Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3


Chapter 21—The Law of God

After the children of Israel left Rephidim they came to the “desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel, Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.” 3SG 261.2

The people here entered into a solemn covenant with God, and accepted him as their ruler, by which they became the peculiar subjects of his divine authority. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee forever.” When the Hebrews had met with difficulties in the way, they were disposed to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and accuse them of leading the host of Israel from Egypt to destroy them. God would honor Moses before them, that they might be led to confide in his instructions, and know that he had put his Spirit upon him. 3SG 262.1

The Lord then gave Moses express directions in regard to preparing the people for him to approach nigh to them that they might hear his law spoken, not by angels, but by himself. “And the Lord said unto Moses, go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai.” The people were required to refrain from worldly labor and care, and to possess devotional thoughts. God required them also to wash their clothes. He is no less particular now than he was then. He is a God of order, and requires his people now upon the earth to observe habits of strict cleanliness. And those who worship God with uncleanly garments and persons do not come before him in an acceptable manner. He is not pleased with their lack of reverence for him, and he will not accept the service of filthy worshipers, for they insult their Maker. The Creator of the heavens and of the earth considered cleanliness of so much importance that he said, “And let them wash their clothes.” 3SG 262.2

“And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it. Whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death. There shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through, whether it be beast or man, it shall not live. When the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.” This command was designed to impress the minds of this rebellious people with a profound veneration for God, the author and authority of their laws. 3SG 263.1

“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.” The angelic host that attended the divine Majesty summoned the people by a sound resembling that of a trumpet, which waxed louder and louder until the whole earth trembled. 3SG 264.1

“And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” The divine Majesty descended in a cloud with a glorious retinue of angels, who appeared as flames of fire. 3SG 264.2

“And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount, and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount, and Moses went up. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.” Thus the Lord, in awful grandeur, speaks his law from Sinai, that the people may believe. He then accompanies the giving of his law with sublime exhibitions of his authority, that they may know that he is the only true and living God. Moses was not permitted to enter within the cloud of glory, but only draw nigh and enter the thick darkness which surrounded it. And he stood between the people and the Lord. 3SG 264.3

After the Lord had given them such evidences of his power, he tells them who he is. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” The same God who exalted his power among the Egyptians now speaks his law. 3SG 265.1

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 3SG 265.2

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 3SG 265.3

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 3SG 265.4

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates, for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. 3SG 266.1

“Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 3SG 266.2

“Thou shalt not kill. 3SG 266.3

“Thou shalt not commit adultery. 3SG 266.4

“Thou shalt not steal. 3SG 266.5

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 3SG 266.6

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.” 3SG 266.7

The first and second commandments spoken by Jehovah are precepts against idolatry, which if practiced would lead men to great lengths in sin and rebellion, and result in the offering of human sacrifices. God would guard against the least approach to such abominations. The first four commandments were given to show men their duty to God. The fourth is the connecting link between the great God and man. The Sabbath especially, was given for the benefit of man, and for the honor of God. These last six precepts show the duty of man to his fellow-man. 3SG 266.8

The Sabbath was to be a sign between God and his people forever. In this manner was it to be a sign—all who should observe the Sabbath signified by such observance that they were worshipers of the living God, the Creator of the Heavens and the earth. The Sabbath was to be a sign between God and his people as long as he should have a people upon the earth to serve him. 3SG 267.1

“And the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not, for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from Heaven.” The majestic presence of God at Sinai, and the commotions in the earth occasioned by his presence, the fearful thundering and lightnings which accompanied this visitation of God, so impressed the minds of the people with fear and reverence to his sacred majesty, that they instinctively drew back from the awful presence of God, lest they should not be able to endure his terrible glory. 3SG 267.2

Again God would guard the children of Israel from idolatry. He said unto them, “Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.” They were in danger of imitating the example of the Egyptians, and making to themselves images to represent God. 3SG 268.1

The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.” The angel who went before Israel was the Lord Jesus Christ. “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works; but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” 3SG 268.2

God would have his people understand that he alone should be the object of their worship; and when they should overcome the idolatrous nations around them, they should not preserve any of the images of their worship, but utterly destroy them. Many of these heathen deities were very costly, and of beautiful workmanship, which might tempt those who had witnessed idol worship, so common in Egypt, to even regard these senseless objects with some degree of reverence. The Lord would have his people know that it was because of the idolatry of these nations, which had led them to every degree of wickedness, that he would use the Israelites as his instruments to punish them, and destroy their gods. 3SG 269.1

“I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year, lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and thou shalt drive them out before thee. Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me; for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.” 3SG 269.2

These promises of God to his people were on condition of their obedience. If they would serve the Lord fully, he would do great things for them. After Moses had received the judgments from the Lord, and had written them for the people, also the promises, on condition of obedience, the Lord said unto him, “Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him. 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.” 3SG 270.1

Moses had written—not the ten commandments, but the judgments which God would have them observe, and the promises, on conditions that they would obey him. He read this to the people, and they pledged themselves to obey all the words which the Lord had said. Moses then wrote their solemn pledge in a book, and offered sacrifice unto God for the people. “And he 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.” The people repeated their solemn pledge to the Lord to obey all that he had said, and to be obedient. 3SG 270.2

Moses obeyed the command of God, and took with him Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, with seventy of the most influential elders in Israel, who had assisted him in his work, and placed them at such distance that they might behold the majesty of the divine presence, while the people should worship at the foot of the mount. “And they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand. Also, they saw God, and did eat and drink.” 3SG 271.1

They did not behold the person of God, but only the inexpressible glory which surrounded him. Previous to this, had they looked upon such sacred glory, they could not have lived, for they were unprepared for it. But the exhibitions of God's power had filled them with fear, which wrought in them repentance for their past transgressions. They loved and reverenced God, and had been purifying themselves, and contemplating his great glory, purity and mercy, until they could approach nearer him who had been the subject of all their meditations. God had enshrouded his glory with a thick cloud, so that the people could not behold it. The office of the elders whom Moses took with him, was to aid him in leading the host of Israel to the promised land. This work was of such magnitude that God condescended to put his Spirit upon them. He honored them with a nearer view of the glory which surrounded his exalted majesty, that they might with wisdom act their part in the work assigned them of guiding his people with his fear and glory continually before them. 3SG 271.2

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there, and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written, that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua; and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you; and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day he called unto Moses, out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount, in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.” 3SG 272.1

Even Moses could not go at once up into the mount, for he could not immediately approach so nigh unto God, and endure the exhibitions of his glory. Six days he was preparing to meet with God. His common thoughts and feelings must be put away. For six days he was devoting his thoughts to God, and sanctifying himself by meditation and prayer, before he could be prepared to converse with God. 3SG 272.2

After the Lord had given Moses directions in regard to the sanctuary, he again gave him special instructions in regard to his Sabbath. And then he handed down from the cloud with his own divine hands the tables of stone to Moses, whereon he had engraven with his own finger the ten commandments. 3SG 273.1

But while Moses was receiving special instructions from God, the children of Israel were corrupting themselves at the foot of the mount. “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden ear-rings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden ear-rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf. And they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it, and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” 3SG 273.2

It was the mixed multitude who came from Egypt with the Israelites that were the principal movers in this dreadful departure from God. They were called a mixed multitude, because the Hebrews had intermarried with the Egyptians. 3SG 274.1

The children of Israel had seen Moses ascend up into the mount, and enter into the cloud while the top of the mountain was all in flames. They waited for his return every day, and as he did not come from the mount as soon as they expected he would, they became impatient. Especially were the believing Egyptians, who left Egypt with the Hebrew host, impatient and rebellious. 3SG 274.2

A large company assembled around the tent of Aaron, and told him that Moses would never return—that the cloud which had hitherto led them now rested upon the mount, and would no longer direct their route through the wilderness. They desired something which they could look upon to resemble God. The gods of the Egyptians were in their minds, and Satan was improving this opportunity, in the absence of their appointed leader, to tempt them to imitate the Egyptians in their idolatry. They suggested that if Moses should never return to them, they could return into Egypt, and find favor with the Egyptians, by bearing this image before them, acknowledging it as their god. 3SG 274.3

Aaron remonstrated against their plans, until he thought the people were determined to carry out their purpose, and he ceased his reasoning with them. The clamors of the people made Aaron afraid of his life. And instead of standing up nobly for the honor of God, and trusting his life in his hands who had wrought wonders for his people, he lost his courage, his trust in God, and cowardly yielded to the wishes of an impatient people, and this, too, in direct opposition to the commands of God. He made an idol, and built an altar whereon they offered sacrifice to this idol. And Aaron submitted to hear the people proclaim, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” What an insult to Jehovah! They had recently listened to the proclamation of the law of God from Sinai, amid the most sublime demonstrations of divine power, and when their faith was tested, by Moses’ being from them for a few weeks, they engaged in idolatry which had been so recently specified, and expressly forbidden by Jehovah. By so doing they transgressed the first and second commandments. God's anger was kindled against them. 3SG 275.1

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them. And I will make of thee a great nation.” 3SG 276.1

God saw that the children of Israel, especially the mixed multitude, were continually disposed to rebel, and, by their works, provoke him to destroy them. He knew that they would murmur against Moses when in difficulty, and grieve him by their continual rebellion. He proposed to Moses to consume them, and make of him a great nation. Here the Lord proved Moses. He knew that it was a laborious and soul-trying work to lead that rebellious people through to the promised land. He would test the perseverance, faithfulness and love of Moses, for such an erring and ungrateful people. But Moses would not consent to have Israel destroyed. He showed by his intercessions with God that he valued more highly the prosperity of God's chosen people than a great name, or to be called the father of a greater nation than was Israel. 3SG 276.2

“And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.” 3SG 277.1

The thought that the heathen nations, and especially the Egyptians, would triumph over Israel, and reproach God, was overwhelming to Moses. He could not let Israel go, notwithstanding all their rebellion, and their repeated murmurings against him. How could he give up a people for whom so much had been done, and who had in so wonderful a manner been brought out of Egypt. The news of their deliverance had been spread among all nations, and all people were anxiously watching to see what God would do for them. And Moses remembered well the words of the Egyptians, that he was leading them into the wilderness that they might perish, and he receive their possessions. And now if God should destroy his people, and exalt him to be a greater nation than Israel, would not the heathen triumph, and deride the God of the Hebrews, and say that he was not able to lead them to the land he had promised them? As Moses interceded for Israel before God, his timidity was lost in his deep interest and love for that people for whom he had, in the hands of God, been the means of doing so much. He presented before God his promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He prayed to God with firm faith and determined purpose. The Lord listened to his pleadings and regarded his unselfish prayer, and promised Moses that he would spare Israel. 3SG 277.2

Nobly did Moses stand the test, and show that his interest in Israel was not to obtain a great name, nor to exalt himself. The burden of God's people was upon him. God had proved him, and was pleased with his faithfulness, his simplicity of heart, and integrity before him, and he committed to him, as to a faithful shepherd, the great charge of leading his people through to the promised land. 3SG 278.1

“And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand. The tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome; but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing. And Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.” 3SG 278.2

As Moses beheld the children of Israel shouting and dancing in an excited manner, in imitation of the idolatrous feasts and idol-worshipers of Egypt, so unlike the reverential worship of God, he was overwhelmed. He had just come from the presence of God's glory, and although he had been warned of God that the people had corrupted themselves, had made an idol and had sacrificed to it, yet he was in a measure unprepared for the dreadful exhibition which he witnessed of the degradation of Israel. He threw down the tables of stone in utter discouragement and wrath, because of Israel's great sin before God. 3SG 279.1

The act of Moses in burning the calf and grinding it to powder, and making them drink of it, was to show them the utter worthlessness of the God which they had been worshiping—that their God had no power at all. Men could burn it in the fire, grind it to powder and drink it without receiving any injury therefrom. He asked them how then could they expect such a God to save them, or do them any good, or any evil? Then he rehearsed to them the exhibitions which they had witnessed of the unlimited power, glory, and majesty of the living God. 3SG 279.2

“And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And ye said, Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee, and we shall hear it, and do it. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me. And the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee They have well said all that they have spoken. Oh, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” 3SG 280.1

Moses then presented before them their disgraceful conduct in worshiping a calf, the work of man, in the place of offering sincere devotion to the living God. He pointed them to the broken tables of stone, which represented to them, that thus had they broken the covenant which they had so recently made with God. God did not reprove Moses for breaking the tables of stone; but was very angry with Aaron because of his sin, and he would have destroyed him had it not been for the special intercessions of Moses in his behalf. Moses inquired of Aaron, What did this people unto thee that thou hast brought this great sin upon them? 3SG 281.1

Aaron endeavored to excuse his sin, and related to Moses the clamors of the people—that if he had not complied with their wishes they would have killed him. “And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my Lord wax hot. Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me; then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.” He would have Moses think that a miracle was performed—that the gold was cast into the fire, and by some miraculous power it was changed to a calf. This was to lessen his guilt in the eyes of Moses, and cause it to appear that he had a plausible excuse for permitting the people to sacrifice to it, and to proclaim, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” 3SG 281.2

Moses rebuked Aaron, and informed him that his conduct was highly censurable; for he had been blessed above the people, and had been admitted into close converse with God. That he should commit so great a sin, even to save his life, was a matter of astonishment to faithful Moses. He saw that the people were naked; that is, were stripped of their ornaments; for Aaron had made them naked to their shame, among their enemies. He had deprived them of their ornaments, and put them to a shameful use. They had not merely lost their ornaments, but they were divested of their defense against Satan, for they had lost their piety and consecration to God; and had forfeited his protection. He had in his displeasure removed his sustaining hand, and they were left exposed to the contempt and power of their enemies. Their enemies were well acquainted with the wonderful works performed by the hand of Moses in Egypt. And they knew that Moses had brought them from Egypt, in obedience to the command of the God of the Hebrews, to rid them of idolatry, and to secure to himself their undivided affections, and their sacred worship. 3SG 282.1

The children of Israel had broken their allegiance with God, and if he should see fit he would punish them as they deserved. “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses, and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother, that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.” 3SG 283.1

Moses requested all who had been free from this great sin of idolatry to come and stand by him at his right hand; also, those who had joined the rebellious in worshiping this idol, but who had repented of their sin in so quickly departing from God, to stand at his left hand. There was quite a large company, mostly of the mixed multitude, who instigated the making of the calf who were stubborn in their rebellion, and would not stand with Moses, either at his right hand or at his left. Moses then commanded those at his right hand to take their swords, and go forth and slay the rebellious, who wished to go back into Egypt. None were to execute the judgment of God on the transgressors only those who had taken no part in the idolatry. He commanded them to spare neither brother, companion, nor neighbor. Those who engaged in this work of slaying, however painful, were now to realize that they were executing upon their brethren a solemn punishment from God. And for executing this painful work, contrary to their own feelings, God would bestow upon them his blessing. By performing this act they showed their true feelings relative to the high crime of idolatry, and consecrated themselves more fully to the sacred worship of the only true God. The terror of the Lord was upon the people, and they were afraid that they would all be destroyed. As Moses saw their distress he promised according to their earnest request to plead with the Lord to pardon their great sin. 3SG 283.2

“And it came to pass on the morrow that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin, and now I will go up unto the Lord, peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee. Behold, mine Angel shall go before thee. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them. And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.” 3SG 284.1

Moses manifested his great love for the people in his entreaty to the Lord to forgive their sin, or blot his name out of the book which he had written. His intercessions here illustrate Christ's love and mediation for the sinful race. The Lord refused to let Moses suffer for the sins of his backsliding people. He declared to him that those who had sinned against him, would he blot out of his book which he had written; for the righteous should not suffer for the guilt of the sinner. The book here referred to is the book of records in Heaven, where every name is recorded, and their acts, their sins, and obedience are faithfully written. When any one commits sins which are too grievous for the Lord to pardon, their names are erased from the book, and they are devoted to destruction. Although Moses realized the dreadful fate of those whose names should be dropped from the book of God, yet he plainly declared before God that if the names of his erring Israel should be blotted out, and be no more remembered by him for good, he wished his name to be blotted out with theirs'. For he could never endure to see the fullness of his wrath come upon the people for whom he had wrought such wonders. 3SG 285.1

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it. And I will send an Angel before thee, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Unto a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee in the way. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned. And no man did put on him his ornaments. For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiff-necked people. I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee; therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb. And Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass that every one which sought the Lord, went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.” 3SG 286.1

The tabernacle here mentioned was a temporary tent arranged for the worship of God. The tabernacle, the pattern of which God gave to Moses, had not yet been built. 3SG 287.1

All who sincerely repented of their sins made supplication unto God in the tabernacle, confessing their sins with great humility, and then returned again to their tents. Then Moses went into the tabernacle. The people watched with the deepest interest to see if God would accept his intercessions in their behalf, and if he condescended to meet with Moses, then they might hope that they should not be utterly consumed. When the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, then all the people wept for joy, and rose up and worshiped, every man in his tent door. They bowed themselves upon their faces to the earth in humility. As the pillar of cloud, a token of God's presence, continued to rest at the door of the tabernacle, they knew that Moses was pleading in their behalf before God. “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” 3SG 287.2

“And Moses said unto the Lord, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people; and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight, and consider that this nation is thy people.” Moses was very urgent that the Lord should show him just the course which he would have him pursue toward Israel. He wished to have God mark out his course, that his instructions to Israel might be with such wisdom that the people would receive his teachings, and their course be approved of God, and that he would again consider them as his people. 3SG 287.3

The Lord answered Moses’ anxious inquiry, and said, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” He plead with God to know how it should be known that he and his people had found grace in his sight, if he did not let the token of his presence rest upon the tabernacle as formerly. Moses was not willing to cease his entreaties with God until he should obtain the assurance that the token of his presence would still rest upon the tabernacle as it had done, and that he would continue to direct their journeyings by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Then could Moses the more easily perform his laborious task in leading the people; for this token would be continually reminding them of the living God, and would also be an assurance to them of his divine presence. Then he could the more easily influence the people to right actions, as he could point them to the evidence of the nearness of God to them. 3SG 288.1

The Lord granted the earnest entreaty of his servant. “And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken; for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.” 3SG 289.1

Never before was fallen man thus favored of God. As he laid upon Moses the great work of leading his people through to the promised land, he condescended to manifest to him his glory as he never had to any others upon the earth. 3SG 289.2

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and I will write upon these tables the words which were in the first tables which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount, neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.” 3SG 289.3

The Lord forbade any man being seen throughout the mount, because of their recent transgression, lest his glory should consume them. This will give all to understand how God regards the transgression of his commandments. If the people could not look upon his glory, which appeared upon Sinai the second time, as he again wrote his law, how will the wicked, who have trampled upon the authority of God, bear his burning glory as they meet the great Lawgiver over his broken law? 3SG 290.1

“And he hewed two tables of stone, like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” 3SG 290.2

God did not mean in this threatening that the children should be compelled to suffer for their parents’ sins, but that the example of the parents would be imitated by the children. If the children of wicked parents should serve God and do righteousness, he would reward their right-doing. But the effects of a sinful life are often inherited by the children. They follow in the footsteps of their parents. Sinful example has its influence from father to son to the third and fourth generation. If parents indulge in depraved appetites, they will in almost every case see the same acted over in their children. The children will develop characters similar to their parents'; and unless they are renewed by grace, and overcome, they are truly unfortunate. If parents are continually rebellious, and inclined to disobey God, their children will generally imitate their example. Godly parents, who instruct their children by precept and example in the ways of righteousness, will generally see their children following in their footsteps. The example of God-fearing parents will be imitated by their children, and their children's children will imitate the right example their parents have set before them, and thus the influence is seen from generation to generation. 3SG 291.1

As the Lord impressed upon the heart of Moses a clear sense of his goodness, his mercy and compassion, he was filled with transports of joy, which led him to worship God with profound reverence. He entreated that the Lord would pardon the iniquity of his people, and take them for his inheritance. Then God graciously promised Moses that he would make a covenant before all Israel to do great things for his people, and that he would evidence to all nations his special care and love for them. 3SG 291.2

God then charged Moses to make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither they should go, lest they should be insnared thereby. But they should destroy their idol altars, break their images, and cut down their groves, which were dedicated to their idols, and where the people assembled to hold their idolatrous feasts, given in honor of their idol gods. He then said to them, “Thou shalt worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” God claims, as his due, supreme worship. He gave special directions in regard to his Sabbath. “Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest. In earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.” The Lord knows that Satan is continually at work to lead his people to transgress the law of God, and he condescended to be very definite in his directions to his erring people, that they might not err, and transgress his commandments for want of knowledge. He knew that in the busiest season of the year, when their fruits and grains were to be secured, they would be tempted to transgress the Sabbath, and labor on sacred time. He would have them understand that their blessings would be increased or diminished according to their integrity of soul, or unfaithfulness in his service. 3SG 292.1

God is no less particular now in regard to his Sabbath than when he made this requirement of the children of Israel. His eyes is upon all his people, and over all the works of their hands. He will not pass by unnoticed those who crowd upon his Sabbath, and employ time for their own use which belongs to him. Some professed Sabbath-keepers will intrude upon the Sabbath in doing those things which should have been done previous to the Sabbath. Such may think that they gain a little time, but instead of being advantaged by robbing God of holy time, which he has reserved to himself, they will lose. The Lord will afflict them for their transgression of the fourth commandment, and that time they thought to gain, by intruding upon the Sabbath, will prove to them a curse. God's prospering hand withdrawn will cause a decrease in all of their possessions, instead of an increase. God will surely punish the transgressor. Although he may bear with him for a while, his punishment may come suddenly. Such do not always realize that judgments are from God. He is a jealous God, and requires heart service and perfect obedience to all his commandments. 3SG 293.1

“And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him, and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord, to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” 3SG 294.1

Those who trample upon God's authority, and show open contempt to the law given in such grandeur at Sinai, virtually despise the Lawgiver, the great Jehovah. The children of Israel, who transgressed the first and second commandments, were charged not to be seen anywhere near the mount, where God was to descend in glory to write the law a second time upon tables of stone, lest they should be consumed with the burning glory of his presence. And if they could not even look upon the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, because he had been communing with God, how much less can the transgressors of God's law look upon the Son of God when he shall appear in the clouds of heaven in the glory of his Father, surrounded by all the angelic host, to execute judgment upon all who have disregarded the commandments of God, and have trodden under foot his blood! 3SG 294.2

The law of God existed before man was created. The angels were governed by it. Satan fell because he transgressed the principles of God's government. After Adam and Eve were created, God made known to them his law. It was not then written, but was rehearsed to them by Jehovah. 3SG 295.1

The Sabbath of the fourth commandment was instituted in Eden. After God had made the world, and created man upon the earth, he made the Sabbath for man. After Adam's sin and fall nothing was taken from the law of God. The principles of the ten commandments existed before the fall, and were of a character suited to the condition of a holy order of beings. After the fall, the principles of those precepts were not changed, but additional precepts were given to meet man in his fallen state. 3SG 295.2

A system was then established requiring the sacrificing of beasts to keep before fallen man that which the serpent made Eve disbelieve, that the penalty of disobedience is death. The transgression of God's law made it necessary for Christ to die a sacrifice, and thus make a way possible for man to escape the penalty, and yet the honor of God's law be preserved. The system of sacrifices was to teach man humility, in view of his fallen condition, and lead him to repentance, and to trust in God alone, through the promised Redeemer, for pardon for past transgression of his law. If the law of God had not been transgressed there never would have been death, and there would have been no need of additional precepts to suit man's fallen condition. 3SG 295.3

Adam taught his descendants the law of God, which law was handed down to the faithful through successive generations. The continual transgression of God's law called for a flood of waters upon the earth. The law was preserved by Noah and his family, who for right-doing were saved by a miracle of God in the ark. Noah taught his descendants the ten commandments. The Lord preserved a people for himself from Adam down, in whose hearts was his law. He says of Abraham, “He obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 3SG 296.1

The Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said unto him, “I am the Almighty God. Walk before me, and be thou perfect, and I will make a covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.” 3SG 296.2

He then required of Abraham and his seed circumcision, which was a circle cut in the flesh, as a token that God had cut them out and separated them from all nations as his peculiar treasure. By this sign they solemnly pledged themselves that they would not intermarry with other nations; for by so doing they would lose their reverence for God and his holy law, and would become like the idolatrous nations around them. 3SG 297.1

By the act of circumcision they solemnly agreed to fulfill the conditions of the covenant made with Abraham on their part, to be separate from all nations, and be perfect. If the descendants of Abraham had kept separate from other nations, they would not have been seduced into idolatry. By keeping separate from other nations, a great temptation would be removed from them to engage in their sinful practices, and rebel against God. They lost in a great measure their peculiar, holy character, by mingling with the nations around them. To punish them the Lord brought a famine upon their land, which compelled them to go down into Egypt to preserve their lives. But God did not forsake them while they were in Egypt, because of his covenant with Abraham. He suffered them to be oppressed by the Egyptians, that they might turn to him in their distress, and choose his righteous and merciful government, and obey his requirements. 3SG 297.2

There were but a few families that first went down into Egypt. These increased to a great multitude. Some were careful to instruct their children in the law of God. But many of the Israelites had witnessed so much idolatry that they had confused ideas of God's law. Those who feared God cried to him in anguish of spirit to break their yoke of grievous bondage, and bring them from the land of their captivity, that they might be free to serve him. God heard their cries, and raised up Moses as his instrument to accomplish the deliverance of his people. After they had left Egypt, and the waters of the Red Sea had been divided before them, the Lord proved them to see if they would trust in him who had taken them, a nation from another nation, by signs, temptations, and wonders. But they failed to endure the trial. They murmured against God because of difficulties in the way, and wished to return again to Egypt. To leave them without excuse, the Lord himself condescended to come down upon Sinai, enshrouded in glory, and surrounded by his angels, and in a most sublime and awful manner made known his law of ten commandments. He did not trust them to be taught by any one, not even his angels, but spoke his law with an audible voice in the hearing of all the people. He did not even then trust them to the short memory of a people who were prone to forget his requirements, but wrote them with his own holy finger upon tables of stone. He would remove from them all possibility of mingling with his holy precepts any tradition, or of confusing his requirements with the practices of men. 3SG 298.1

He then came still closer to his people, and would not leave them, who were so readily led astray, with merely the ten precepts of the decalogue. He required Moses to write as he should bid him, judgments and laws, giving minute directions in regard to what he required them to perform, and thereby guarded the ten precepts which he had engraved upon the tables of stone. These specific directions and requirements were given to draw erring man to the obedience of the moral law which he is so prone to transgress. 3SG 299.1

If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved in the ark by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity of the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, which circumcision was a token or pledge of, they would never have gone into idolatry, and been suffered to go down into Egypt, and there would have been no necessity of God's proclaiming his law from Sinai, and engraving it upon tables of stone, and guarding it by definite directions in the judgments and statutes given to Moses. 3SG 299.2

Moses wrote these judgments and statutes from the mouth of God while he was with him in the mount. If the people of God had obeyed the principles of the ten commandments, there would have been no need of the specific directions given to Moses, which he wrote in a book, relative to their duty to God and to one another. The definite directions which the Lord gave to Moses in regard to the duty of his people to one another, and to the stranger, are the principles of the ten commandments simplified, and given in a definite manner that they need not err. 3SG 299.3

The Lord said of the children of Israel, “Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols, wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.” Because of continual disobedience, the Lord annexed penalties to the transgression of his law, which were not good for the transgressor, or whereby he should not live in his rebellion. 3SG 300.1

By transgressing the law which God had given in such majesty, and amid glory which was unapproachable, the people showed open contempt of the great Lawgiver, and death was the penalty. “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they walked not in my statues [statutes], and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. And my sabbaths they greatly polluted. Then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.” 3SG 300.2

The statutes and judgments given of God were good for the obedient. “They should live in them.” But they were not good for the transgressor, for in the civil law given to Moses punishment was to be inflicted on the transgressor, that others should be restrained by fear. 3SG 301.1

Moses charged the children of Israel to obey God. He said unto them, “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.” 3SG 301.2

The Lord instructed Moses definitely in regard to the ceremonial sacrifices, which were to cease at the death of Christ. The system of sacrifices foreshadowed the offering of Christ as a Lamb without blemish. 3SG 301.3

The Lord first established the system of sacrificial offerings with Adam after his fall, which he taught to his descendants. This system was corrupted before the flood by those who separated themselves from the faithful followers of God, and engaged in the building of the tower of Babel. They sacrificed to gods of their own [making] instead of the God of Heaven. They did not offer sacrifices because they had faith in the Redeemer to come, but because they thought they should please their gods by offering a great many beasts upon polluted idol altars. Their superstition led them to great extravagances. They taught the people that the more valuable the sacrifice, the greater pleasure would it give their idol gods, and the greater would be the prosperity and riches of their nation. Hence human beings were often sacrificed to these senseless idols. Those nations had laws and regulations to control the actions of the people which were cruel in the extreme. Their laws were made by those whose hearts were not softened by grace, and while they would pass over the most debasing crimes, a small offense would call forth the most cruel punishment from those in authority. 3SG 301.4

Moses had this in view when he said to Israel, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. 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. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” 3SG 302.1

God was a wise and compassionate lawgiver, judging all cases righteously, and without partiality. While the Israelites were in Egyptian bondage, they were surrounded with idolatry. The Egyptians had received traditions in regard to sacrificing. They did not acknowledge the existence of the God of Heaven. They sacrificed to their idol gods. With great pomp and ceremony they performed their idol worship. They erected altars to the honor of their gods, and they required even their own children to pass through the fire. After they had erected their altars they required their children to leap over the altars through the fire. If they could do this without their being burned, the idol priests and people received it as an evidence that their God accepted their offerings, and favored especially the person who passed through the fiery ordeal. He was loaded with benefits, and was ever afterward greatly esteemed by all the people. He was never allowed to be punished, however aggravating might be his crimes. If another person who leaped through the fire was so unfortunate as to be burned, then his fate was fixed; for they thought that their gods were angry, and would be appeased with nothing short of the unhappy victim's life, and he was offered up as a sacrifice upon their idol altars. 3SG 303.1

Even some of the children of Israel had so far degraded themselves as to practice these abominations, and God caused the fire to kindle upon their children, whom they made to pass through the fire. They did not go to all the lengths of the heathen nations; but God deprived them of their children by causing the fire to consume them in the act of passing through it. 3SG 303.2

Because the people of God had confused ideas of the ceremonial sacrificial offerings, and had heathen traditions confounded with their ceremonial worship, God condescended to give them definite directions, that they might understand the true import of those sacrifices which were to last only till the Lamb of God should be slain, who was the great antitype of all their sacrificial offerings. 3SG 304.1