The Law

What does it look like when people encounter the Almighty?  What does it look like when the Almighty steps into the lives of men?

He is our creator, and the maker of the universe. 

We see His appearance to Moses in the burning bush, and His presence in front of the descendants of Jacob in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

We have been studying the Almighty’s deliverance of the descendants of Jacob from slavery in Egypt.  God intervened and with mighty signs and wonders led the millions of Israelites out of Egypt.  He led them out of Egypt to Mount Sinai to meet with them there.

This was a pivotal point in the life of the nation of Israel.  This was a pivotal point in the history of the world.  It is probably safe to say that this occasion has done more to shape history than any other, apart from the life of Jesus Christ.

God gave the 10 Commandments on this occasion. 

God met with His people.

I have heard people talk about the God of the Old Testament.  The question, “Why is God so different in the Old Testament than He is in the New?” has been asked many times. 

A famous opponent of God, Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion says:
 “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  (pg. 51)

This is an extreme statement of how many perceive God as He appears in the Old Testament.  Dawkins, along with many of us, must be suggesting that he knows better how the Almighty should interact with humanity.

As one goes through the book of Exodus, he or she sees how obstinate and unbelieving we as human beings tend to be.  One sees stubborn unbelief in the face of the most incredible miracles in recorded history.

In chapters 19 and 20 of Exodus, God gets personal and direct in His interaction with the people He has led out of Egypt.  He physically comes down to meet with His people.  Exodus 19:16-19 says:
16On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. 17Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. 19As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply.[i]

Can you picture this? 

It was terrifying.  Exodus 20:18-19 tells us what the people felt like when they saw the Almighty appearing like this.  Exodus 20:18-19 says:
18When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

19And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”

In this terrifying setting, God begins to lay out the terms of His covenant.  This covenant represents the conditions by which people can remain in a right relationship to God.

The first condition or statement of the Covenant is, “I am the LORD your God.”  (Exodus 20:2)

This statement is not a command, but it prefaces the first commandment.  The first commandment is, “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:3)  The statement, “I am the Lord your God,” is the answer to the questions we have raised.  “What does it look like when people encounter the Almighty?  What does it look like when the Almighty steps in to the lives of men?” It even explains Richard Dawkins’ extreme reaction against God and His policies.

The answer lies in the truth of who God is.  This statement, “I am the Lord your God,” contains two names for God, Lord and God, or Yahweh Elohim.

The name Elohim is used in Genesis 1:1 when it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This name generally refers to the fact that God is the Creator and Judge of the universe.  The root of the name is “El” which means “Strong One,” or “Mighty.”  It is the name that contains the idea of the Almighty.

The name Yahweh is built off the root of “I Am.”  Yahweh expresses who God is as far as language will allow.  

As the “I Am,” we understand that God never had a beginning.  This truth is beyond our ability to comprehend.  

As the “I Am,” He will never end.  

As the “I Am,” He is absolute reality.  Outside of Him, there is no other reality, unless He creates it.  There can be no emptiness of space except He sustains it.  

As the “I Am,” he is absolutely independent.  There is nothing that He depends on or needs outside of Himself.  Conversely, everything else depends completely on God.  The universe and all it contains depends wholly on God for its existence.

It is this “Yahweh Elohim,” that comes to Mount Sinai and says:
4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.  Exodus 19:4-6

Look again at verse 5.  God says, “If you will obey me and keep my covenant.”

What right does God have to require obedience?  Why should it matter to Him? 

Besides the fact that everything is His and He made it all, there are also the natural results of rejecting Him.

The Canaanites, whose land the Israelites were going to possess show us an example of what happens when we reject God.  Deuteronomy 18:9-12 lists some of the things these people were doing.  It says:
 9“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. 10For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, 11or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. 12Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you.”

Let us look at just one of the things listed here. 

The Canaanites were sacrificing their sons and daughters as burnt offerings.  In other words, the most innocent and helpless members of society were not protected by those entrusted with their protection.  They were not even given the status of human beings, and could be sacrificed for the benefit of those whose job it was to protect, nourish and love them.

This is what the Bible calls the deceitfulness of sin.  When we choose not to obey God, we naturally become the slaves of sin, of our own desires and appetites.  For example, most men have a desire for women.  If they do not control that desire, much harm and damage is done as they go from woman to woman to woman.  In other words, just because we are born with a desire does not mean it should be indulged.  God warned Cain that sin was crouching at the door ready to master him.  He gave in to his desire and murdered his brother.

Our world today is full of the evidence of what men do without God.  God has given us true freedom of choice and we have filled the world with violence of every sort.  All the words that Dawkins uses to indict God are words that describe man’s inhumanity to man.  Priests, pastors and parishioners are no exception.  Abuse, crime, fraud and manipulation fill our governments, cities, homes and even churches.

Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”

Should the judge of the universe stand idly by while innocent young children are abused and murdered?  No, He does not and He will not.  Have we forgotten the flood?  Have we forgotten what happened to the Canaanites? Richard Dawkins, along with this generation, is deliberately forgetting or denying what God has done to deal with the sinfulness and evil we have perpetuated in our world.

We think that we are nice and do not deserve to be punished, let alone sent to hell to suffer forever.  Mount Sinai and the Law were given to show us just how wrong we are.  God is not a sadistic megalomaniac as Dawkins suggests.  However, He is righteous, just and pure and will not stand idly by while His creation is missused for the benefit of the whims of us megalomaniacs who think we have the right to tell Him how to judge.

God is extremely patient.  Far from being vindictive, in His great love for us He paid for our crimes Himself.  

As the “I Am,” He is the only One who could pay the huge price for our sinful rebellion against Him.  

At Mount Sinai, the Earth shook in terror at the presence of its Holy Maker.  At Mount Calvary, it shook with sorrow as the Only Begotten Son of God laid down His life to satisfy the conditions of the covenant that we all have broken.   

What does it look like when people encounter the Almighty?  What does it look like when the Almighty steps in to the lives of men?

It looks like fire, smoke and a shaking trembling mountain, or it looks like a Father calling to His children to come safely home.  The difference is only one thing.  John 3:36 says it this way:
And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.

Through us, God is making His plea to all men to be reconciled to Himself through faith in Jesus Christ.  

Come to Him that you can have life, because without Him there is only the terrifying expectation of certain judgement.

[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.  Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.


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