and answered: I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, for I am naked, and I hid. Adam does not remain dumb, he talks to God in spite of the fright. And so it happens to a sincere man when he hears the voice of God, he is frightened. Paul writes about this kind of fear: "Since we know the fright of the Lord, we persuade men, but God we have become manifest. 2 Corinthians 5:11
Paul had his moment of fright when he was on his way to Damascus and God suddenly appeared to him and spoke to him. It is similar to the scene in the Garden of Eden, because Adam and Eve also hear the voice of God and how he calls Adam, "Where are you?" And experienced the fright of God on their part.
For Adam and Eve the fright caused their redemption and forgiveness, but God slaughtered the beast. And because they were then also ready to be clothed with the skin of the victim, God could now begin to write the truth visibly on the clothing, His Torah, which can be read by all people.
Saul's three-day blindness only ends after Ananias, that is who had preferred God, laid his hands on him because through a vision from God he received the order to visit a man named Saul who was later to belong to the men of truth. Interestingly, both Ananias and Saul have a vision. After the Lord's fright struck in Paul's life, he brought about a radical and positive change in his life. Also the word "fear" changed, it now received the meaning of admiration, worship and homage. The love of God transformed the horror experienced by Paul into love and worship of the Lord.
3. men who hate the unjust gain
But what is meant by the expression unjust gain? The word for profit in Hebrew is betza (בצע H1215) and means plunder, robbery, and looting. The word appears for the first time in Genesis 37:26. Then Judah spoke to his brothers: What profit is it that we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Verse 27: Come, let us sell him. Verse 28: They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver thighs.
Judah and his brethren had taken everything from Joseph, even the cloak. They sold it naked, as it were, for 20 silver thighs, so that they not only took away the property of their brother, but, by handing it over to their enemies for money, they enriched themselves even more. Were Judah and his brothers men of truth? Let us hear what they tell their father: This is what we have found; know whether it is the garment of your son or not? Jacob could conclude nothing but that his son Joseph had been torn apart by an animal. Men of truth tell the real things, remain clear and unambiguous in their presentation, so that the hearer is not led to false conclusions.
By the way, the merchants who bought the supposed slave were Midianites, people who constantly polemicize against the truth with their lies. They even make a competition out of it.
Further characteristics of the men of truth
What still characterizes the men of truth? Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "Everyone as he presents himself in his heart: not with annoyance or out of compulsion, for God loves a joyful giver. But, as we can easily see, in every religion both material and immaterial demands are made. Within their groups they force the member to invest property and time and justify this in many ways. Thus their leadership and chiefs are not men of truth either. If Paul, to name a second exemplary behavior, praises the Philippians for supporting the impoverished brothers and sisters in Jerusalem with their wealth, then they did it out of love for them and out of love for God. And when we read that they gave their help with joy and also overflowing, we are very impressed. Do we also rejoice overflowing when we serve the Lord and the church with our gifts?
Balaam, who is also mentioned in Revelation 2, in the letter to Pergamos, is an eloquent example of the opposite of the men of truth. He reaped the money to curse Israel. Also today the king invests a lot of money to take action against God's people and still their anathema sounds against Israel. But because the curse is ineffective, Balak follows Balaam's advice and seduces them to idolatry. Many Jews and Christians are about to fall for the renewed deceit, they are already on their way to believe the lie and reject the truth.
God opposes a Balaam with a Timothy, who, as Paul writes, is to make diligent efforts to present himself as a proven worker, who has nothing to be ashamed of, because he cut up the Word of Truth into the right pieces of the puzzle and interprets the scriptural passages correctly.
In this way the adversary, called Balaam in the letter to Pergamos, is exposed and naked from the truth proclaimed by Timothy. In Timothy 6 the men of lies are described:
They are puffed up; they know nothing; they are sick with disputes and bickering; they are men of envy, rage and blasphemy; then they are joined by evil suspicions; the constant bickering characterizes their appearance; they are corrupted in their attitude; they are denuded of the truth; they think that godliness is a means of gain.
The men of truth do not swell themselves and do not do great things, for they are servants of the people. They are also healthy in doctrine, as far as the difficult texts in Scripture are concerned, and so they explain the truth in mildness, they are tender, as the apostle told his true child. Nor do men envy the truth, but rejoice in what God has given the other to serve the whole people.
Summary of the Fifth Law of the Messiah's Torah
As we explained at the beginning of this chapter, there are difficult things in the scriptures of the Bible that can be explained at different levels by the people of God Himself. For this purpose, men of truth were sought by Moses, who confirmed God (also through visions). There lived capable men in Israel who were in love with the truth after experiencing the fright of God, but through their salvation and redemption got to know a friendly God personally. From that time on, they served the truth for the welfare of God's people. The goodness of their work becomes recognizable through their empowered service, which they carried out as they were gentlemen. The only enmity which the men of truth knew was their silent hatred of the unjust gain.