What a feckless lot the Israelites were, feckless, feeble and faithless. I mean, for Moses’ sake, they have no sooner witnessed the plagues, all of which struck the Egyptians with ever increasing force and devastation, while leaving them free from hail, beasts, boils, darkness and death, than they panic at the sight of the pursuing Egyptians and complain to Moses. They would rather scuttle back to Egypt and drop into the grave of slavery than face a new life of freedom. Reassured and led between the divided sea, they watch the Egyptian army swept away only to complain soon afterwards that the water is too bitter. The water is made sweet, but soon they are moaning about hunger. Manna and quails they are given aplenty, but it is not enough. They’re complaining about the water again. What is wrong with this people? I would never have behaved like that, would I?
Well, yes, I most probably would have. After all, these Israelites were all born into slavery, as were their parents. All their lives they had learnt nothing but to obey their Egyptian masters, who could in turn be indulgent, allowing their slaves to keep animals and grow good healthy food, and horribly cruel, depriving them of the materials they needed to fulfil their daily quotas of production and then blaming them for not doing so. The Israelites had fought no wars, made no difficult political decisions, faced no challenges, except for that of hard, back-breaking work. They had made no choices. Except one, and it was this choice which made them worthy of God’s faith in them. They had never wholly, through all the long years of dispossession and persecution, deserted their God, the one and only God. Yes, idolatry had rubbed off on them to some extent, as we see later in the sad episode of the golden calf, but it had not taken hold. The spark of faith had remained alight and it would not go out.
In Yitro, Moses receives some sound advice from his father-in law, Jethro, which will help him nurture this spark. Jethro is himself an example of a righteous and God fearing gentile. Moses also receives some rather important laws from God. To hear these and to join in song, prayer and conversation come along at 10.30 this Saturday, when Liz Berg will lead us.