31: The Promises to Israel - Mount Sinai and Mount Zion

The Present Truth : December 3, 1896

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge.” Psalm 48.1-3

These words are sung in praise of the dwelling-place of God in heaven; for “the Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11.4), and of Christ “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” (Hebrews 8.1) the Lord says, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion,” or, “upon Zion, the hill of My holiness.” Psalm 2.6

Jesus Christ, the anointed King in Zion, is High Priest as well, a “priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord has said of “the Man whose name is The BRANCH,” that “He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Zechariah 6.12, 13. So as He sits upon His Father’s throne in the heavens, he is “a Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Hebrews 8.2

It was to this place—to Mount Zion, the hill of God’s holiness, and to the Sanctuary upon it, His dwelling place—that God was leading His people Israel when He delivered them from Egypt. When they had safely passed through the Red Sea, Moses sang these inspired words: “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.” Exodus 15.17

But they did not get to Mount Zion, because they did not “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Yet God did not forsake them, for even “if we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” So He instructed Moses to tell the people to bring offerings of gold and silver and precious stones, together with other material, and said, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” Exodus 25.8, 9

This was not “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched,” but one made by man. The tabernacle and its furniture were only “the patterns of things in the heavens,” and not “the heavenly things themselves.” Hebrews 9.23. It was but a shadow of the real substance. The cause of the shadow will be considered later on. But the believing ones of that olden time knew as well as Stephen did in later years, that “the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” as saith the prophet, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of My rest? Acts 7.48, 49.  Solomon, at the dedication of his grand temple, said, “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have built?” 2 Chronicles 6.18

All of God’s really faithful children understood that the earthly tabernacle or temple was not the real dwelling-place of God, but only a figure, a type. So of the furniture which the sanctuary contained. 

As God’s throne is in His holy temple in heaven, so in the type of that temple on earth there was a representation of His throne. A very feeble representation, it is true, as much inferior to the real as the works of man are inferior to those of God, yet a figure of it, nevertheless. That figure of God’s throne was the ark, which contained the tables of the law. A few texts of Scripture will show this.

Exodus 25.10-22 contains the complete description of the ark. It was a box made of wood, but completely covered, within and without, with fine gold. Into this ark the Lord directed Moses to put the Testimony, which He should give him. This Moses did, for afterward, in recounting to Israel the circumstances of the giving of the law, together with their idolatry, which led to the breaking of the first tables, he said: —

“At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto Me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And He wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the Lord spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the Lord commanded me.” Deuteronomy 10.1-5

The cover of this ark was called the “mercy-seat.” This was of solid, beaten gold, and upon each end of it, a part of the same piece of gold, there was a cherub with wings outstretched. “Toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. After these directions, the Lord said: “Thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee,” which Moses did, as we have read. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” Exodus 25.7-22

God said that He would speak to them from “between the cherubim.” So we read, “The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble; He sitteth between the cherubim; let the earth be moved. The Lord is great in Zion; and He is high above all the people.” Psalm 99.1, 2.   The cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat, from which place God spoke to the people. Now mercy means grace, so that in the mercy seat of the earthly tabernacle we have the figure of “the throne of grace” unto which we are exhorted to come boldly, “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4.16

Foundation of God’s Government

The Ten Commandments on the two tables of stone were in the ark, under the mercy seat, thus showing that the law of God is the basis of His throne and government. Accordingly we read, “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.” “Justice and judgment are the foundation of Thy throne; mercy and truth go before Thy face.” Psalm 97.1, 2; 89.14. R.V.

Since the tabernacle and all that it contained was to be made exactly like the pattern given to Moses, and they were “the patterns of things in the heavens,” it necessarily follows that the ten commandments on the tables of stone were exact copies of the law which is the foundation of God’s true throne in heaven. This enables us to understand more clearly how it is that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” Luke 16.17. As long as God’s throne stands, so long must God’s law as spoken from Sinai remain unchanged. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11.3. If the Ten Commandments—the foundation stones of God’s throne—were destroyed, the throne itself would fall, and the hope of the righteous would perish. But none need fear such a catastrophe. “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven,” because His word is settled forever in heaven. That is one of “the things, which cannot be shaken.”

Now we are able to see that Mount Sinai, which is a synonym for law, and which at the giving of the law was really the embodiment of the awful majesty of the law, is also a type of God’s throne. Indeed, for the time being it was actually God’s throne. God was present upon it with all His holy angels.

Moreover, the awful terror of Sinai is only the terror of God’s throne in the heavens. John had a vision of the temple of God in heaven, and of the throne, with God seated in it; “and out of the throne proceeded lightning’s and thundering and voices.” “And the temple of God was opened in heaven; and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament; and there were lightning’s, and voices, and thundering, and an earthquake and great hail.” “A fire goeth before Him.”

The terror of God’s throne is the same terror that was at Sinai—the terror of the law. Yet that same throne is “the throne of grace,” to which we are exhorted to come with boldness. Even so “Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was” on Sinai. Exodus 20.21.  Not only Moses, but “Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel” went up into 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 Israel He laid not His hand; also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” Exodus 24.9-11. If it had not been so, then we should not have had a positive demonstration of the fact that we may indeed come with boldness to the throne of grace—that awful throne whence comes lightning’s and thundering and voices—and find mercy there. The law makes sin to abound, “but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The cross was at Sinai, so that even there was God’s throne of grace.

For let it be remembered that it is only “by the blood of Jesus” that we have “boldness to enter into the holiest.” Hebrews 10.19.  But for that blood it would be as certain death for us to come to God’s throne and take His name upon our lips, as it was for anyone who should lightly approach Sinai. But Moses and others did draw near to God on Sinai, even into the thick darkness, and did not die, sure evidence that the blood of Jesus saved them. The living stream from Christ was flowing at Sinai, even as “the pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” proceeds “from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22.1

That stream comes from the heart of Christ, in which the law was and is enshrined. Christ was the temple of God, and His heart was God’s dwelling-place. We know that the stream—living water for the people—came from Christ at Sinai, and that the blood and the water, which agree in one, came from His side at Calvary—a living stream for the life of the world. Yet although the cross of Calvary is the highest possible manifestation of the tender mercy and love of God for man, it is a fact that the terrors of Sinai—the terrors of God’s throne—were there. There was thick darkness and an earthquake, and the people were filled with an awful dread, because there God displayed the fearful consequences of violation of His law. The law in its terror to evildoers was at Calvary as well as at Sinai or in the midst of the throne of God.

When John saw the temple in heaven, and God’s awful throne, he saw “in the midst of the throne” “a Lamb as it had been slain.” Revelation 5.6. So the river of water of life from the midst of the throne of God proceeds from Christ, even as did the stream from Sinai and Calvary. Sinai, Calvary, and Zion, three sacred mountains of God, all agree in one to those who come to them in faith. In all we find the terrible, death-dealing law of God flowing to us in a sweet and refreshing stream of life, so that we may sing:

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea,
There’s a kindness in His justice
That is more than liberty.”