(First published in newsletter # 19 in 1997)
The knowledge of the coming Redeemer was known from the time Adam fell. The blood sacrifices commanded by God pointed to His death. Abraham understood what had to occur, as Christ said to the Jews:
JOH 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
The events of the Exodus and Mt. Sinai were part of the unfolding plan that was decided in Heaven, the plan of salvation for down-fallen man. God was intervening to prepare the people He had chosen to preserve the knowledge of Him and take that knowledge to the world.
Soon after arriving at Mt. Sinai, before the Lord came down upon the mountain in the sight of the people, Moses was instructed to tell the people to wash their clothes and refrain from worldly labor and care, for He was about to approach nigh unto them and speak with His Own lips. Bounds were erected around the border of the holy mountain to keep the people from touching it on pain of death. The holiness of God was to be deeply impressed upon the minds of the people; they were to possess a profound veneration for Him.
EXO 19:17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
No man could see God and live. His Presence veiled in the clouds and smoke, He descended to the earth, upon the mountain of Sinai. And there, He spoke the ten precepts of His Law with His Own mouth, and it was to be the last time He personally spoke to the multitude. The Ten Commandments, His great Law, was the constitution of His government- unchangeable and universal.
EXO 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
God then called Moses up into the mountain, and gave him “judgements” and “statutes”, which Moses carefully wrote down. God had organized His people into a nation that was to be governed by Himself, personally. He gave them “judgments” and “statutes” which were specific policies to uphold equal justice in the community. Statutes are framed to deal with individual situations where it may not be clear as to how to deal with a particular law. But these statutes always fall within the confines of the constitution. For example, once there were no laws dealing with speed limits for we had no automobiles. Later, laws dealing with speed limits were made. This is an example of the statutes God gave to Moses:
EXO 21:33 And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; 34 The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.
The “statutes” of the ceremonial law were given, along with the precise directions for the building of the tabernacle and its furnishings. This “law… served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to the in the mount. (HEB 8:4-5)
Through the ordinances of the sacrificial system was made clear the future works of the Messiah. In every sacrifice, His death was shown. In every cloud of incense, His righteousness alone ascended. This was the “law” which would cease when the Messiah came in the flesh and died as the True Sacrifice. This was the “handwriting of ordinances that was against us,…”, that Christ “took… out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (COL 2:14)
After giving Moses the “statutes and judgments”, God ended His conversation with His promise to deliver the people into Canaan and all the blessings of prosperity, IF they obeyed His commands- and this was ALWAYS stipulated.
He had proposed a contract with the children of Israel. Moses, as the mediator between God and the people, was to present the terms of the contract to the people:
EXO 24:3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.
Moses constructed an altar as God had instructed:
EXO 20:24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me,… 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone:… This was the altar He has so graciously allowed us to see.
When this was completed, Moses then erected“twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” (EXO 24:4) He then “sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.” (v. 5,6)
When the sacrificies were made, Moses again “took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” (v. 7,8)
The contract between God and the children of Israel was now ratified. God had presented His absolute demands and what He offered in return. The people signified their acceptance and agreement to the terms.
The 12 pillars, one for each of the 12 tribes, commemorated the agreement. From Abraham down through the ages, this practice continued. In 1886, the Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered to the U. S. Army after reaching an agreement that he and his warriors would be allowed to live with their families. When the agreement was made with General Miles, Geronimo set up a large stone on a blanket as a witness. When the treaty was broken by General Miles, Geronimo stated that their treaty was to have been in effect until the stone crumbled.
The significance of the events at Mt. Sinai are continually unfolding to our understanding. God chose the “children of Israel” NOT because they were righteous, but because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
DEU 9:5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…
By their covenant with God, they were to be a witness to all nations:
DEU 4:5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments,… 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
The children of Israel were not the only people at Mt. Sinai:
EXO 12:38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them;..
Provisions were made for the “stranger” to be accepted among the nation if they were faithful to the God of Abraham:
EXO 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
The nation of Israel was to be the “light” to the heathen. Through them was the knowledge of the True God to radiate throughout the world. The invitation to “come to Him” was open to all mankind, not just to Jews :
ISA 56:4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; 5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. 6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; 7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. 8 The Lord GOD, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
God had allowed the children of Israel to experience being in bondage to the Egyptians so that they would have a special regard for the “stranger” who was not one of them:
LEV 19:34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Finally, the Messiah who was foreshadowed in the ceremonial system, came to the House of Israel as prophesied. His 3 ½ year ministry on earth was directed to the Jewish nation alone. When He called His twelve disciples, He told them not to go “into the way of the Gentiles”, “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. (MAT 10:6) He was preparing the children of Israel to take the Gospel to the world:
JOH 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
The leaders of the Jewish nation rejected the Messiah and had Him crucified, but the faithful followers of Christ took the Gospel to the “house of Israel”. After 3 ½ years, though many accepted salvation through Christ, the nation of Israel rejected it.
ACT 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
The Gospel was taken from them and given to those who would faithfully go forth with it. There has been much prejudice down through the ages against the Jewish people by those who say they crucified Christ. But we must remember that the apostles and all those who first took the Gospel to the world with such power were all Jews. It was the leadership that brought about the nation’s downfall, and those who followed them were held accountable:
ISA 9:16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
Did this mean every Jew was “cast off”?
ROM 11:11 …Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Just as salvation had been available to the “stranger” during the days of the Old Testament, so too was it still available to the Jew as well as the Gentile
ROM 11:23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
There is no partiality shown by God:
GAL 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
It was as if the dawning of a revelation when Peter spoke:
ACT 10:34 …Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Yet Moses had told them long before: DEU 10:17…the Lord your God is God of gods, …which regardeth not persons,…
The Old Testament is our heritage just as is the New. The Messiah that Christians know is the same Redeemer that spoke to ancient Israel:
ISA 48:16 …I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me. 17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
In talking about the events of the Exodus, Paul stated:
1CO 10:11…they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. How can they apply to us? Consider how the people of Israel were on the brink of entering the promised land, but because of unbelief were condemned to wander for 40 years. Then, of the hundreds of thousands who left Egypt, only two finally entered- Joshua and Caleb. Today, we too, are on the brink of the promised land- but this time, the heavenly one. Will we enter?
REV 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.