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The Law of God: His Way

His Covenant, New Covenant, Mt. Sinai, Moses, God's ways, Law of God, Law of Moses, words of the covenant

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"And the Lord said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?" " (Ex 16:28)

"because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." (Gen 26:5)

Both of these quotes come from a time before 'the Law' (Law of Moses) was given.  Abraham didnít keep the Law of Moses.  He didnít tithe to Levi or offer his sacrifices at the tabernacle; both required by the Law.

"Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments." (Mal 4:4)

God probably spoke His Law, His covenant, the Ten Commandments, within 14 days of Israel's arrival at Sinai.  However it was known long before as Genesis 26:5 and Exodus 16:28 indicate. Generally speaking the Law, the Law of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, was also given to Moses while Israel was camped near Horeb also known as Sinai, but much of it was new and different instruction.  The nation was camped there for almost a year. It seems unlikely that Moses received Genesis before Israel left Egypt.  It is much more likely it was given while Israel was camped in the wilderness.  Indeed that is what Malachi 4:4 indicates.  However, it wasn't necessarily given to Moses with God's Law.

Since His Law, the Sinai covenant, was confirmed so soon after Israel's arrival at Sinai and Moses was very busy, it makes sense that Genesis would not have been written until after that.  Genesis was undoubtedly written with the full understanding of what His covenant, His Law was.  Certainly Exodus was written after Genesis but before Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy.  Numbers was obviously not complete until just before Moses died.  They all would have been written within a few years of each other probably one right after the other.

The episode of the golden calf had a profound effect on Israel's relationship with their creator.  Before the Sinai covenant it is apparent He wanted everyone to be His representative or priest. (Ex 19:6) About 45 days later He was prepared to destroy them all.  Moses pled for their lives (Ex 32:11-14, Ps 106:23).  God relented and on the next trip up the mountain the Law of Moses began to be given (Ex 34:30-33).  They were still in the area of Horeb.

The Law of Moses did not exist before that time.  God's Law did exist.  Since His Law was given before Israel ruined their relationship with their Creator, it was not compromised by an attempt to make it workable for the stiff-necked people that Israel was.  The Law of Moses was compromised this way.

"He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Mat 19:8 referring to Deu 24:1-2)

"But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed." (Gal 3:23)

The Law was a guardian that attempted to keep Israel in line.  In line with what?  In line with the Law of God that pre-existed the Law of Moses.  The Law that Abraham obeyed was the Law of God. It was from the beginning.  Abraham was given the same covenant that Israel was given at Sinai.  The difference being that He obeyed.

"Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, 16 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac, 17 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel for an everlasting covenant, 18 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance," (1Chro 16:15-18)

The fundamental terms of His covenant are the Ten Commandments.

"So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone." (Deu 4:13)

Hebrew speakers often use redundancy to emphasize a point.  They repeat a thought in different words.  Sometimes English speakers take them to be talking of two different things when in fact, they are just coming at the same thing from a different angle.  Psalms 78:10 is an example of this quirk.

"They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law".

"Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law." (Hos 8:1)

Hosea does the same.  It affirms that His Covenant and His Law are the same thing.  It is one and the same with how the Creator guides His own life.

"Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him." (Deu 8:6)

However, life is not always simple and therefore it is not always obvious what it means to "not steal".  For instance, if you borrow something and it breaks, how is this resolved?  If this isnít handled correctly one could end up stealing.  There are a number of issues that can come up that are not directly explained by the Ten Commandments.

For this reason a number of judgments were included in the instruction God gave when He spoke the Ten Commandments. (Ex 21:1-23:19) A judgment by the very nature of the word is a decision based on prior law, although the situation may not be specifically mentioned in that law.  Given the brief nature of the Ten Commandments, the judgments of Exodus 21-23 clarify detail that might not be intuitively obvious.

Generally speaking, examples and conduct before the episode of the golden calf represent God's Law.  Circumcision is a notable exception to this and is explained in the section on Abraham and the Patriarchs.

Not everything in the Law of Moses was added after the Sinai covenant.  Obviously the Law of Moses contains the account of God speaking His Law at Mount Sinai.  In this case, the Law is simply an historical account of what was contained in the original instruction.  Many of the judgments recorded in Exodus 21-23 are also repeated later in Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy.

"Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you" (Deu 31:26)

Ultimately we are all headed for a time of judgment (John 5:28-9).  It was not specifically stated at Sinai, but the Law of Moses documented the practice of requiring two or three witnesses as the minimum that could convict (Deu 19:15).  By repeating most of His Law elsewhere in the Law of Moses, God was establishing two witnesses.  Often in the process of repeating, additional detail was also added.  The Law of Moses attempted to clarify points of the Law of God even further than the judgments of Exodus 20-23 did.

For instance, Exodus 21:2 directs that Israelite slaves were to be freed after six years of servitude.  Deuteronomy 15:12-15 talks of this same thing, but clarifies that the master was to give the departing servant supplies so he would not be destitute.  Moses is not adding something new here, but clarifying the original intent.  This is evident because God reminds the master that He was a slave and God brought Him out of Egypt and provided for Him.  This is the basis for supplying the departing slave.  This concept is repeated twice within God's covenent and Law at Sinai(Ex 22:21, 23:9).

So not all of Moses 'new' instruction is really new or implemented because of Israel's separation from God with the golden calf.  It may not have been documented before, but it may well have been the intent from the beginning.  The instruction of Leviticus 18-20 is clearly God's law even though much was not directly included in Exodus 20-23.  Israel should have known, just like they should have known not to make the golden calf.  However, with the Law of Moses it was documented so they would have no excuse.  The Law was an additional witness against them.

One must read the Law of God and the Law of Moses very carefully to extract its full meaning.  Of course any similar instruction in the New Testament should be considered too.  We have the advantage of New Testament instruction that ancient Israel did not have.

"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps 119:97)

"Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.." (Ps 119:18)

"Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wondrous works." (Ps 119:27)

David, a man after God's own heart had to think about God's Law, precepts and His ways .  It doesn't come naturally.  It takes conscientious effort and continual thought.  If David had to put out this effort and still asked for help in understanding, ("Open my eyes") how much more do we need to do this who are an additional 3000 years removed from even David's time?

Most people who would get this deep into a religious web site are probably familiar with the Ten Commandments.  I suspect few have really studied the judgments that follow in Exodus.  They give great insight into what God was and still is expecting of those who wish to represent Him.  Of equal or greater value is being proficient at meditating and pondering the Law of God yourself.  Don't take man's word for it.  Learn to ponder the Law of God yourself.  Continue in it like David did.  If you would like an in depth study of the judgments click here.