10. Shutdown

Meditations in Malachi : 10. Shutdown

Mal 1:10  “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

I was amazed when I first studied the Law – well no perplexed first, actually.   Why were those long dreary chapters at the beginning of Leviticus about different sorts of offerings, and why were there those tedious chapters in the latter part of Exodus about the Tabernacle and the priests? None of it seemed relevant to today, so why was it there, and then eventually I understood. This was the Lord recognising that His people would get it wrong so that they would feel guilty and then feel at a distance from the Lord, this was the Lord making a way back for such people. This was also the Lord making provision for those whose hearts might overflow with love for God who just wanted to bring Him a gift.

That was what all those laws were about, about regulating how those things might happen through the sacrifices. That was what the Tabernacle and then later theTemplewere about. They were places of focus on the Lord, places where the Lord initially made His presence known, places that He filled with His glory, places of fellowship with God and places of reconciliation with God and restoration of a relationship with the Lord. That was what the Temple was all about. It was for the people to come and do two things: offer sacrifices and pray (remember Jesus called it a house of prayer). The Tabernacle and then the Temple were all about relationship with the Lord which is why, when the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 587BC, it was so devastating for Israel. When Jeremiah spoke about restoration after seventy years, that seventy years was the period between the destruction of the Temple and the completion of its rebuilding, exactly seventy years!

But God isn’t fooled by play acting. That had been going on before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah parodied their reliance upon the presence of the Temple (Jer 7). Now the same thing was happening again. The apostle Paul prophesied about the last days: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:1-5) There is the same thing: there will be a form of religion (godliness) while all the time men and woman are living lives that are very different from God’s design for them.

The people of Malachi’s day were declaring that they were godly because they were performing religious acts and then comes this terrible word of judgment through Malachi: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”   Shut down all this religious nonsense, is what the Lord is saying, for that is actually what it is – religious nonsense!  Did God want His people to perform religious acts in the Temple with no meaning behind them? No! God’s intent had been to provide channels for blessing Israel, for making ways back to Him and for legitimizing their gifts to Him. The Temple was for prayer and worship and reconciliation and those things, to be genuine, have to come out of wholeheartedness.

The Lord is concerned more what goes on inside a person than the things they do outwardly. Outward acts can be pure pretense. In medical terms, sometimes people come out in a skin rash and it is a sign of tension or stress within. It is the reality of the inner life that God is concerned with, not the charades that people put on. Who are they kidding? Do they think they will make God think well of them? Does “going to church on a Sunday morning” make God feel good about us? No, it should be an expression of the love we have for Him on the inside.

Around the world, often the churches with the greatest reality are those in countries where the church is persecuted and driven underground. When those people gather together under threat of arrest, there is a reality and a depth of love not found in the West. How tragic it is that our love is only proved real when it is challenged! When will we come to our senses and call out to the Lord for a reality of relationship? Will the Lord have to shut our churches down before that has to happen? May it not be so!

13. Summary

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 13 :  Summary

(Focus: Deut 4:41-5:5)

Deut 4:44-46 This is the law Moses set before the Israelites. These are the stipulations, decrees and laws Moses gave them when they came out of Egypt and were in the valley near Beth Peor east of the Jordan, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon and was defeated by Moses and the Israelites as they came out of Egypt.

After four chapters of coming and going, Moses is about to restate the Law that God had given Israel, but we’re not quite there yet. First of all we find that he did set up the three cities of refuge (see Num 35:9-28 for more description): Then Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan, to which anyone who had killed a person could flee if he had unintentionally killed his neighbor without malice aforethought. He could flee into one of these cities and save his life. The cities were these: Bezer in the desert plateau, for the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites.” (v.41-43). While Moses is still with them, he does what is required by the Lord and as this had been spoken of previously, he sets up these three cities while the people are still on the eastern side of the River Jordan. It is part of the general administration of the nation, something to help them in the centuries ahead, and he does it while they are there on that side of the land, before he leaves them.

Then we are given again a reiteration of the fact of King Og having been defeated so that Israel could take all the land to the east of the Jordan: “They took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan. This land extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge to Mount Siyon (that is, Hermon), and included all the Arabah east of the Jordan, as far as the Sea of the Arabah, below the slopes of Pisgah.” (v.47-49). The land to the east of the Jordan has been settled and Israel are in full possession of it. They are ready to enter the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan but before they do, and before Moses dies, Moses has to remind them about the Law.

So it is that we come to the start of his pronouncement about the Lord, beginning yet again with a reminder about the historical background to it: “Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) (Deut 5:1-5)

Note the order. First of all, “Moses summoned all Israel and said….” (v.1a). This is a special unique occasion. He calls all the people together to hear the Law. One would assume that it is simply a continuation of all that has gone before so far in this book, but the emphasis is made that he called the whole nation together to hear.

He is quite simple and straight forward in his intent: “Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.” (v.1b) It’s just as we said: these are the laws that God gave us, so take them in, understand them, hold on to them and, above all, obey them! And why? It is because “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.” (v.2) We are the covenant people of God, the only people in all the earth who have been called into relationship with Him! That’s why!  Look, “It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.” (v.3) We are the ones He has called to enter the Promised Land, we are the ones who are at the good end of this covenant, receiving all of God’s goodness, planned for those who enter into covenant relationship with Him. Do you remember when it happened? “The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.” (v.4)

Yes, it was at Sinai that it came about. Never forget that, never forget that God drew us into covenant relationship with Him at Mount Sinai and we gladly accepted! Do you remember it, do you remember it was scary stuff? “At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.” (v.5). Yes, that’s how it happened; that’s how we came to be receivers of God’s goodness. We didn’t realise it at the time, but that is what it is all about and that is why we have to uphold our side of the bargain which is to keep God’s design rules for us, the Law.

For us who are Christians today, there is a similar challenge, and a similar encouragement. We are what we are today because of what happened on a different mount, at Calvary, where a new covenant was inaugurated, where the Son of God did all that was necessary for us to enter in and receive the goodness of God today. Our side is to love him, to hold fast to him, to follow him. And for that we receive all the goodness that God has stored up for us. How wonderful! Hallelujah!

29. Live Righteously

Meditations in 1 Peter : 29:  Live Righteously in Freedom

1 Pet 2:16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

I wonder how many of us are really free?  The New Testament has quite a lot to say about freedom. For example James refers to “the perfect law that gives freedom.” (Jas 1:25). The context there seems to suggest the will of God, originally expressed in the Law of Moses but now fulfilled in Christ, the law of love, which brings freedom to its followers. The apostle Paul writing to the Galatians declares, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” (Gal 5:1) when he is speaking about no longer having to comply with Old Testament regulations. In fact throughout that letter he is suggesting a freedom from a rule-keeping mentality that still hung on from Old Testament times but which was no longer appropriate.

Why is it no longer appropriate? Because as Paul says, we are now freed children of God: “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:21). Moreover because we have the Holy Spirit within us, He brings freedom: “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor 4:17). Freedom is the outworking of the ministry of Jesus: “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners …. to release the oppressed” (Lk 4:18). All the things of the past – a sense of failure in rule-keeping, shame, guilt, fear etc. – have all been swept away when we were redeemed and were adopted as children of God empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Our sins have been dealt with: “Christ … has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15). Part of this means we no longer have to fear facing God in eternity: “that by his death he might … free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:14,15).  Paul, speaking of this was then able to declare, “now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Col 1:22) or as he put in to the Romans, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1). No longer are we having to worry about keeping the rules (and failing) and having to face God after death. All of our sins have been dealt with by Christ on the Cross and so we are free to live as children of God. We are free children of God and we can look forward to meeting Him!

But there is a danger that Peter has in the back of his mind:do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” Freedom that is unrestrained reverts to license. Here is the young Christian who hears these things. Before they were a Christian they used to drink too much. They were convicted about that, became a Christian and then heard the good news that they were no longer under the Law or having to adhere to rules, and so say, “Fine, I can drink as much as I like then.” Hold on, says Paul, that is silly; you’ll be leading yourself into greater temptation and the likelihood of a fall: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18)

“Just a minute,” I hear you saying, “that is a rule; you’re putting us under the Law again, surely?” Well yes, the Law is always there in the background. It acts as a safety factor if we are being insensitive to the Spirit. He will always be seeking to lead us in righteous living, that is ‘right-living’, living according to God’s design, that is not harmful to us or to others. If we are immature, slow of understanding, or insensitive to the Holy Spirit, then we find the Law being applied by God, or at least the teaching with which the New Testament is full. Freedom does not mean we are free to do anything. Too much food is gluttony and leads to obesity, sex outside the confines of marriage leads to promiscuity, adultery and a whole host of other damaging actions. Excessive use of alcohol leads to drunkenness and again, a whole host of harmful spin-offs. If we are unable to enjoy our freedom without falling into excess, it probably means that we have obviously not yet realised what incredible lives we now have, i.e. low self esteem still rules, which needs to try to boost itself in some harmful way.

Peter has a helpful motivating thought: “live as servants of God.” So how is that helpful? He is saying, realise the wonder of who you are and you won’t do these things, you won’t feel you need to do these things to boost your ego. You are a servant or representative of God; that is an incredible privilege. All of heaven looks on at the wonder of who you are: His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 3:10) Our lives make the angels gasp at the wonder of God’s love being expressed in us. How can we possibly live as anything less than the wonderful, holy, love-filled children of God who are salt and light to the rest of the world (Mt 5:13-16). Let’s live in the freedom that Christ has bought for us, with wisdom and understanding, avoiding anything that leads others to deride His name as they watch us. Let’s live with His grace and goodness that is called righteousness.

37. Sin Conscious

Meditations in Romans : 37:  Conscious of Sin

Rom 3:19-20   Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

The human race is a strange animal!  Seriously, when you look at us carefully, there are some things about us that we take so much for granted but which are actually quite strange. They are even more strange if you believed the atheist who says this world is just chance and there is no meaning or purpose behind it. There are two features of every human being that strike me as very strange in the light of that dogma.

The first is the tendency of most people to have a sense of failure or inadequacy. Oh yes, people cover it up and in fact they spend much of their life covering it up, but if you can catch them at a rare moment of honesty they will confess to you that they are not the great person that they would like the world to believe they are. No, they will confess their inadequacies and even their failures (but you will need to get them at a rare point of honesty). All of us have this particular awareness even though, as I’ve said, we go to great lengths to cover it up. Why should people who are, according to the atheist, random acts of chance, worry about such things, but worry we do!

The second strange tendency, which goes with the first one, is the concern to be seen to be good. We feel bad about ourselves deep down, and yet we want everyone to see us NOT as a failure. We want others to see us as successes. We want to be thought of as nice people, good people, people who get it right and do well. Of course those descriptions vary according to the social group we belong to but we know the standards that our particular group has and we want to live up to their standards so they will think well of us. You see it in any and every social grouping, but why should it be if we are just random chance creatures with no meaning or purpose. Everything within us challenges that assessment of us. We measure ourselves and our assessment is important!

Now the Jews of Jesus’ day and Paul’s day, were one such social grouping and within that cultural or social group was a sub-group who made the rest feel it was important to abide by a certain set of life-rules, the Law of Moses. They were the people that people refers to as under the Law.” The Law was the standard by which they assessed one another. If you were good, you kept the Law. For instance Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” (Lk 1:6); that was the assessment of people who knew them and later told Luke about them.  Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father was described as “a righteous man,” (Mt 1:19) which would have meant that he was a man who sought to keep God’s commandments; hence his action in wanting to quietly divorce Mary.

The not-so-nice people of that society didn’t bother about the Law. They were lawbreakers or sinners and were looked down upon by those who did adhere to the Law. Now if you lived in a society where this Law prevailed, where you were very much aware of it, even though others adjudged you righteous, you knew deep down that that meant righteous in most things, for there would always be a little something somewhere where you didn’t come up to the mark. Indeed with some it is difficult to know if you come up to the mark. For instance, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5)  Could you ever be sure that that was how you truly loved God? You kept the practical commandments you were aware of, but was that enough to ensure you could say that you loved God like this?

Suppose there were laws that you didn’t know about? Perhaps you weren’t keeping them? No, the truth was that you could never boast of being a perfect law-keeper, which is what Paul meant when he said, so that every mouth may be silenced.” Yes, you were never quite certain and so it was better to remain quiet. Yes, you knew that deep down, just like were considered at the beginning of this meditation, you had something that left you feeling inadequate and as such you would be “held accountable to God.” Oh yes, you could never stand before God with a totally clear conscience. You feared that future where you knew that one day you would have to stand before him and be answerable for your imperfection!

Thus Paul can conclude, Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” Yes, if you are going to measure me by the Law I can never say I am totally perfect and therefore I can not say with a clear heart that I am righteous. All focusing on the rules has done, has been to make me more and more aware of the bits where I fall short.

This is it, isn’t it? Whatever set of rules we have to abide by, the Law of Moses or the laws of our little group in society, we fear failure, and we are constantly struggling to achieve approval of others who measure us by the rules, but deep down we know they will judge us because we are not perfect and will fail even their expectations of us! No, if you base life on keeping to a set of rules or even expectations upon you, know that you are doomed to a life of failure and the only way to cope is to pretend you’re not, while all the time knowing you are. What a deception!

1. Introduction

Lessons from the Law: No.1 : Introduction

Ex 20:1,2 And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

In a previous series we looked at the life of Israel to see what we could learn from their relationship with the Lord. In this series we focus purely on the Law of Moses, that Law given by God at Mount Sinai after Israel had left Egypt. Now before we start looking at the individual laws, it is important to focus on the context and see when and how these laws came. Chapter 20 of Exodus is the first writing in the Bible that records parts of the Law, and it comes in a particular historical context. As we have just noted and as our two verses today say, they come within a couple of months of Israel having being delivered out of Egypt. They are on their way to the Promised Land but the Lord has brought them to Mount Sinai where they have this time of major encounter with Him.

When considering the Law, it is important to note that God, before He starts declaring what we call the Ten Commandments, emphasizes who He is and what he has just done. “I am the I AM (the Eternal One), your God,” is how He starts. He is reminding them of relationship. It is very tenuous at this state, very embryonic, but these laws are coming in the context of relationship with God. Now this is very important because the first of the Ten Commandments are all about that relationship, and people tend to forget that. Abraham had realised that God was the Creator: “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” (Gen 14:22) and this would have been conveyed to subsequent generations, but now God is referring to Himself (and we see it throughout the Old Testament) as “the I AM”, the Eternal One or the Ever-Present One. These Laws come from the One who is creator of all things, the eternal One, and who, therefore, will know better than anyone else how we ‘work’ best.

There is also another point that needs facing when we think about the Law. Sinful man doesn’t like rules; sinful man doesn’t like the thought that there is Someone who knows best about how we should live, and so sinful man sees God’s rules as restrictive. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” (Psa 2:2,3) That is how self-centred, godless, sinful man views God’s laws – as chains and fetters that limit him (or her).

Nicky Gumbel of Alpha fame, used to tell the story of the time when he went along with his son to a boys’ football match. The referee hadn’t turned up and Nicky was asked by the boys to referee. He didn’t know all the rules and so very soon the match degenerated into a shambles with lots of fighting and arguing going on. After a while the proper referee turned up and took over and immediately order was restored and the boys started enjoying the game. Rules were there to bring order and it was only within that order could they enjoy the game of football. Life is like that. The ‘rules’ are simply God’s way of communicating to us how He has designed us to work and play best. They bring order and security to life and when we disregard them (as we see happening in modern Western society) then chaos ensues and hurt and pain increase. No, God has just delivered this people from slavery and He’s not giving them rules to create a new form of slavery. These rules bring a freedom, just like the rules of the football match bring a freedom to play and to enjoy the match. Sinful man doesn’t see it like that, but hopefully we’ll be able to see it again and again through these meditations.

Forty years later, just before Israel entered the Land eventually, Moses reminded Israel what had happened and we find his reminders and his instructions in the book of Deuteronomy. He reminded them, “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.” (Deut 4:11-13).

One thing about Deuteronomy is that sometimes it does appear repetitious, because Moses knew that his people needed to hear it again and again if they were to take it in, so a little later we find him saying it again: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.(Deut 5:2-6).

In chapter 4 he referred to the Ten Commandments as the basis of the covenant, and the Lord gave them to Israel on two tablets of stone. In chapter 5 he refers more widely to the covenant because the Law consisted of considerably more than just the Ten Commandments; they also included many more laws which the Lord spoke directly to Moses and which Moses wrote down. In these meditations we’re going to see all of these laws and see how they aren’t anything strange, but are simply rules to bring order to their lives together and as an expression of their relationship with the Lord. Are we as Christians today bound by them all? No (for reasons we’ll note as we go along), but we would do well to study them to learn from the wisdom of God. We hope you will find these meditations both enjoyable and informative, and so helpful to your understanding of the Lord and His purposes for the human race.

10. Everything Done


Isa 5:4 What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it

I have observed that when you have a negative person, when they look upon a situation they ignore the ten good things and focus on the one questionable thing. It’s like that with Scripture. People come to the Old Testament and focus on acts of ‘judgment’ and ignore everything else. My plea is for balance in reading. I say this in the light of this song that we now find in Isaiah 5. Isaiah sings this song: I will sing for the one I love.” (5:1a). He expresses his love towards God. “A song about his vineyard.” In his song Isaiah pictures God’s people as a vineyard. He pictures his “loved one”, the Lord, as a vineyard owner: “My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.” (5:1b)

Indeed, there could be no complaint from Israel on that score, the Lord had put them in a land that was described by God as follows: “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Ex 3:8) When, eventually, Israel’s spies went into the land, they came back: “bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.” (Num 13:23) as a token of the good provision of the land, and they testified, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” (Num 13:27). Oh no, it had been a land of plenty.

Listen to what the Lord did to it: “He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.” (5:2) In other words He did everything necessary to produce a good working vineyard, one that would produce much wine – for that is the purpose of a vineyard. He tended it well He had every expectation of it. He had done all He could for it. But to no avail: “Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.” How tragic! What a waste of time and effort! Have you ever had the experience of going to a garden centre and buying a plant, taking it home and carefully planting it, only for it to fail to grow or grow distorted? It’s a very disappointing experience, especially when you put fertilizer in the well prepared ground and carefully tended the plant. Your expectations come to nothing!

It is then, within this song, that Isaiah has the vineyard owner asking His people to judge between Him and His vineyard: “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.” (5:3) and so we come to his question in our verse today: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (5:4). It is a valid question. The challenge of verse 3 needs to be heard: Judge between God and Israel. Are you going to blame God for what happens to Israel? Did God make Israel sin? No, of course not! Did God weigh the balances against Israel? No, of course not! The Lord had done all He could do for them, to set them up to give them a good future and had promised them blessing upon blessing if they stayed close to Him.

Listen to the simple requirement for major blessing: “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God” (Deut 28:1,2). God hadn’t come waving a big stick; He had come with the promise of blessings: “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock–the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.” (Deut 28:3,4) That’s how the promise of blessing started and it carried on for the first 14 verses of that chapter. Yes, there were warnings to follow, but only after all the promises of good were laid out.

The critics tend to forget all of this when they peer into the Old Testament. The Lord came to Israel with a simple requirement: they followed His design-rules for living (the Law) so that they would be blessed as they lived according to His design, the way He had designed human beings to live. There was nothing onerous about this, they weren’t being put in chains, they were simply shown how to live in peace and harmony, and when they did that, it would enable the Lord to bless their activity and make it even more wonderful. Yes, at the heart of those design-rules were the reminder to keep the Lord at the forefront of their thinking, but there was nothing egotistical about the Lord in requiring that. He simply knew that Israel needed a focus or origin to refer back to and that was to be Him. He wanted a relationship with His people. Love wants to relate!

Why, some might ask, if God who knows everything and knows the future, did He form Israel, knowing they would fail. Two answers. First, there were always some who didn’t fail. Merely because many turned from Him, it didn’t mean that they ALL turned away. The Lord always had some who held to the plan. Second, in the eternal plan, no one can ever say they were not given a chance. God’s desire is that every single person finds Him and comes back into the original design place, but for those who do not, they will never be able to say, you didn’t give me a chance. The Lord will have always been there for every single person doing what He can, without over-ruling their free will, to bring them to Himself. Yet there will always be ‘Pharaoh’s’ who will harden their hearts against Him and refuse His overtures, but they will never be able to say on judgment day, you didn’t give me a chance, because He did!

The Law of Moses

REVELATION OF GOD Meditations No.7 of 10

Ex 24:3.4 When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.

Moses, at God’s instigation leads his people out of Egypt, and across the desert to Mount Sinai where they have a longer encounter, as a people, with God. God conveys to Moses the Ten Commandments and then a number of other laws which might be divided into national, social or ceremonial. The national ones applied to them as a nation, the social ones were about relationships, and the ceremonial were all about how they as individuals or as a people should deal with their sins. Within these we see some more important things about God.

The first one, which should not surprise us if we accept that He is the Creator of the world, is that 13. God knows best how we ‘work’ and therefore 14. Any laws He gave Israel could perhaps be seen as His ‘design rules’ for living. It is interesting to note that when Moses first passed on the laws that God had been imparting to him, there is a very positive response by the people: “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” They recognised a) they were good laws for a good society and b) they were laws that they were capable of keeping. There was nothing too hard to do!

The second one is that, 15. God knows we are weak and will fail, and so 16. He provides for a way for our guilt to be taken through the sacrificial laws. That comes out clearly in the provision of the ceremonial or sacrificial law. This is all about how to deal with personal or corporate guilt. God knows what many counsellors state today, that one of man’s biggest problems is that of guilt. So how did God deal with it? He gave them a procedure whereby they would present an animal that would die in their place, and in presenting it they would become aware of the seriousness of their wrongs and seeing the animal die in their place, determine not to repeat that wrong. Also, having gone through the procedure instituted by God, they knew that they had dealt with it according to His requirements, and therefore they also knew that they would not have an ongoing issue with God. It was sorted!

So many religions (or people) today try to appease God for their guilty consciences by their own striving to do good things to make up, but the trouble is you never know if you have done enough. When God lays down a simple and specific procedure to deal with your guilt, when you have done it, you know it is dealt with and you can walk away from it without fear and carry on with your life. Are we advocating we all follow the sacrificial law of Moses? No, the teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ came as our sacrifice and all we have to do is believe that. When we do and approach God on that basis, the New Testament says, we ARE forgiven.

In the midst of these laws comes the clear and stated revelation that, 17. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Ex 34:6,7) This is a far cry from the callous, capricious, angry God that others try to make Him out to be. We thus see that this God is more concerned to bring people into a place of peace and harmony than He is to tell off, chide or punish. The proof of this is the sacrificial system provided for Israel and now, today, the provision of Jesus Christ as God’s answer to our sin. His whole objective is to bring us into a place of guilt-free peace and harmony.

So, through the Law conveyed to Moses, we see the following revealed about God:
13. God knows best how we ‘work’,

14. Any laws He gave
Israel could perhaps be seen as His ‘design rules’ for living.
15. God knows we are weak and will fail
16. He provides for a way for our guilt to be taken through the sacrificial laws
He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Can we see that everything God does here is show us how we can live in peace and harmony with ourselves, with others and with Him. The Law didn’t only provide a ‘blueprint’ for living for Israel, it also made provision for when they failed. This is a picture of God who seeks to work for our ‘success’ in life!

Those who struggle with the idea that God inspired people to write all these different books of the Old Testament also struggle to see (often because they won’t read it) the incredible unity that there is throughout it. These seventeen points that we have picked up purely from the first two books of the Bible, are seen again and again throughout the Old Testament. There is no contradiction of these points throughout all those books.