The Lord gave to Israel evidences of his presence, in order that they might fear his name and obey his voice, and might realize that God was their leader and ruler, and that Moses was simply the Lord's general, to direct their ways through the wilderness to the promised land. Jesus Christ, the Captain of the Lord's host, was the divine leader. The people whom God had chosen to be his especial treasure, under oppression, servitude, and idolatry, had become disorganized and demoralized. Their associations in Egypt had left a degraded mold upon their habits and appetites, and there was need that they should be transformed in character. Christ had visibly manifested his presence and power among them. The glory of God had been revealed in a most remarkable manner, so that they exceedingly feared that they would be consumed by the presence of the Lord. They had heard the voice of God, as Christ bade Moses and Aaron draw near to the cloudy pillar in which he was enshrouded, and the Lord talked with his servants. They were assured that he had heard their murmurings, and had granted what their appetites craved, flesh in the morning, and bread in the evening. They had murmured against Moses and Aaron, declaring they would have been better off had they remained in Egypt. From the pillar of cloud and fire Christ taught them that their murmurings were directed, not against Moses, but against their divine Leader. Moses and Aaron had led them according to his directions, and they were assured that it was not the man Moses that was guiding them but the Lord Jesus Christ.
From time to time the character of God and his dealings with them were opened up to the Israelites. Christ was lifting them up from their demoralized condition by the revelation of himself. The Lord promised that if they would be obedient to his commandments he would supply their necessities by his own miraculous power.
God has brought out a people in these last days and has given to them a knowledge of his law. Christ has shed a flood of light upon their pathway, revealing himself as the invisible leader of Israel in both the Old and in the New Testament. Christ has made his people the depositaries of his law. They are to keep and to teach the commandments of God, and to show their binding obligations upon men. Christ has promised that to those who obey his commandments he will be as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, guiding them in and lighting them along the pathway cast up for the ransomed of the Lord, that they may enter in at the gate of the eternal city.
They are to keep the fear of the Lord ever before their eyes; for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is better to obtain a knowledge of God's revealed will through an understanding of his word than to have the praise of men, the honors of the world, and great pleasure. God's word assures us that in keeping his commandments there is a great reward. No earthly consideration should for one moment be looked upon as an inducement to turn from the commandments of God and refuse to lift the cross. Christians should look upon riches, ease, pleasure, and worldly honors, as those things that are represented by wood, hay, and stubble, that will perish in the fires of the last day.
Let none to whom has been represented the duty of keeping God's commandments, seek to find some objection by which they may seem to excuse themselves from obedience. Let them remember the great perverter of God's word, who was a liar from the beginning of his rebellion in heaven, and let them know that he is ready to lead them blindfold away from the plainest statements of God's word, and make that which is clear and distinct uncertain and questionable. It is his work to deceive and to make of no effect the words of Jehovah. Plant your feet on the platform of eternal truth. Follow every ray of light that you see, and that which is shadowy will be made clear to your understanding as you walk in the light. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
When Moses led the Israelites to the waters of the Red Sea, the command of God was, "Go forward." As the people moved forward in the path that Providence indicated, as they did that which was commanded, the waters of the sea rolled back. They did not see a broad path opening for them by the power of God. They were not lifted up and borne to the other side in the arms of the angels; but as they moved forward, the power of God was revealed, and on one side the sea was piled up like a wall of congealed water, leaving a path for their feet to walk upon in the hitherto buried sands of the Red Sea. What lesson should we learn from this?--To go forward, walking in the light that God permits to shine upon our pathway, and not stopping to question and doubt.
Many have the idea that the Jewish age was one of darkness, superstition, and ignorance. They have received the erroneous idea that repentance, and faith, and divine enlightenment were reserved for the Gospel dispensation, and that these have no part in the Hebrew religion. Many think that the Jewish religion consisted only in forms and ceremonies, but there never could have been a greater deception. The Jewish nation was taken into close relationship with God, and was esteemed by him as a peculiar people, an holy priesthood, a royal nation.
To-day the Christian world looks upon the Jews as a people who are under the divine curse because of their rejection and crucifixion of Christ. But, instead of looking upon them as sinners above all others, they should seek to learn a lesson from their condition, and inquire why it is that the judgment of God fell upon them in so signal a manner. It was because they rejected the great light which had been given them from the time of their delivery from Egyptian bondage. It was because the Lord had revealed to them, through his prophets, and through holy men of old, his will, and they chose to walk in their own ways, and to follow their own will. Calamity overtook the Jews because they failed to keep the commandments of God. God had told them if they did not keep his commandments, he could not fulfill his covenant of promise, for this covenant was to be fulfilled only upon condition of obedience. The history of Israel should be to us a most solemn warning of the calamities that will overtake us if we are disobedient to God's commandments. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was conformed unto us by them that heard him."
Do the words of Christ spoken in reproof to the Pharisees, find an application in our days? He said, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! [Because you keep the law of God?--No.] for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." Do we not in our own day find just such teachers, who will not obey the plainest statements of truth, who turn from the light of God's word, and then do their utmost to pervert the Scriptures and to blind the eyes of those who are seeking to understand the word of God? These transgressors of God's law seek with all their power to hedge up the way so that souls shall grope in vain for the door that Christ has opened, and which he says no man can shut. Are there not teachers to-day who seek to close, if possible, the door of the understanding? They will not enter into the light themselves, and neither will they permit others to enter in. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."
There are many who claim to be sanctified. They are not slow to declare before the people that they have not committed sin for years. But this profession does not constitute proof of their statement. If they were holy, their conversation would be holy, their testimony would be in accordance with the divine will, their prayers would be modeled after the prayers of Christ. They would pray, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." We are living in days when deception is on every hand. We are warned to "beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." We are to know them by their fruits. The Lord said, "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
If persons come to you claiming to be sanctified, and yet making void the law of God, and teaching others that they may transgress it with impunity, their sanctification, when weighted in the balances of the sanctuary, has no more weight with God than had the long, pretentious prayers of the Pharisees. The higher the profession, the more deceptive the pretention, the more likely the unwary are to be deceived, and the greater will be the wrath of an offended God. Those who make high claims, and who disregard the law of God, are registered in the books of heaven as rebels against the divine government. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."
Was this fearful denunciation pronounced against the Pharisees because they kept the law of God?--No, it was because they did not keep the law of God, and were not doers of his word. Had they kept God's law, they would have discerned that Jesus was the Son of God, and would have appreciated his mission. So it is in our day. If those who profess to believe in Christ, really did believe in him, they would do his work, they would have respect unto his commandments.
Jesus has made it evident that his attitude to the law was one of loyalty. He says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." There are some who tell the people to throw the Old Testament into the fire; but such statements are not in harmony with what Jesus told the people. Jesus declared that his work was not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. He came to magnify the law, to exalt its honor, to show by his suffering and death that the law is immutable, and that God cannot annul its penalty for transgression. He further declared: "Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." He showed them what it was that constituted the sin of the Pharisees, that, though they were punctilious in the observance of outward forms, they did not in heart obey the commandments of God. "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
The attitude of Christ to the law is unmistakable, but how men have presumed to misstate, misapply, and pervert his words! They have drawn an altogether different lesson from that which he designed to teach, and have therefore put themselves under the condemnation that Christ pronounced upon the Pharisees: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."