Story of Hope


Chapter 6 - The Code

The Ten Commandments

God’s Law Proclaimed at Mount Sinai—After the Lord had given the people of Israel such evidences of His power, He told them who He was: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” The same God who revealed His power among the Egyptians now spoke His law: SH 37.1

“You shall have no other gods before Me. SH 37.2

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. SH 37.3

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. SH 37.4

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. SH 37.5

This chapter is based on Exodus 19, 20, 25-40.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
SH 38.1

The first and second commandments that Jehovah spoke are against idolatry, because worshiping idols would lead people to great lengths in sin and rebellion, and result in offering human sacrifices. God wants to guard against the least approach to such abominations. The first four commandments were given to show people their duty to God. The fourth is the connecting link between the great God and humanity. The Sabbath especially was given for the benefit of mankind and for the honor of God. The last six commandments show our duty to one another. SH 38.2

The Sabbath was to be a sign between God and His people forever. In this way it was to be a sign—all who would observe the Sabbath would show by doing so 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 would have a people upon the earth to serve Him. SH 38.3

“Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. SH 38.4

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.” ‘ ” The majestic presence of God at Sinai, and the commotions in the earth that His presence brought, the fearful thunderings and lightnings that accompanied this visitation of God, so impressed the minds of the people with fear and reverence for His sacred majesty that they drew back instinctively from the awesome presence of God, afraid that they would not be able to endure His terrible glory. SH 38.5

The Peril of Idol Worship—Again, God wanted to guard the Israelites from idolatry. He said to them, “You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.” They were in danger of imitating the example of the Egyptians, making for themselves images to represent God. SH 39.1

God wanted His people to understand that He alone should be the object of their worship. When they would overcome the idol-worshiping nations around them, they were not to preserve any of the images of their worship, but destroy them completely. Many of these heathen gods were very costly and of beautiful workmanship, which might tempt those who had witnessed idol worship, so common in Egypt, even to regard these senseless objects with some degree of reverence. The Lord wanted His people to 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. SH 39.2

After Moses had received the judgments from the Lord and had written them for the people, as well as the promises on condition of obedience, the Lord said to him, ” ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.’ “So 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 has said we will do.’ ” Exodus 24:1-3. SH 39.3

Moses had written, not the Ten Commandments, but the judgments that God wanted them to observe and the promises conditional on their obedience to Him. He read this to the people, and they pledged themselves to obey all the words that the Lord had said. Moses then wrote their solemn pledge in a book and offered a sacrifice to God for the people. “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, Ail that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.’ ” The people repeated their solemn pledge to the Lord to do all that He had said and to be obedient. Exodus 24:7, 8. SH 40.1

Gods Eternal Law—The law of God existed before human beings were created. The angels were governed by it. Satan fell because he transgressed the principles of God’s government. After God created Adam and Eve, He made known to them His law. It was not written yet, but Jehovah taught it to them. SH 40.2

In Eden God instituted the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. After God had made the world and created mankind on the earth, He made the Sabbath for them. After Adam’s sin and fall nothing was removed from the law of God. The principles of the Ten Commandments existed before the fall and were suitable for a holy order of beings. After the fall the principles of those commandments were not changed, but God gave additional laws to meet human beings in their fallen condition. SH 40.3

God established a system requiring sacrificing animals, to keep before fallen humanity the truth that 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 as a sacrifice, and so to make a way possible for sinners to escape the penalty and yet preserve the honor of God’s law. The system of sacrifices was to teach sinners humility, in view of their fallen condition, and lead them to repentance and to trust in God alone, through the promised Redeemer, for pardon for past transgression of His law. If there had been no transgression of God s law, there never would have been death, and there would have been no need for additional laws to address mankind’s fallen condition. SH 40.4

Adam taught his descendants the law of God, which was handed down to the faithful through successive generations. The continual violation of Gods law called for a flood of water on the earth. Noah and his family preserved the law, and for their right-doing they were saved in the ark by a miracle of God. Noah taught his descendants the Ten Commandments. From Adam onward, the Lord preserved a people for Himself, 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.” Genesis 26:5. SH 41.1

The Lord appeared to Abraham and said to him: SH 41.2

“I am AJmighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Genesis 17:1, 2. “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7. SH 41.3

He then required of Abraham and his descendants 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 distinct treasure. By this sign they solemnly pledged not to intermarry with other nations, for by so doing they would lose their reverence for God and His holy law and would become like the idol-worshiping nations around them. SH 41.4

By the act of circumcision, they solemnly agreed to fulfill from their side the conditions of the covenant made with Abraham, to be separate from all nations and to be perfect. If the descendants of Abraham had kept separate from other nations, they would not have been lured into idolatry. By keeping separate from other nations, they would have removed a great temptation to engage in those nations’ sinful practices and rebel against God. To a great degree, they lost their distinct, holy character by mingling with the nations around them. To punish them, the Lord brought a famine on their land, which compelled them to go down into Egypt to preserve their lives. But because of His covenant with Abraham, God did not abandon them while they were in Egypt. He allowed them to be oppressed by the Egyptians so that they might turn to Him in their distress, choose His righteous and merciful government, and obey His requirements. SH 41.5

There were only a few families that first went down into Egypt. These increased to a great number. Some were careful to instruct their children in the law of God, but many of the Israelites had witnessed so much idol worship that their ideas of God’s law were confused. Those who honored God cried out to Him in anguish of spirit to break their slavery and bring them from the land of their captivity so that they could be free to serve Him. God heard their cries and raised up Moses as His instrument to deliver His people. After they had left Egypt and God had divided the waters of the Red Sea before them, the Lord tested them to see if they would trust in Him who had taken them as a nation out from another nation, by signs, trials, and wonders. But they failed to endure the test. They complained against God because of difficulties on the way, and they wanted to return again to Egypt. SH 42.1

Written in Tablets of Stone—To leave them without excuse, the Lord Himself condescended to come down on Mount Sinai, enshrouded in glory and surrounded by His angels. In a most sublime and impressive manner He made known to them His law of Ten Commandments. He did not entrust them to be taught by anyone else, not even His angels, but spoke His law Himself with an audible voice that all the people could hear. Even then, He did not entrust them to the short memory of a people who were prone to forget His requirements, but wrote them with His own holy finger on tablets of stone. He wanted to prevent all possibility that they would mingle any tradition with His holy laws or confuse His requirements with human practices. SH 42.2

He then came still closer to His people, who were so easily led astray, and would not leave them with merely the ten commandments of the Decalogue. He commanded Moses to write judgments and laws by Gods divine instruction, giving detailed directions regarding what He required them to do. In this way He guarded the ten precepts that He had engraved on the tablets of stone. He gave these specific directions and requirements to draw erring human beings to obey the moral law, which they are so prone to violate. SH 42.3

If mankind 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 need for the rite of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant that circumcision represented, they would never have gone into idol worship or been permitted to go down into Egypt, and there would have been no need for God to proclaim His law from Sinai, engrave it on stone tablets, and guard it by definite directions in the judgments and statutes of Moses. SH 43.1

The Judgments and Statutes—Moses wrote these judgments and statutes that had come from the mouth of God while he was with Him on Mount Sinai. If the people of God had obeyed the principles of the Ten Commandments, they would not have needed the specific directions God gave to Moses about their duty to God and to one another, which he wrote in a book. The definite directions that the Lord gave to Moses regarding His peoples duty to one another and to the stranger are the principles of the Ten Commandments, simplified and given in a definite manner, so that they need not be mistaken about them. SH 43.2

The Lord instructed Moses definitely concerning the ceremonial sacrifices that were to end at the death of Christ. The system of sacrifices foreshadowed the offering of Christ as a Lamb without blemish. SH 43.3

The Lord first established the system of sacrificial offerings with Adam after his fall, and Adam taught it to his descendants. This system was corrupted before the Flood, and by those who separated themselves from the faithful followers of God and built the tower of Babel. They sacrificed to gods of their own making instead of to the God of heaven. They offered sacrifices not because they had faith in the Redeemer to come but because they thought they should please their gods by offering a great many animal sacrifices on their polluted idol altars. Their superstition led them to great excesses. 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. Therefore, human beings were often sacrificed to these senseless idols. To control the actions of the people, those nations had laws and regulations that were cruel in the extreme. Leaders whose hearts were not softened by grace were the ones making their laws. While they would ignore the most debasing crimes, a small offense would result in the most cruel punishment from those in authority. SH 43.4

Moses had this in mind when he said to Israel, “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” Deuteronomy 4:5-8. SH 44.1