Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 4: Mt. Sinai: The Disruptive Truth of God's Absolute, Comprehensive Rule of Law
Lesson 50 – Law: Bible Geography Mt. Sinai, Old Testament Law Codes, Review Covenants
13 Feb 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight I’m going to just show a few slides at the beginning here. This is just a cover of a book. It’s an artist’s conception of the Noahic flood and it’s the day when it happened, it’s just to get in your mind’s eye that we’re talking about a major catastrophe. This gives an idea of on Christian’s imagination of what that event must have looked like if you were there. This is one of those details of the text of the Word of God that unless you look carefully at the text you miss it, but this is a diagram of what we call the hydrodynamic stability of the ark, you take the cross section of the ark’s dimensions and you compute the center of gravity of that body and you say, okay, how far does it has to tip before it rolls over, and the ark is very, very stable. This is important because if you take the same dimensions from the fables, from the myths of the floods in the ancient world and you try the same task, compute the center of gravity and tip it and see how fast it rolls over, you’ll find it rolls over very easy. For example, Babylonia example of Noah’s ark is a cube. Well, a cube rolls. This is extremely stable and as you can see, even at that point when it tips that bowl will ride itself, so it’s one of those realistic details of Scripture that tell us and gives the assurance that we’ve got real data there.
This is a scale model I built years ago based on the text of Genesis and I made it out some balsa wood and some plaster but again it was to conceptualize what it must have looked like compared to the usual cartoons and Sunday school quarterly. Notice how low, that was one way I deliberately built it to scale, and I built the ark one eighth of an inch to the foot so you could compare in your mind’s eye a boxcar to the size of that ark and I think it gives you a conception of a pretty good railroad boxcar, there’s the ark and that’s just half. This is the center of the ark and this is the height of the ark compared to the height of a railroad car so it gives a graphic illustration of the volume of what we’re talking about here. This is not a little pet carrier that went down to a veterinary hospital or something. If you compute the volume of that, there’s 400 and some standard boxcars can fit in that thing, so it was a quite a carrier, it had a lot of volume in it.
This is some Egyptian art; it’s the same kind of paintings that I showed you on the overhead projector. The reason I showed that particular one, it gives you an idea that the artists always pictured the Egyptian pharaoh as their leader and I remind you of that because if you accept the existing chronology of history, Pharaoh couldn’t have been leading his armies through the Red Sea because all the Pharaoh candidates for the Exodus that have been suggested by scholars based on the standard chronology of history all along didn’t work out. So I go back to my contention, I believe the Pharaoh of the Exodus was killed and I believe the standard of chronology of history is wrong.
Now a little introduction of Mount Sinai. This map gives an idea of how strategically located Israel was in the ancient world. This is the eastern end of the Mediterranean. These black lines are the main trade routes. Now if you think about where God located this new nation that was born in the Exodus, just visualize this in the light of a world map. What continent is to the northeast? Asia. What continent is to the northwest? Europe. What continent is to the south? Africa. Now isn’t it striking that God chose His people to set up a nation of testimony on the crossroads of trade in the world. This is something that people don’t think about when they read about Israel in the Old Testament, they just think, oh well, it’s just another country in the old world. Well, it was more than a country in the old world. It was strategically located on the lines of communication between the continents. It was no accident because God is going to do something with his people and He wants the Word of God to go forth and so where does He do it. He puts it right smack dab at the center of the crossroads. Sinai is this little area of land; this is a modern map of Israel. The Dead Sea is here, the Red Sea is here, the Gulf of Aqaba is here, and the Suez Canal is here. So this is an enlargement of the Sinai Peninsula, basically it’s shaped like a triangle and you want to visualize this because the event we’re going to study happened in here. The Exodus happened somewhere up in here, the people came across and along the edge of the Mediterranean, this is a coastal point even today, because this is a map for today, you can see where the roads are. All of the roads are along here. And in particular, this is an area that is very, very flat and maneuverable and in the ancient world, the armies would move rapidly through here on horses and chariots.
And in the modern day, armies moved in the same exact roads with mechanized infantry and armor division. In fact, in 1948, one of the Israeli generals was concerned because the Egyptian armored column was moving along this coastal road as a penetration. The Egyptians in 1948 were coming to destroy Israel and so the idea was they were going to run their armored columns up here to Tel Aviv and destroy the Jews. What happened was that there was a guy who had his PhD in biblical history and archeology who also was a general in the army reserves and he said, what we have to do is cut their flanks and ambush them somewhere along that road. The problem is, how do we get our armored tanks, instead of having a head-on collision with them this way, which we’d give away our position, what we want to do is cut them off by a flanking maneuver. How do you get the tanks up from here over to here and with his knowledge of history, he went back and found out where the Romans roads were because the Romans had built some roads across the sand, they were under the sand, and through detecting devices they discovered where the Roman road was, kept the cover of the sand so the aerial photography wouldn’t show it and then drove the Israeli tanks along on top of the Roman road to get over here and surprise the Egyptians on their right flank. So there’s an example of a maneuver that was done based on history and based on the fact that these roads don’t change.
We want to visualize the Jews coming across in the Exodus and they had to go somewhere and God did not have them go along the coastal road because of reasons, which if you read the book of Exodus you’ll see there’s a little comment in there, don’t do that Moses, take them down here into the wilderness. So this whole area is wilderness and down here is the traditional site of Mount Sinai, Jebel Musa, or the mountain of the discipline, or the mountain of the teaching. This is the Gulf of Aqaba, this is the Sinai Peninsula, this is where Mount Sinai is, this is a coastal road. I’m going to show you some pictures what the terrain looks like when you go into this road towards Mount Sinai. This is a close up of the approach to Mount Sinai today. Here’s an example of an oasis in that area and you’ll notice there’s a combination of terrain there. There’s the flat land and then out of the sand, which is pretty level, you get these mountains that suddenly jet up, very dry, everything’s hot, it’s obviously very sparse and you can always tell where the water is because it’s the only green around for miles. In the book of Numbers when you read the numbers about the Jews, can you imagine a million people wandering around out in this stuff; you’ve got a little logistics problem. And we forget that Exodus wasn’t the only miracle. The miracle was the supply line. God had to feed and water over a million people in that terrain every 24 hours.
An example, when Desert Storm took over, we had 450,000 troops in the desert. People forget, it’s not the weaponry ultimately that determines the war. What really determines the outcome of the war is the logistics, and if you stop to think what a mess it is to serve 450,000 soldiers, three meals a day, plus all their water, plus all the gas and oil for the vehicles. Now you figure out the kind of a problem that you’ve got. Now multiply that three to four times. That’s the problem God had in keeping the Jews together in this wilderness area. So don’t think of the Exodus as an isolated miracle. It was one of a whole set of miracles that was done in this. That’s a typical oasis. See the little black thing hanging in the tree, that is clothing of a Bedouin and in all this heat, these people walk around in black wool; I don't know how they do it, but they do it and they’ve done it for centuries. But that guy left his cloak there. He can leave it there in the desert and nobody touches it. You know why? Because you touch it and you steal it, if they catch you, they cut your hands off. The Bedouin’s feel perfectly secure in the wilderness; nobody bothers them because they have their own form of criminal control. There’d be a lot of one-handed people around here. There’s an example of coming and going inward to that center of Sinai. That’s the pass going there and all of sudden you begin to see a much more rugged type mountain terrain.
This is an example of some of the rocks that are there. That’s kind of sandstone type of rock and there’s graffiti on it and it’s interesting that the graffiti that’s scratched in the rock is many different languages going back centuries and you can actually go back in history. You see some Latin graffiti, those were the Romans, you see some of the Greek graffiti, you can see hieroglyphic graffiti; they spray billboards today with graffiti, it’s nothing new. Here in the ancient world they had graffiti too. They wrote all over the rocks, so human nature hasn’t changed. It gives you an example that there were real people living at the time of this book, living at the time these stories that put that graffiti on there. This is a basaltic type rock formation.
In the distance is the area where the traditional Mount Sinai is. I say traditional because I think that’s the real one, most people do but there are some Christians that don’t believe that this is the Mount. This is at the base of Mount Sinai. Cecil B. De Mille in the Ten Commandments actually used this as a prop for the movie. The real Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb, as this is called, Jebel Musa is pictured in that movie. The Sinai itself is this, this is a big mountain right here, here’s Sinai, off here’s a little monastery and in the front there’s a little mound of dirt, looks like a little mound, actually it’s about 50 feet high. Now what happens when Moses was up here? What were the people doing? Party-time and in particular who was leading the party? Aaron. And what did Aaron do? He built an idol, while Moses was up there he built this idol and Moses came down, asked what happened, he said, gee, I don’t know, people had their jewelry and we put it in the fire and this just happened, you know. This is the way he explains himself but to show you the irony, the classic site that they believe that Aaron set the golden calf at was this. Now, how ironic that he cast gold from people’s jewelry to stick up on an idol so high on this little pedestal so everybody could see it, but look at this pedestal and who’s on it. It’s a big religious gimmick. That’s an example of Sinai.
Let’s read Exodus 19:2 together and then think on what we’re looking at here on the screen. “When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.” So Israel’s camping right there and there’s the front of the mountain. You’ll also notice in verse 17, “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke descended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder,  And the LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down, warn the people, lest when they break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.’” And he sanctified that mountain so that they would not come up there.
That’s the place where it happened and hopefully this will give you a little bit of flavor for the text there. I flipped the camera 180 degrees so now what you’re seeing is the place that the people were and if you’ll observe an interesting thing. When God speaks, Exodus 20:18, “And all the people perceived the thunder and lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and they stood at a distance.” Then they told Moses why did you go up to it… talk about the fear of God. Verse 21, “So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.” Moses later describes the scene in another book Deuteronomy 4:10, “Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words, so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children. And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens, darkness, cloud, and thick gloom.  Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice.  So He declared to you His covenant….” So what you have here is a million people assembled on this plain.
What’s striking about it is, look what’s on both sides. Your back is to Mount Horeb, so actually you’re looking northwest and the people are all throughout here. This is quite a large, large area. So, what would happen if God spoke in a thundering voice from Mount Sinai, from on high, His voice comes down across this valley. You’ve got echoing going on, so you’ve got the people in like an amphitheater. It’s almost like a big triangle out from Mount Sinai, where the people are and the voice of God bouncing off this rock cliff. So it must have been a very spectacular situation. This is what the mountain looks like when you climb it, it gives you an idea of the utter barrenness. It’s quiet, desolate and barren. Ask yourself why, to a people who were busy in Egypt building pyramids, busy doing this, busy doing that, working farms, etc. when God wanted to get their attention, why did He take them out here. Because He could get their attention. I think there’s something very powerful about this that when the Word of God was actually spoken into space time history in Hebrew, you could take your tape recorder and tape record the very voice of God, that happened here. When that happened, it was done in a total wilderness that was quiet, no distractions, a perfectly quiet place. And I think if this is the way God teaches, He wants our attention and I think this is an interesting classroom because what you’re seeing here is the perfect teacher’s classroom.
Now we want to look at the text and with that fill in we can get an idea that we’re looking at a real event, it happened in a real place, under real conditions with real people, and they heard a real voice. Question asked: The elevation of Sinai? I don’t know, it’s not a big mountain, of all of the mountains there, it’s one of the bigger ones. It was a four hour hike up to it but I really don’t know. It wasn’t super impressive, high like the Rocky Mountains or anything.
We want to connect this event with the previous events. As we’re moving on now through the Old Testament all these events are like beads on a necklace. They are all logically interrelated so what’s going on at Sinai. Follow on page 60 of the notes, “Previous chapters discussed the progressive intervention of God’s plan into the paganized Noahic civilization.” The key word, at this point in Old Testament history, God is interrupting, He is disrupting. Paganism is solidifying like concrete is hardening, and before the concrete hardens and you get a total paganization of the human race, God decides to start a new work in a separate people, and that’s the story of Egypt. It’s a story that started with Abraham. “First, there was the call of Abraham through which we observe God’s election and justification working in a way totally opposed to paganism autonomy and self-justification. Then we observed on a greater scale God’s political and physical judgment upon Egypt and deliverance of Israel. Man’s proper response to these divine works had to be by faith.” In the next paragraph, “The next key … is the giving of the law to Israel at Mt. Sinai.”
So that’ the thing we want to look at. We’re in Exodus; let’s go back to Exodus 4. We want to catch the flow of what’s going on here and the reason we’re doing it this way is because you’ll notice on the right hand side of this chart, I list the three areas of doctrine, the three areas of truth that we’re going to be looking at and we’re going basically get an idea of what revelation is, what inspiration is, and what canonicity is, very basic doctrines. We’ve looked at all these other doctrines. You can build a view of the Christian faith just be looking at these events and just rehearsing them in your mind. One of the things that is not on this chart that Mount Sinai and the Exodus together show is the issue of salvation and what sanctification is that follows that, and what the issue of Lordship is. In evangelical circles right now, and has been for the last 7, 8 or 10 years, a big debate going on between one camp of free grace people vs. the Lordship salvation people and they’ve been arguing about the terms of the gospel and this and that. We can’t argue with something among ourselves, don’t bother arguing with the world, always arguing with the other Christians. So we want to get a perspective by looking at these events because the events, just the simple events of the Exodus and Mount Sinai tell us something about this matter. So that’s what we want to look at.
We want to get in our mind now what’s happened with Israel. Israel now has been saved, the nation has been born and what is the next step. In Exodus 4:22 God calls Israel by an interesting name and that name here, the common noun that he uses defines the relationship of this newborn nation to God. You notice he says, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is My son, My first-born.  So I said to you, ‘Let My son go, that he may serve me; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your first-born.’” This defines something and we want to watch this very, very carefully. If we don’t get this down, we’re going to lose it when it comes to understanding the role of the law in the Old Testament. The problem is, most of us don’t read the Old Testament, we’ve only heard New Testament, New Testament, and New Testament. And we’ve heard the contrast, law & grace, law & grace, law & grace, to the point that we almost kind of demean law. The problem is that in the New Testament times, the law had been misinterpreted, so you have Paul against the Pharisees, Jesus against the Pharisees, and law kind of has a bad connotation in the pages of the New Testament. But obviously God gave the law so the law itself can’t be bad. So we want to understand and interpret what’s going on here, and the key to interpreting it is this word, that the “son” is identical and another name for the Israel the nation. Now later on it’s going to be obvious that the Son of God refers to the King of Israel, and then later on the Son of God is going to be Jesus Christ. So the term Son of God, or Son of the Lord, is a term that begins here, but now identified because there’s no king yet, there’s no Messiah yet, but this is the nation from which He will come, and that relationship between God and Israel is called a father-son relationship.
We want to notice something at this point. If this is the Exodus event and this is Mount Sinai, let’s see if we can draw some conclusions here, just preliminary. If God saved and created the nation here and over here was when He told the nation what His will for them was, how He wanted them to behave, then did the law save Israel? No. Israel had already been saved before Sinai. Now watch this. This is how you can learn from the Old Testament. Powerful stuff here, very simple to understand. Which came first? Mount Sinai or the Exodus? God didn’t come to Israel inside Egypt and tell them what He wanted them to do. All He told them He wanted them to do in Exodus was get out. That was the message. Get out of the world. I’m going to save you; I’m going to deliver you, out of the world system, out of this kingdom of man, out of Egypt. Now after I do that, after I do that, now I tell you what I want you to do. So watch the sequence of events and notice that once the nation is born through the Exodus, the father-son relationship persists. The father-son relationship is the basis of everything that goes on including the law. So how are we going to interpret the law? We want to understand it comes after salvation here, after the nation’s been created.
I quote Dr. Kaiser, one of our contemporary evangelical Old Testament scholars and he points out that “son” is the technical word that is going to come to mean Jesus as history goes on. He says, “Eventually, ‘My Son’ was connected with the coming scion of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:14)…. This designation, ‘My Son,’ became a technical term and an appellation that could be applied either collectively to the nation as the object of God’s love and election or specifically to that final representative person who was to come in Christ.” So right here we have a set up going on, very subtly, very slowly, but here it is. It’s taking place and this is the maneuver that’s going on that will eventually culminate in the coming of Christ.
Now we want to look at something else. If you turn to Exodus 22, we want to look at the law, just a little section of the law here. Exodus 22:1-4 and if I were to ask you, what is the grammar, what is the structure that you see in every sentence, every sentence is written sort of the same way there. How would you characterize that text? How is it set up? Let’s look at verses 1-2, you can tell immediately from the first two verses. “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox, and four sheep for the sheep.  If a thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guiltiness on his account.  But if the sun has risen on him, then there will be blood-guiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.  If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double,” etc., etc., etc. Obviously this is law code and it’s written in an “if- then”, so watch the text and watch this. If, dot, dot, dot, dot, then, dot, dot, dot. That’s the way the law code is written. That’s the way many laws are written.
In that sense, these sections of the Mosaic Law are identical to modern law codes. And we call this format casuistic. That means its cases. It shows you a principal by giving cases. Here’s an example, God says if this happens, then you do this, if that happens, you do this, if this happens, you do this. So it’s casuistic in format. There were a lot of codes that were casuistic in format. Hammurabi’s code, the code of [not sure of word, sounds like: Eshnuna], there are all kinds of ancient documents that had this casuistic structure, but we want to observe that God, when He gave the law, didn’t exclusively use the casuistic format. As, for example, let’s right after the ten commandments, Exodus 20:22. Is this casuistic, look at the sentence structure here? We’re going to drive to a point and it’s a very important point about the Old Testament law. “Then said the LORD to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.  You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.  You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings….’” Now there’s no if- then there, is there? That’s also a part of the law and that part of the law we call by another form, personal exhortation.
Now here’s the principle. Formal law codes don’t have number one, but they don’t have number two. The uniqueness of the Old Testament law is that it not only has number one type format, it has this number two type format. It has this personal exhortation. Let’s see if we can find a case where there’s personal exhortation. Exodus 23:13, [Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth.”] How do you interpret that? As an ethical rule for private practice as well as public practice or do you view it as purely a public thing. In other words, what I’m getting at here is there are, in the personal exhortation of the law, there are commands that in no way could any police force enforce. The if-then all formal law, that obviously you have a police function and you have a court function that can enforce them. But if you read the law carefully, there’s gobs of it that it just wasn’t practical. I mean, you can’t have a policeman reading people’s thoughts and going around tape recording everything they said.
We want to think about what does this mean as far as quote, “the law” in the Old Testament. What is this thing called the law? Is really the same thing as what we call by the word l-a-w, a law code formally passed in a legislature and codified, etc. for the courts? Is it the same? Turn to Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy we get to the commandments of Moses. Deuteronomy 12 is in the thick of it. Verse 1, “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth.  You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree.  And you shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods, and you shall obliterate their name from that place.  You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God.  But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God shall choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.” And then it describes the kind of worship that goes on there, etc. It describes the dietary codes. Now you’re getting into dietary codes in this chapter. Is this going to be enforced? Well, obviously some of it can be enforced, but do you see what I’m getting at that there’s a component to the Old Testament law that goes beyond what you and I would normally think of as a law code.
Now how do we explain that? This is a challenging question. That’s the question we want to look at for the remaining few minutes and also next week because I want to impress upon you how an Old Testament person in Moses’ day at Mount Sinai instructed by the priest should have understood what he was listening to and he should have understood it in a different way than the pagan would have understood Hammurabi’s law code. There’s something different going on here with this law than normal law. For example, in Deuteronomy 10, [blank spot, he’s probably referring to verse 16, “Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen no more.”] … let’s be realistic. Is a policeman going to come along and arrest you because you haven’t circumcised your heart? Are you going to have a public trial over the circumcision of your heart? Think about this. What is the law getting at here? Something’s different here; this is not a regular law code. Can anybody hazard a guess, because I want to work through this? We’ll eventually come to a nice neat way of looking at this, but I want to exercise your thinking a little bit. What is this telling about God’s relationship to this nation? He’s the ruler; He’s laying forth as king His law code. But what do you observe about the law code that is different from a pagan law code. [someone answers] Exactly. Remember what I said when I started this whole thing off. It’s a father-son relationship and the evidence that there’s a personal relationship going on here are these things. I mean, you go from a casuistic law to personal exhortation, back to casuistic law, back to personal exhortation. How do you explain those two mixed together like that? It’s because something is happening in the Old Testament law that doesn’t happen in normal law. If you can grasp this, you’re going to see something very, very powerful about righteousness in the gospel sense of righteousness vs. self-righteousness and quote, “being humanly good.” We want to sharpen our understanding of this because it’s essential to the gospel if we think we’re going to be humanly good, you know, society’s going to be good, then we don’t need a savior. Now obviously we need a savior, so there’s something with our whole idea of social good and yet there are parallels here.
On page 61 of the notes, [short blank spot] …Jehovah or Yahweh and the twelve tribes. So we have the parties to the contract, God and the nation of Israel. Different contract, not the same as the Abrahamic contract. #2, each contract is signed. How did God sign the Noahic contract? The rainbow. And what did we say He got the rainbow from? From the scenes where these saints like Ezekiel and John get these rare glimpses into the very throne room of God, they report that when they get into throne room of God and they observe Him on his throne, He is surrounded by this rainbow, this cloud of glory. So what we see physically in the clouds is a piece, or an analogy, to what God would look like if we could see Him. I mean it’s amazing. This optical phenomenon that’s caused by water droplets in our atmosphere has actually been designed to be a picture and a memorial to God’s throne. And every time you see a rainbow in the sky, you should pause to take a look, spend 15 whole seconds just looking at it, appreciating it, and thanking Him that He reigns, because that’s what He’s saying. When the rainbow is in the sky, He’s saying, I’m reminding you people, you human beings, that I reign over nature.
Then when He comes to the contractual signing for the Abrahamic Covenant, do you remember what the contract was. There in the chart as I point out was the Oath of Malediction. Remember that amazing thing where God actually says in effect I will be damned if I do not carry this contract out in history, an Oath of Malediction. And that’s how He signed the contract. Now when you come to the Exodus and the Sinaitic Covenant, it’s a little more problematic about what He signs. The best example that I have of what He did here, Exodus 20, when He gave the Ten Commandments and He structured the work week so that there would be seven. By the way just for fun and trivia, ask yourself if you’ve ever heard any country at any point in history that had a week that wasn’t seven. Now that’s interesting. You know when the communists were in their height under Stalin in Russia, they didn’t like the seven day work week because they thought it was inefficient. They tried a ten-day work week. It didn’t work. They had to go back to seven. Stalin with all of his might and his secret police couldn’t change the Russian work week from seven to ten days. They figured, hey, one day in ten is a lot better than one day in seven so we can get more work out of people. But it doesn’t work that way. So, this is built into the structure of who we are and in the Ten Commandments, precisely in the middle verses 9 and 10 there’s an explanation. If you go down, verse 4, 5, 6, 7, there are minor comments after each commandment. But in 8, 9, and 10 there’s a major comment about the character God and it says in verse 10, “But the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male servant,” etc. Then verse 11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them,” by the way, this is the divine interpretation of Genesis. People have a whole bunch of problems about the days. Well, I don’t think anybody that was at Mt. Horeb that heard this, here’s God speaking in Hebrew from the top of Mt. Horeb and He’s saying I made the world in six days, He doesn’t say six ages, He says six days. Now if I’m sitting there and I’m listening to God say that He made it in six days, okay, hey, in six days, fine. I’m not going to sit there and argue with God? He was there, I wasn’t and it says six days. Now that is believed to be the signature. The keeping of the Sabbath, the seventh day, the keeping of the Sabbath, identifies God over Israel, the king of Israel, as the Creator.
This is why on page 62 I quote Dr. Meredith Kline who says that “It is tempting to see in the sabbath sign presented in the midst of the ten words the equivalent of the [ancient lord-kings] dynastic seal found in the midst … international treaty documents.” We’ll get into international treaties later. The point that Kline is making there is that under certain treaty formats there would be a seal actually embedded, either a saying or actual picture or seal, and it’s at this point where the seal of the Creator is embedded upon the structure of his kingdom. The people of his kingdom observe something that is integral to his very character. So the signing of the covenant is the Sabbath rest, the Sabbath day.
Now we come to #3 to the fact that every covenant God makes with fallen man, every covenant God makes with us since the fall is a covenant that is in the presence of shed blood. And here, when this covenant is enacted… Exodus 24:4, “Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain….”  “And he sent young men … and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD.  And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Contract [Covenant] and he read it in the hearing of the people,” and that’s when they swore obedience; [and they said, All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”] Then verse 8, “So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people”. So the covenant is enacted with shed blood; see the consistency. Once you see this consistency, the New Testament just falls into place. The things in the New Testament aren’t new. Very little of the New Testament is new. Very little, once you know the Old.
Finally, I go to the terms of the signing of the Sinaitic Covenant, page 62 and what I say there is that it defines the quality of the relationship between God, king and his nation. I want you for next week, to be very careful of the verses I cite on page 63. I give you six elements. I’ve done that because there is discovered in the last 30 or 40 years, scholars have discovered a very, very interesting thing. Back in the days of the old liberals this was not known. Back in the days of the old liberals they thought, well, the Mosaic code is just like code of Hammurabi or something. They’re finding out that, low and behold, in the ancient world, there would be a so-called great king, we would say today a super power, and he would make a treaty with a vassal king, i.e., a lesser power, third world country or something. There would be a great king and he would enter into a treaty with a vassal king. It would be an international treaty.
The six parts you see on page 63 characterize those suzerainty-vassal treaties or those great king vassal-king treaties. Now these apparently, I believe they occurred after, I think this is the original one, but some of the scholars say, well, God used that, its format had been pre-established. Whatever, there’s six parts to those treaties. There is a stunning parallel with the Old Testament and what we want to do next week is read those verses where I show you how the Old Testament law code had the same six features in it that was routinely used in international relations by the super powers when they locked into obedience a lesser country. When that treaty was made, it followed these kinds of things. It’s a fascinating revelation about this father-son thing, so it all going to come together next week hopefully. We get with the father-son relationship. What is unique about the Old Testament law code that sets over against pagan law code? And what is this deal about it being more like a treaty. So those are the things we’re going to aim for and I think out of that we’re going to have a really nice new appreciation for what we’ve got here, what a gift the Old Testament law that is so rarely read, so rarely preached, so rarely understood.
We’re kind of changing territory, changing the perspective a little bit. Question: It’s quite obvious if you devote some thought to this that the law that is given here can’t be enforced by anybody except God and if you’ll look at those six little sections, one of them is blessings and cursings. I think I list under that number six, the blessings and cursings. If you look carefully at Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, those are the two major Old Testament passages that define the cursings and the blessings. If you’re not well exposed to the Old Testament, it may seem to you that it’s kind of unrelated to the New Testament, because the New Testament all grace, etc. Well, the blessings and the cursings turn out to be the outline of Old Testament history. If you look carefully at those passages, it’s a forecast of what is going to happen to the nation of Israel. All of her history is embedded in those chapters and see that’s this reason that liberal scholars, when they come to the Old Testament, do so with scissors and paste. They can’t believe in prophecy so that couldn’t have been written by Moses because Moses didn’t know what was going to happen. That’s why they always try to tear this out, and that Moses couldn’t read that etc., and then they rearrange the text of the Old Testament, because they got to get rid of all this stuff.
But if it’s really true, then we have a God-king who is the same one who created the universe. Then you read the blessings and the cursings and you’ll see that they involve economics, they involve climate, they involve disease, they involve things over which man has no control. So here you have the law that is being addressed to hearts, not just social behavior - hearts! And then you have a God who threatens enforcement with tools that far exceed that of any human king. See, the law from the beginning to the end is all supernatural and it’s a fascinating study to me. It really opens up the whole Old Testament and it really shows you why in the New Testament history culminates the return of Christ because when He comes again, He fulfills the archetype of those cursings and blessings. There are certain people who will be cursed, there are certain people who are going to be blessed, and there’s the forecast right there in that law code. So, there’s a lot of neat things right here for us and we have zip through them like we're zipping through the whole Bible. All we can do is just kind of pause and look at the jewels and not touch them and feel them and not get involved in all the details, but we can at least see where the jewels are so maybe it’ll stimulate you sometime when you want to work on a particular jewel to go focus on that one or this one or that one in the Old Testament document.
The other thing you want to notice about that is that on page 63, element five, the invocation of witnesses to the treaty. That’s neat. Be sure when you read that, element number five, I give you verses in Deuteronomy, but be sure you turn to that last verse I quote from Isaiah, that Isaiah 1:2 passage. The reason I want you to look at that is how many times have you thought and been taught that the Old Testament prophets were guys who were kind of like social reformers going around and preaching all about social ills, which they did. But what this does for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and all the prophets is it makes them an invocation to the witnesses. There are witnesses to this document. We haven’t talked about the witnesses, who the witnesses are, but when the Mosaic covenant was made in history between Israel and God, there were a set of witnesses, and if you look carefully at Isaiah, when he goes to preach he’s not like a social reformer preaching just at social ills. What Isaiah is, is the prosecuting attorney who is calling upon the witnesses to the treaty and he’s enforcing the treaty sections.
So what God is doing through the Old Testament of prophets is completely misinterpreted by people who don’t look at the Old Testament as an entity. The prophets of the Old Testament are not social preachers. They are prosecuting attorneys of the treaty. The treaty terms are now being applied to the nation and these prophets rise up, they are God’s attorneys who are applying the code. They’re not saying this is just bad. They’re saying that you have violated the ordinance of God and you were told back in Moses day that this would happen to you. Now I’m here to tell you that phase one of Leviticus 26 is starting in my day and then another prophet will come along and say, you people have violated the treaty, now what I’m here to announce that in my ministry I’m invoking phase two of Leviticus 26 and then another prophet would come along and he’d say I’m invoking phase three.
So all these prophets that were raised up by God were actually speaking His voice of prosecution. When you see that, it begins to tie now the prophets to the law. Remember those three parts of the Old Testament: the law, the prophets and the writings. What’s the relationship of the prophets to the law? They are the prosecuting attorneys. They are not people who were just raised up because the society was bad. They are men who stand in the stream of the enforcers of the treaty. Personally they may not have thought that, but the Spirit of God that was working in them was the actual enforcer who called the men up, Amos, Josiah, called those guys out of their lifestyles, made them do things that were just utterly unheard of in the ancient world. Nobody walked into a king; you didn’t walk into Pharaoh and accuse him, like Nathan accused David. You didn’t do that. If you did, you’d have your head severed from your body in about three seconds. What you find is that this treaty secularizes the power of the king; it’s one of the great fruits of the Bible.
Do you know where our limitations and political power came from? It came from men and women in the western civilization who read this. When we get to that point, I’m going to bring in a book that I got years ago out of the Harvard library and it’s Lex, Rex by Samuel Rutherford, written in 1644 against the British claim—the British monarch claimed divine right, i.e., is absolute power, he claimed that God had called him into existence and that parliament and the church were under his personal control because he was God’s king. And all this is very powerful if you were weak spiritually you’d say, okay, and go along with it. Well, the Christians who were knowledgeable of Scripture didn’t go along with that, didn’t go along with absolute power plan and they went back and they picked up the stream of Old Testament thought that curtailed the power of the king and made the king, the human king, subservient to the grand king or the law. So it was always God, the treaty, and the king. So the human king was always here and that was the thing that has given us political freedom. That’s where political freedom came from. It didn’t come from Aristotle and Greek democracy. It came out of the law, this law. So, there are lots of neat parts in it and that’s what we started tonight. This personal relationship means that that law has a quality to it that no other law code on earth has ever had a quality like that.
Question: Clough: I can’t get into a hairy discussion about it, but perhaps we can get a little, Hebrews and some of the New Testament passages pointed out because God’s nature hasn't changed. Those particular curses though are national curses and we have to be careful how you interpret the Old Testament. This is a treaty. America isn’t in that. The Sinaitic Covenant isn’t made with America. The Sinaitic Covenant isn’t made with Germany; it isn’t made with Italy; it isn’t made with France; it isn’t made with Japan. It’s made with only one nation and so the literal text of that treaty does not apply to this country in the sense that we’re not a part of the covenant. But, the God who is behind is the same God yesterday, today, and forever, so as the law reflects His character, then we sit here asking for wisdom in what’s the best way of organizing our communities and our society. We certainly go here to find out, basically what we’re doing is we're going here and we’re saying, God, when you reigned in one nation, here’s how you reigned, what can we learn from that.
And I hope that you will be curious enough over the next three or four weeks that you’ll pick up your bibles and just randomly skim through sections of Exodus, and Deuteronomy and Leviticus, especially Deuteronomy. Just read a chapter or two and what I’d like you to do as you do that is ask yourself what areas of life are addressed here. What I’d like you to discover, come to the discovery of seeing just how all encompassing this law was. Ask yourself if there was any area of life that’s unaddressed in this law. We’ve got diet, what you eat. We’ve got Sabbath laws, how long you labor and work. We’ve got criminal laws, define what crime is. We’ve got laws that define how the judges administer punishment; by the way jail isn’t one of them. And we have moral codes that tell about clothing, what to wear. We have codes that define the relationship of parents to children and children to parents. We’ve got laws that relate to homosexuality, to divorce, to all this. Every modern social issue is addressed in that law. Just amazing! We even have how much you can be in debt, the issue of credit and debt and personal finances is addressed here, so it’s just amazing. And it gives you an idea that all of those areas of life were of concern to the king. Not just personal religious things.