Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

June 17, 1880

The Law of Moses

By Mrs. E. G. White

The Lord did not leave his people with the precepts of the decalogue alone. Moses was commanded to write, as God should bid him, judgments and laws giving minute directions in regard to their duty, thereby guarding the commandments engraved on the tables of stone. Thus did the Lord seek to lead erring man to a strict obedience to that holy law which he is so prone to transgress.

If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved in the ark by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a token or pledge, they would never have gone into idolatry, nor been suffered to go down into Egypt; and there would have been no necessity for God to proclaim his law from Sinai, engraving it upon tables of stone, or guard it by definite directions in the judgments and statutes given to Moses.

Moses wrote these judgments and statutes from the mouth of God while he was with him in the mount. The definite directions in regard to the duty of his people to one another, and to the stranger, are the principles of the ten commandments simplified and given in a definite manner, that they need not err.

The Lord said of the children of Israel, “Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols, wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.” Because of continual disobedience, the Lord annexed penalties to the transgression of his law, which were not good for the transgressor, or whereby he should not live in his rebellion.

By transgressing the law which God had given in such majesty, and amid glory which was unapproachable, the people showed open contempt of the great Lawgiver, and death was the penalty.

“Moreover also, I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted. Then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.”

The statutes and judgments given of God were good for the obedient. “They shall live in them.” But they were not good for the transgressor; for in the civil law given to Moses, punishment was to be inflicted on the transgressor, that others should be restrained by fear.

Moses charged the children of Israel to obey God. He said unto them, “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.”

The Lord gave Moses definite instructions in regard to the ceremonial offerings which were to cease at the death of Christ. This system, first established with Adam after his fall, and taught by him to his descendants, was corrupted before the flood, and also by those who separated themselves from the faithful followers of God, and engaged in the building of the tower of Babel. They had no faith in the Redeemer to come, and they sacrificed to gods of their own choosing, instead of the God of Heaven. Their superstition led them to great extravagances. They taught the people that the more valuable their offerings, the greater would be the pleasure of their gods, and consequently the greater the prosperity and riches of their nation. Hence, human beings were often sacrificed to these senseless idols. Many of the laws which governed these nations were cruel in the extreme. They were made by men whose hearts were not softened by divine grace, and while the most debasing crimes were passed over lightly, a small offense would be visited by the most cruel punishment.

Moses had this in view when he said to Israel, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep, therefore, and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? and what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”

God was a wise and compassionate lawgiver, judging all cases righteously, and without partiality. While the Israelites were in Egyptian bondage, they were surrounded with idolatry. The Egyptians were regarded as the most learned nation then in existence, and their worship was conducted with great pomp and ceremony. Other nations held the most cruel and absurd traditions as a part of their religion, and revolting customs found a place in their idolatrous service. Prominent among these was the practice of causing their children to pass through the fire,—to leap over the altar upon which a fire was burning before their idol. If a person could do this without injury, the people received it as evidence that the god accepted their offerings, and favored especially the one who had passed through the fiery ordeal. He was loaded with benefits, and was ever afterward greatly esteemed by all the people. He was never punished however aggravated might be his crimes. Should another person be burned in passing through the fire, his fate was sealed; the people believed that their gods were angry and could be appeased only by the life of the unhappy victim, and he was accordingly offered as a sacrifice. Even some of the children of Israel had so far degraded themselves as to practice these abominations. The Lord manifested his displeasure by causing the fire to consume their children in the act of passing through it.

Because the people of God had confused ideas of the sacrificial offerings, and mingled heathen customs with their ceremonial worship, the Lord condescended to give them definite directions, that they might understand the true import of those sacrifices which were to last only till the Lamb of God should be slain, who was the great Antitype of all their sacrificial offerings.

Moses understood the plan of salvation through Christ, by these sacrificial offerings, and by the manifestation of his glory which he had been permitted to behold. The perfection of God's goodness, his image, his excellency and glory had been revealed to him. He saw the suffering, self-denial and self-sacrifice of Him who was one with the Father, to save fallen man. It had been revealed to Moses that the glory enshrouded in the pillar of cloud was the Son of the infinite God, whom the sacrificial offerings typified. In answer to his most earnest pleadings, “Show me thy way,” the future had been opened before him when the type would meet antitype in the death of Christ. He saw mercy and justice blended in harmony and love expressed without a parallel. Israel was just as fully and amply saved through Christ as we are today. Moses had the assurance that the Mediator of Israel had the guardianship of his people, and that he was just the protection which their necessities required. If disaster came upon them, if their enemies prevailed against them in battle, it was the rebuke of God upon them because they had sinned and in sinning had broken the law of God.

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