The Present Truth : November 26, 1896
“Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and Judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse,” or, literally, “with utter destruction.” Malachi 4.5,6
Notice how intimately the tender, converting work of the Spirit of God is connected with the law that was spoken from Horeb. For Sinai is Horeb, as we learn from Deuteronomy 4.10-14, where we read the words of Moses, the servant of God: —
“Thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me. Gather Me the people together, and I will make them hear My words . . .. and ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire . . .. and He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even Ten Commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.”
When the Lord tells us to remember the law which He commanded in Horeb, or Sinai, it is that we may know the power with which He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, that they may be prepared for the terrible day of His coming. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19.7
The Riven Rock
When God spoke the law from Sinai, that living stream of water, which gushed forth from the smitten rock in Horeb, was still flowing. If it had ceased to flow, the Israelites would have been in as bad a condition as before, for it was their only water supply, their only hope of life. It was from Horeb, whence the water came that restored their life, that God spoke the law. The law came from the same rock whence the water was already flowing, “and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10.4
Sinai is rightly regarded as a synonym for the law; but it is no more so than Christ is; nay, not so much, for in Him it is life. Jesus said, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Psalm 40.8. The law was therefore Christ’s life, for out of the heart are the issues of life. Proverbs 4.23
“He was bruised for our iniquities;” and “with His stripes we are healed.” When He was smitten and wounded on Calvary, the life-blood flowed from His heart, and that stream still flows for us. But in His heart is the law; and so as we drink by faith from the life-giving stream, we drink in the righteousness of the law of God. The law comes to us as a stream of grace, a river of life. Both “grace and truth come by Jesus Christ.” John 1.17. When we believe in Him, the law is not to us merely “the voice of words,” but a fountain of life.
Now all this was at Sinai. Christ, the giver of the law, was the Rock smitten in Horeb, which is Sinai. That stream was the life of those who drank, and none of those who received it in thoughtful gratitude could fail to know that it came direct from their Lord—the Lord of all the earth. They might have been assured of His tender love for them, and of the fact that He was their life, and hence their righteousness. So although they could not approach the mountain without dying—an evidence that the law is death to men out of Christ—they could drink of the stream that flowed from it, and thus in the life of Christ drink in the righteousness of the law.
The words spoken from Sinai, coming from the same Rock whence came the water which was the life of the people, showed the nature of the righteousness that Christ would impart to them. While it was “a fiery law,” it was at the same time a gently flowing stream of life. Because the prophet Isaiah knew that Christ was the Rock smitten at Sinai, and that even then He was the One Mediator, “the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” he could say, “He was wounded for our transgressions,” “and with His stripes we are healed.”
For the ancient Israelites there was emphasized the lesson that the law comes as life to men only through the cross of Christ. For us there is the same lesson, together with the other side of it, namely, that the righteousness, which comes to us through the life given to us on the cross, is precisely, that which is required by the Ten Commandments, and none other. Let us read them: —
What God Spoke
1. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor 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; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation10 of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.
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.
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 manservant, nor thy maidservant, 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.
5. “Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
6. “Thou shalt not kill.
7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. “Thou shalt not steal.
9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”
10 There is in the Hebrew text of this passage no word indicating “generation,” which is supplied by the translators. It is most evident, however, that it is the word required by the sense, and attention is called to it only to point out the fact that the construction is the same as in the next clause, where the word “generation” is not expressed, but where it belongs as surely as in the first. Some have hastily supposed that the “thousands” refers only to individuals, and so have erroneously concluded that God's chastisements outlast His mercy. Not so. He visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him, but shows mercy unto unnumbered thousands of generations of them that love Him and keep His commandments. His wrath is soon appeased, while His mercy flows on to eternity. Other versions than the English state it very plainly.
This is the law that was uttered amid the terrors of Sinai, by the lips of Him whose life it was and is, and from whom had come the stream which was at that moment flowing—His own life given for the people. The Cross-, with its healing, life-giving stream was at Sinai, and hence the Cross-cannot possibly make any change in the law. The life proceeding from Christ at Sinai as at Calvary shows that the righteousness, which is revealed in the Gospel, is none other than that of the Ten Commandments. Not one jot or one tittle could pass away. The awfulness of Sinai was at Calvary, in the thick darkness, the earthquake, and the great voice of the Son of God. The smitten rock and the flowing stream at Sinai represented Calvary; Calvary was there, so that it is an actual fact that from Calvary the Ten Commandments are proclaimed in the identical words that were heard from Sinai. Calvary, not less than Sinai, reveals the terrible and unchanging holiness of the law of God, so terrible and so unchangeable that it spared not even the Son of God when “He was reckoned among the transgressors.” But however great the terror inspired by the law, the hope by grace is even greater; for “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Back of all stands the oath of God’s covenant of grace, assuring the perfect righteousness and life of the law in Christ; so that although the law spoke death, it only showed what great things God had promised to do for those who believe. It teaches us to have no confidence in the flesh, but to worship God in the Spirit, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus. Thus God was proving His people that they might know that “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that precedes out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8.3
So the law is not against the promises of God, even though it cannot give life. On the contrary, it backs up those promises in thunder tones; for with God’s oath ever steadfast, the greatest requirement of the law is to the ear of faith but a promise of its fulfillment. And so, taught by the Lord Jesus, we may “know that His commandment is life everlasting.”