18. The Law

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ALL the services of the sanctuary were performed with reference to the law of God, kept in the ark in the inmost apartment of the tabernacle. When this law was broken, sacrifices were to be brought. “If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them: if the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people. Then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering.” Leviticus 4:2, 3.

It was the transgression of “the commandments of the Lord that set in motion the entire ritual of the temple. Sin was the case of the morning and evening sacrifice, the services of the Day of Atonement, the offering of incense, and the individual sacrifices for personal sins. And sin is the transgression of the law.

John the beloved had a vision of the tabernacle of God in heaven. In it he saw the law of God, “the ark of His testament.” Revelation 11:19. As the law was central in the sanctuary on earth, so it is central in heaven. For this reason the sanctuary in heaven is called “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony”; not the temple of incense, or of blood, or even of the mercy seat, but “of the tabernacle of the testimony,” the repository of the law of God. (Revelation 15.5)

The most sacred city in Old Testament times was the city in which God had chosen to make His abode. The most sacred place in that city was the temple.

“The most sacred place in the temple was the most holy place. The most sacred object in the most holy was the ark, within which were enshrined the tables of stone upon which God had written the Ten Commandments, the law of life, the oracles of God. This law was the center around which the whole service revolved, the ground and reason for every ritual. Without the law the temple services were meaningless.

Law is an expression of character, a revelation of mind. For this reason the law of God is important. It is a part of God, as it were, and reveals Him. It is a transcript of His character, a finite expression of the infinite. In it we are given a glimpse of the mind of God; a view of what constitutes the foundation of His government. As God is perfect, so His law is perfect. As God is eternal, so the principles of the Ten Commandments are eternal. As God is -unchangeable, so the law is unchangeable. This must of necessity be so. The law, being a transcript of the character of God, cannot be changed unless a corresponding change takes place in God. But God does not change. “I am the Lord, I change not.” Mal. 3:6. With God there “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17. He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8.

The Ten Commandments

The law of God as contained in the Ten Commandments has always been a fruitful field of study for God's children. Numerous are the references in the Bible to the delight which the saints of God have found in looking into the perfect law of liberty. Far from considering it a task, they have regarded it a pleasure to contemplate the deep things of God. Hear the psalmist: 'I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.” “Thy testimonies are wonderful.” “Thou through Thy commandments has made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation.” 'I have seen an end of all perfection: but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Psalm 119: 127, 129, 98, 99, 96.

The Ten Commandments-were first proclaimed by, God at Mount Sinai, after which He wrote them on two tables of stone. (Exodus 20; 24:12; 31:18) These tables were placed in the ark in the most holy place of the sanctuary, directly under the mercy seat and covered by it. (Exodus 25:16, 21) The writing contained on them, as recorded in the King James Version of the English Bible, is as follows:

“I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of

bondage.

[1]    Thou shall have no other gods before Me.

[2]    Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath ' or that is in the water under the earth: thou shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.

[3]    Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the. Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

[4]    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shall not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, not thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven-and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

[5]    Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God gives thee.

[6]    Thou shall not kill.

[7]    Thou shall not commit adultery.

[8]    Thou shall not steal.

[9]    Thou shall not bear false witness against thy, neighbor.

[10]    Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.” Exodus 20:217.

These Ten Commandments are not arbitrary decrees imposed by an almighty God upon unwilling subjects. They are the law of life, without which national existence, personal security, human liberty, or even civilization is impossible. This will become more patent as we proceed.

The commandments are divided into two, sections, the first section-the first four commandments defining man's duty to God, and the other section the last six commandments - defining man's duty to his fellow men.

Christ recognized this twofold division when He stated that the two great principles of the law are love to God and love to man. “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40.

The occasion for the proclamation by God of His law at Sinai was His entering into covenant relation with Israel. God had selected Israel to be His people. He had brought them out of Egypt and was about to bring them into the Promised Land. He had promised

to bless them and to make of them a holy nation and a royal priesthood. These promises, however, were subject to their acceptance and co-operation. God had promised to do much for them. Would they on their part love and obey God? Would they faithfully observe the provisions of the covenant? They had, in a general way, been acquainted with the law of God. But now God proclaimed it to them from heaven, so there could be no doubt as to what was expected of them. Holiness was not to be left to private interpretation. God gave them a standard of righteousness, a perfect standard. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, “and good.” Romans 7:12. It is an expression of God's will concerning man. It is God's perfect rule, containing the whole duty of man in every possible situation. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

One Fundamental Law

It is a matter of perplexity to find that some Christians are opposed to the law of God. What possible objection can they have to a law that enjoins love to God and man, that frowns on evil and encourages good? What possible objection can they have to a law the author of which is Jehovah, the end of which As holiness? Sinners might be expected to oppose it; for it exposes and condemns sin. But Christians are on A higher level. With the psalmist, they cry out, -0 how I 1ove Thy law it is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97.

As law in general is the foundation of government, so the law of God is the foundation of God's government. Ten short, clear cut statements proclaim the entire duty of man. As the fundamental law of God ,defining man's duty to God and to his fellow men, it is complete, concise, perfect. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it.

Law is emblematic of security, stability, faithfulness, uniformity, equality. Absence of law means chaos, with its attendant evils. The world is built on law; the universe is obedient to it. Infraction- of universal law would mean annihilation of the creation of God. Every part of creation is related to every other part, and what happens in one place reverberates to the ends of the universe. This makes universal law necessary. One law must control creation everywhere. Two conflicting laws would bring disaster.

The law of God is the fundamental moral law of the universe, embodied from eternity in the two great principles of love to God and love to man. These principles were amplified and suited to man's condition, and the Ten Commandments were proclaimed by God Himself at Mount Sinai. They constitute the basic law of life and existence. As stated above, they are not arbitrary requirements imposed ' for the sake of authority. They are such as God in His wise foresight saw were necessary if men were to live together in harmony, and human society become possible. And men's experiences have confirmed God's wisdom. The world has demonstrated that obedience to God's law is necessary to existence, to security, to life. The recent world wars are a demonstration of this fact. Men are learning that there is no profit in killing and destroying one another. They are becoming convinced that not only national security but world prosperity depend upon our adherence to the golden rule. They are coming to believe that the Ten Commandments cannot be consigned to limbo, and men and nations survive. They are finding out that God's law not only is a vital ingredient in religion but is necessary to existence itself.

This lesson is being impressed more and more upon men's consciousness as they attempt to cope with social conditions today. Crime is rampant, aggressive, defiant. Although sin and wickedness have existed since the fall, 'they have never before been practiced as they are now. Crime and lawlessness are organized, in some cases carrying on what amounts to a war against society. Often criminals are better armed and organized than are the forces of law and order. It is only lately that governments have awakened to the fact that they are face to face with disintegrating agencies that are bent on overthrowing both government and civilization. They are now making every effort to stamp out the evil, but find it no easy task. It is costly and exhausting, and at times disheartening; but it must be carried to a successful issue, or disaster will result. The governments' attempt to curtail graft, to eradicate vice, to stop racketeering, to uphold the sacredness of family relations, to compel honesty in public relations, and to protect property is an admission on their part that God is right, that men ought not to lie, steal, or commit adultery. The transgression of these commandments leads to disaster and disruption, and the government is justified in applying severe measures to better conditions and save society.

The movement to stamp out crime constitutes a mighty testimony to the integrity and enduring value of the commandments of God. Men and governments are learning that crime does not pay, that it is costly, and that it ruins and destroys. This is the lesson God wants men to learn. And they are finding out in their own way the value of obedience to law. Never before has the world had such an object lesson in the cost of crime, of transgression. One interesting phase is that society not only furnishes the material for the demonstration but pays the cost. This should make the lesson most effective.

Nature of Law

Law is an expression of the will, nature, and character of the governing power. Any law that is not such an expression soon ceases to function, and becomes obsolete. Human law is generally the result of experience, but may also be motivated by a desire to impose the will of a superior upon subjects. In either case, law has will as a basic factor, and is an expression of the will, the nature, and the character of the lawgiver. Law, therefore, derives from personality, and defines and reveals that personality.

The expression law of nature, as ordinarily employed, is misleading, and should be used only in an accommodated sense. Properly speaking, there is no law of nature as such; for nature has no will or thought of its own. What is generally meant by law of nature is the orderly process observable in nature, a definite mode of sequence that is generally predictable. The Christian believes the so-called laws of nature are the laws of God, an expression of personal will, and does not endow nature with attributes belonging only to personality, to God.

A. H. Strong uses an illustration which points an important lesson. As the Christian sees a shaft turning a large and complicated piece of machinery, and in his attempts to find out what makes the shaft revolve, comes to a brick wall from which it protrudes and beyond which he cannot see and cannot go, he does not arrive at the conclusion that the shaft turns itself. He cannot see, he cannot prove, the existence of the engine beyond the brick wall that gives the shaft its power. But he knows it is there. Good sense tells him this. Mere rationalism sees the shaft and marvels at its inherent power. The Christian sees the shaft also. But he sees beyond it. He sees the invisible, and he knows that there is a hidden power behind the shaft. To him it is simple, clear, nothing mysterious. He only wonders that all cannot see what seems to him so evident. So likewise through nature he sees nature's God, and the laws of nature are to him merely laws of God.

The law of God is a transcript of the divine nature, and as such is not “made” as human laws are made, any more than God is “made.” The law cannot be said to have had a beginning any more than God had a beginning. Being a revelation of what He is, its existence is coeval with God's. It cannot be changed except as God changes. It is not temporary, as God is not temporary. It is not an expression of arbitrary will, but a revelation of being. It is not local or confided 'to specific situations only, as God is not local. It is incapable of modification, representing as it does the unchangeable nature of God. It is immutable, holy, and good, because God is immutable, holy, and good. It is spiritual; it is just; it is universal. All this the law is and must be, being a transcript of the essential nature of God.

Elemental Law

At their creation Adam and Eve had an intuitive knowledge of God and His will. As in conversion the new man “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24), so God in the beginning endowed His creatures with righteousness and true holiness. Being created in the image of God, they were possessed of characteristics which greatly influenced their conduct, and bent their lives in conformity with God's ideal. This is the evident meaning of Paul in the text cited, and he confirms this further by stating that the new man “is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.” Col. 3: 10. Putting the two statements together, we are warranted in concluding that man in the beginning had an intuitive knowledge of God and possessed righteousness and true holiness, and that these characteristics are embraced in the conception “image of God.”

Of the exact extent of Adam's knowledge at creation we are not informed, but the fact that he was able the first day of his life rightly to evaluate the animals which passed before him, and name them in harmony with their peculiar dispositions, is suggestive of an insight deeper than that of which man is possessed today. It should be noted that while Adam “after God was “created in righteousness and true holiness,” these were gifts bestowed upon him which needed confirmation and conscious appropriation on his part before they became his absolutely, and that, hence, in due time he must be tested.

As God is love, and as Adam was created in the image of God, so the guiding principle in His creatures would also be love. When Adam and Eve met for the first time, there was no need of telling Adam that he must not do Eve any harm; nor did Eve need to be admonished not to be afraid of Adam. The love which God had implanted in their hearts solved such problems. Love works no ill to the neighbor, and perfect love casts out fear. It was no effort for Adam and Eve to love each other. It was a natural result of their being created in the image of God.

The love which thus possessed their hearts would cause them to love God as well as each other. There being no fear in love, they would with confidence approach God, and as their knowledge of Him increased, so would their love increase. Man did not need to be taught this love. It was his by virtue of being created in the image of God, and it constituted a sure foundation upon which God could build man's happiness and upon which He could place all the law and the prophets.

The advent of sin blurred man's conception of God and altered his relation to his fellow men. But a knowledge of God and man's responsibility to his fellow creatures has never been entirely obliterated from his consciousness, as evidenced by the groping after God found even among the lowest of uncivilized tribes, and their efforts to establish some kind of rude government based on individual or community rights. This finds a clearer illustration among civilized nations, where laws for the protection of life and property bear an undoubted likeness to God's law for men. The universality of this concept confirms the contention that deep in man's consciousness is implanted a knowledge of right and wrong, and though this knowledge is in many cases very limited and imperfect, a residue nevertheless remains which is sufficient to establish

moral responsibility, and for which men may be held accountable.

This Paul argues in the first chapters of Romans, where he says that “the Gentiles, which have not the law [in written form], do by nature the things contained in the law.” Romans 2:14. Paul's argument is based upon the fact that there is something in man, however debased, which corresponds to, and approves of, the law of God, and that though this knowledge is incomplete and meager, there is enough left so that “their thoughts the mean while [are] accusing or else excusing one another.” This shows, he argues further, “the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.” Verse 15. Paul does not, indeed, say that the Gentiles have the law written in the hearts, but the work of the law. Even this must not be understood to mean that all have all the law written there, but there is enough in the heart of every man to make him morally responsible; and to this must be added the further fact of his conscience also bearing witness.

In this argument Paul completely repudiates the assumption of the evolution theory that man has descended from a brute ancestry. On the contrary, he argues that all men have “by nature” a knowledge of the works of the law “written in their hearts”. That some moral judiciary in the soul causes them to accuse or else excuse one another; that in this process of self judgment the conscience also bears witness, and that they, though -having not the law, are a law unto themselves.” Verse 14. Such inner witness as Paul here presents can have its origin only in God. Slime and ooze and filth do not constitute sufficient ground to account for men “by nature” having “the work of the law written in their hearts,” or for men's “thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Such processes argue a divine origin; and when Paul asserts that men do “by nature the things contained in the law,” he ignores all acquired habits, and goes back to the nature which man had as originally created by God.

The intuitive knowledge which all men thus have of right and wrong-in greatly varying degrees -constitutes their moral responsibility, and is the measure used in the judgment. Hence, as “many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” Verse 12.

This asserts that it is possible for men to sin without law-that is, without a knowledge of the written law of God. In what, then, does their sin consist? “These, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.” Verse 14. Such knowledge as they have, imperfect though it be, is the criterion which determines their guilt “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Verse 16. If it be argued that the Scripture does not say that such shall be judged without law, we answer that the reason they perish is that they have sinned; and to execute judgment upon them without first judging them would be unlike God. The fact that they are found to have sinned presupposes investigation and judgment. They “are a law unto themselves,” and by this they are judged.

If it be conceded that men are so constituted that “by nature” they have a sense of moral obligation independent of any external revelation, we may well ask whether this sense of obligation concerns only the second table of the law. Man's relation to man-or does it extend to the first table also, man's relation to God? Are men so constituted by nature that they have, or may attain to, a knowledge of God without a written revelation?

This question Paul discusses in the first chapter of Romans. There he states unhesitatingly that God has so revealed Himself in nature that He may be known “by the things that are made,” and that the “invisible things of Him” - which are defined to include “even His eternal power and Godhead” may be “clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” Romans 1:20. These statements are evidently an inspired commentary on the words of the psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handy work.” Psalm 1:1. But Paul goes a step further when he affirms that “God hath showed it unto them,” and “that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” Romans 1: 19. This wording suggests that God not merely has revealed Himself in the things He has made that men might study them if they should feel so inclined, but that in some way God has stepped into the lives of individuals and “showed it unto them,” “so that they are without excuse.” Verse 20.

While this argument leaves men without excuse, it must not be carried so far as to make a written revelation unnecessary. It merely proves that men may and can find God by contemplating the things He has made, but it must also be admitted that it is not a perfect or complete revelation. As far as the Decalogue is concerned, there is one notable exception to which we would call attention. This is found in the fourth commandment.

Nature nowhere indicates a definite seventh day as the day of rest for man or God. No search in heaven or earth, no study of the majestic celestial bodies or of microscopic life on earth, reveals any specific day of rest. This is a matter of revelation only.

We would not presume to deny that there are indications of rest in nature, or that the human frame is not in need of periodic rest apart from that obtained in sleep, or at least a change of employment. On the contrary, we hold that a study of the functions of the body reveals the need of such rest and change, and that by nature men are inclined to seek such rest. We doubt, however, that men would necessarily, from mere reason or study, come to the conclusion that every seventh day, instead of every fifth or tenth day, should be set apart for rest. But even though we should admit such a possibility, we are absolutely certain that no amount of reasoning or research could ever reveal the identity of the true seventh day. That is a matter of pure revelation.

We therefore place the Sabbath commandment with the other nine as a distinctly moral commandment, all of them finding a response in human consciousness. We hold with Paul that men by nature have some knowledge of the precepts constituting the second table of the law, and we also agree with him that God has revealed Himself in nature that as men study the things that are made they may understand what may be known of God. So that even as regards the first table of the law they are without excuse.

 

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