The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 27: The Law Given to Israel
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Soon after the encampment at Sinai, Moses was called up
into the mountain to meet with God. Alone he climbed the
steep and rugged path, and drew near to the cloud that marked
the place of Jehovah's presence. Israel was now to be taken into
a close and peculiar relation to the Most High—to be incorporated
as a church and a nation under the government of God. The
message to Moses for the people was:
"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."
Moses returned to the camp, and having summoned the elders
of Israel, he repeated to them the divine message. Their answer
was, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Thus they
entered into a solemn covenant with God, pledging themselves
to accept Him as their ruler, by which they became, in a special
sense, the subjects of His authority.
Again their leader ascended the mountain, and the Lord said
unto him, "Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people
may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee forever."
When they met with difficulties in the way, they were disposed
to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and accuse them of leading
the hosts of Israel from Egypt to destroy them. The Lord would
honor Moses before them, that they might be led to confide in
God purposed to make the occasion of speaking His law a
scene of awful grandeur, in keeping with its exalted character.
The people were to be impressed that everything connected with
the service of God must be regarded with the greatest reverence. [p. 304] The Lord said to 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."
During these intervening days all were to occupy the time in
solemn preparation to appear before God. Their person and
their clothing must be freed from impurity. And as Moses
should point out their sins, they were to devote themselves to
humiliation, fasting, and prayer, that their hearts might be
cleansed from iniquity.
The preparations were made, according to the command; and
in obedience to a further injunction, Moses directed that a barrier
be placed about the mount, that neither man nor beast might
intrude upon the sacred precinct. If any ventured so much as
to touch it, the penalty was instant death.
On the morning of the third day, as the eyes of all the
people were turned toward the mount, its summit was covered
with a thick cloud, which grew more black and dense, sweeping
downward until the entire mountain was wrapped in darkness
and awful mystery. Then a sound as of a trumpet was
heard, summoning the people to meet with God; and Moses
led them forth to the base of the mountain. From the thick
darkness flashed vivid lightnings, while peals of thunder echoed
and re-echoed among the surrounding heights. "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 glory
of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount"
in the sight of the assembled multitude. And "the voice of the
trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder." So
terrible were the tokens of Jehovah's presence that the hosts of
Israel shook with fear, and fell upon their faces before the
Lord. Even Moses exclaimed, "I exceedingly fear and quake."
And now the thunders ceased; the trumpet was no longer
heard; the earth was still. There was a period of solemn silence,
and then the voice of God was heard. Speaking out of the
thick darkness that enshrouded Him, as He stood upon the
mount, surrounded by a retinue of angels, the Lord made
known His law. Moses, describing the scene, says: "The Lord [p. 305] came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined
forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of
saints: from His right hand went a fiery law for them. Yea, He
loved the people; all His saints are in Thy hand: and they
sat down at Thy feet; every one shall receive of Thy words."
Deuteronomy 33:2, 3.
Jehovah revealed Himself, not alone in the awful majesty of
the judge and lawgiver, but as the compassionate guardian of His
people: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out
of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." He whom
they had already known as their Guide and Deliverer, who had
brought them forth from Egypt, making a way for them through
the sea, and overthrowing Pharaoh and his hosts, who had thus
shown Himself to be above all the gods of Egypt—He it was
who now spoke His law.
The law was not spoken at this time exclusively for the
benefit of the Hebrews. God honored them by making them
the guardians and keepers of His law, but it was to be held as
a sacred trust for the whole world. The precepts of the Decalogue
are adapted to all mankind, and they were given for the
instruction and government of all. Ten precepts, brief,
comprehensive, and authoritative, cover the duty of man to God
and to his fellow man; and all based upon the great fundamental
principle of love. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and
with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Luke 10:27.
See also Deuteronomy 6:4, 5; Leviticus 19:18. In the Ten
Commandments these principles are carried out in detail, and made
applicable to the condition and circumstances of man.
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