No. 03 – A Powerful Illustration
We have been learning that there is nothing that we can do right. Our own works are not good enough to satisfy the claims of the law. But God knows this and so He has promised to do all of the works for us. He is waiting for us to admit that we cannot do anything right and to ask Him to do it for us.
And we learned something really amazing – the law doesn’t want our obedience! It wants God’s obedience! And so if God wants us to spend the rest of eternity with Him, He DEFINITELY has to give us His own works. And He is more than happy to do that!
Now, you may be asking the question, how do I know if it is me or if it is God doing the works in my life? I have two answers for you:
Firstly, that is an excellent question! It is something you should always be asking – Lord, is it me or is it You? Am I doing the works or are You doing them? It is an excellent question because it causes us to become sensitive about our works and to be careful as to who is doing them.
Secondly, you will know when God is doing the works because you will have PEACE. You will go through the hardest and darkest trials of your life, but if God is the one dealing with the situation, you will have a constant peace in your heart and you will look back at the experience and think, wow, that definitely wasn’t me! And I can assure you that once you begin to know these things by experience, you will know when you are doing the works – because you will be stressed! This is why we stress about things – it is because we are depending on ourselves to deal with a situation and we are not sure we can deal with it right, but when we trust God to deal with it, there is no stress, because we know He will do it properly.
This time, we want to illustrate what we have been learning so far by using a very powerful Bible story.
The Israelites were journeying through the wilderness and came to the mountain of Sinai. There God spoke the ten commandments with thunder and lightning and earthquake and the people were terrified.
Did you know that it wasn’t part of God’s plan to speak the ten commandments at Sinai?
Come to Deuteronomy 5. Here Moses recounts before the people the ten commandments, THEN he says this in verse 22:
These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and He added no more. And he wrote them in two table of stone, and delivered them unto me.
This verse is often understood in the sense that God spoke the ten commandments, then He just didn’t say anything else. But the correct reading of this verse is that the law ITSELF was added. He just didn’t ADD anything more to what He had already ADDED.
Now this might be a bit hard for you to take in. But follow this thought all the way through, and for those of you that need it, I will share with you a statement from Ellen White where she confirms this.
Read the first part of Galatians 3:19:
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions…
WHY was the law added? Because of transgressions. It wasn’t God’s plan to speak the ten commandments, BUT He did, BECAUSE of transgressions. And so what was the transgression?
If the law was ADDED in Exodus 20, we can find the transgression in Exodus 19. And so let’s start by reading verses 1-3 of that chapter.
1| In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2| For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3| And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
Notice verse 2. They have come to Sinai and are now already camping before the mountain. Remember this.
Now come to verse 4:
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
God here asks them to remember what He has done for them. They were in bondage in Egypt. Could they set themselves free? No! He brought them out. They came to the shores of the red sea while Egypt’s armies were right behind them. Could they deliver themselves? No! God parted the red sea and delivered them. They came to the bitter waters of Marah. Could they make it sweet? No! God made it sweet. And God rained bread from heaven for them when they had no more food to eat.
Time and time again the Israelites were in a situation where they could do nothing to save themselves. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. But God, in His great love and mercy, delivered them. He did for them the things that they could not do for themselves.
And here at Sinai, God is asking them to remember this.
Now let’s read verses 5 & 6:
5| Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6| And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
God says, if you will keep MY covenant, you will be a holy nation. What does this mean? It means that they will be a nation without sin – where everyone is living a completely sinless life.
What covenant is God referring to? The same covenant that God made with their fathers. The same one that He made with Abraham.
What was the covenant He made with Abraham? God promised to take away the sin from his life. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God promised that He would destroy the serpent – The serpent represented Sin and Satan. The descendants of Adam that remained faithful would sacrifice an animal upon an altar. This represented Jesus Christ who would be the “Lamb of God” that would take away the sins of the world.
And so God came to Abraham and promised that through His seed the families of the earth would be blessed. This was the promise of Jesus Christ – that through his posterity, beginning with a child whom his wife Sarah would give birth to, the Saviour would eventually be born, and conquer sin and destroy Satan.
But Abraham had a problem. His wife Sarah, was barren – it was physically impossible for her to have a child! And so Abraham and his wife, looked at each other and said, “What are we going to do? If we don’t have a child, the Saviour will never be born, and we will never have forgiveness and deliverance from sin!” And so they panicked. Abraham’s wife suggested to Abraham that he has a child by her servant Hagar. And so he did. And she had a child. But it destroyed the peace in the home.
Abraham and Sarah made a terrible mistake. By arranging for Abraham to sleep with Hagar, they were trying to save themselves by their own works. Did you know that? This is what the story is REALLY about!
Abraham learned a hard lesson. But he did eventually learn it. What did he learn? Come to Romans 4:20-21:
20| He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21| And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Abraham learned that whatever God has promised, HE HIMSELF will perform it.
The covenant that God made with Abraham was simple. God said, you will have a child, and through that child, the Redeemer of the world will be born. Abraham, after learning his lesson, simply said, “AMEN! I believe you!” and went and had sex with his wife.
And so here at Sinai, God promises that the Israelites will be a holy nation – a nation without sin! And what He has promised, HE HIMSELF will perform it. All the Israelites had to do was say, AMEN! then go about their day believing that God would do what He had said.
But the Israelites didn’t do that. What did the Israelites say instead?
7| And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8| And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken WE will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
Uh-oh… BIG mistake…. Do you remember a certain people we read about in a previous presentation? They came to Jesus saying, Lord, Lord! Look at all of our wonderful works. Look at what WE did!
The Israelites told God that they would make THEMSELVES holy. They would eradicate sin from their own lives! Could they do that? Obviously not because in less than 40 days they were dancing around a golden calf naked!
Come to verse 12. Remember that at the time God sought to make His own covenant with the people, they were already camping in front of the mountain and that there was no boundary around it?
12And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
Now God says, separate the people from Me. Something changed in their relationship with God. The Bible refers to Abraham as the “friend of God”. He could talk to Him face to face. But the Israelites showed that they didn’t have the faith of their father Abraham. You see, to be someone’s friend requires something very important – TRUST. Abraham trusted God – he knew that God would keep His promise. The Israelites on the other hand, DOUBTED God, and showed that they did not trust Him to do what He had said.
God then proceeded to speak the ten commandments with thunders and lightnings and a terrible earthquake. He was saying to the Israelites, ” Here is a second chance! Do you really think that you can keep my law? Look! It is higher than you, more majestic than you! How do you ever think that you can meet this standard! You can’t do it! Let me do it for you!”
But again the Israelites said, “All that the Lord has said, we will do it. We will keep the ten commandments. We will make ourselves holy.”
Before Sinai, the law did exist – it was written in the HEARTS of God’s faithful people. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham all trusted God to keep His own law in their lives. These men knew who they were, these men knew that they could do nothing to save themselves, and that their own works were futile, and so they trusted God to do for them the things that they could not do.
The sense in the “law being” ADDED was not that the law was NEW. It is just that Adam, Enoch, Noah etc., never confessed to be able to keep it, and so it never stood as a witness against them to condemn them. It was written in their hearts by the Spirit of God who lived it in their lives. But the Israelites had claimed to be able to make themselves holy. And so God said, here is the definition of “Holy”. Do you really think you can do it? And the people said, We can! They rejected God’s covenant, and made their own covenant with Him, and now they were “under the law” – the law was there in all its glory to testify AGAINST them. And to condemn them.
Ellet Waggoner, one of the two men whom God used to bring a simpler understanding of salvation to us, makes some very interesting observations in his book, The Everlasting Covenant:
EJ Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant 332
A careful reading of Exodus 19:1-6, will show that there is no intimation that another covenant was then to be made… the evidence is to the contrary. The Lord referred to His covenant–the covenant long before given to Abraham– and exhorted them to keep it, and told what would be the result of their keeping it. The covenant with Abraham was… a covenant of faith, and they could keep it simply by keeping the faith. God did not ask them to enter into another covenant with Him, but only to accept His covenant of peace, which He had long before given to the fathers.
The proper response of the people therefore would have been, “Amen, even so, O Lord, let it be done unto us according to Thy will.” On the contrary they said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do;” and they repeated their promise, with additional emphasis, even after they had heard the law spoken… Think of mortal men presuming to be able to do God’s work!
Their assuming the responsibility of working the works of God, showed lack of appreciation of His greatness and holiness… Their promises were good for nothing, because they had not the power to fulfil them. All that they could get from that covenant was just what they could get from themselves, and that was death… Their entering into that covenant was a virtual notification to the Lord that they could get along very well without Him; that they were able to fulfil any promise He could make.
The people should have said “AMEN!” We believe you! We trust you! And we will LET you do for us what you have said! But instead, they took it upon themselves to work the works of God…
Do you realise that? In claiming to be able to keep the law, they were claiming to be able to work the works of God?
Do you remember what we have learned about what the law REALLY wants? The law is the definition of God’s character – it is the description of HIS perfection. The law wants GOD’s own perfect right-doing in our lives and will not accept anything else!
The law was ADDED because of TRANSGRESSION. What was the transgression? The transgression was, “We will do it! We will make ourselves holy.”
How bad do you think this transgression was? Are you ready to hear something really shocking?
12| How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13| For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:14| I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
How bad was their transgression at Sinai? The Israelites made the same mistake as Satan in heaven! The law is the definition of God’s character and when the Israelites claimed to be able to make themselves holy, they were saying, that they would be like God!
This is THE transgression that caused the law to enter with so much fear and condemnation. Because it is the same sin that Satan committed in heaven!
Remember what we read in Matthew 7?
These people claimed to have done everything that God required of them. They said, WE have done many wonderful works. Look! Look! Look at how good we are!
And Jesus says, verse 23:
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
These people are cast out! Just like Satan was cast out of heaven! Because their sin is the same.
And today, many of us are making the SAME MISTAKE!
When we claim that we can keep God’s law, oh, but there’s just one difference between us and the Israelites, right? God, IF YOU GIVE ME THE STRENGTH, I WILL KEEP YOUR LAW. Friends, we are still claiming that we can make OURSELVES like God. Oh yes we might speak so much against the teaching that man is an eternal being but we are no better than Eve in the garden of Eden and have fallen into the same trap. And in a way, its worse, because many people who will be in heaven have died believing in the immortality of the soul, but no one will be there who was saved by their own works.
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
“You shall be as gods…” An absolute lie, but it comes in so many different ways doesn’t it? The serpent was more subtle than any beast in the field… Just when you think you’re safe, you find that Satan has fooled you anyway.
What God wants from us is what His law wants – a life filled with His own perfect working. God knows our sinful condition and that we CANNOT do anything right! And so He wants to save us from eternal destruction by doing the works for us. But we think we can help Him – we think that if He gives us the strength, then WE can do it. In reality, what we are saying is, I CAN work the works of God – I will be like Him.
When Jesus comes, He will change our bodies. He will take the sinfulness out of our humanity. But we will still be human. Even though we will sit upon His throne, and reign with Him, He will still be supreme. Because He is God, and we never will be. All our advantages in this life and in the life to come are GIFTS from God – the inheritance is ours not by merit, or even birth! But by adoption. And grace. Through all eternity, we will worship Him who is the source of our eternal life. We, will never be God.
I promised to show you a statement from Ellen White:
Patriarchs & Prophets 364
If the descendants of Abraham had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham… they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone.
There you have it, for those that needed it. It was NEVER God’s plan to speak the ten commandments. If we had just trusted Him in the first place, we wouldn’t have been standing in the shadow of its condemnation for so much of our lives.
I want to close this meditation with one more reference:
1| Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2| For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3| For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Let’s read verse 3 again, and substitute the word “righteousness” with “right-doing”:
3| For they being ignorant of God’s right-doing, and going about to establish their own right-doing, have not submitted themselves unto the right-doing of God.
Don’t things make perfect sense now? Have you been making the same mistake as ancient Israel? We have been going through our lives trying to establish our own righteousness, our own right-doing, trying to make ourselves ready for Jesus Second Coming, but we have been ignorant of the fact that GOD needs to be the One doing the works.
But I was never told these things! And you probably haven’t been either. Thank God that in these last moments of earth’s history, God is sweeping away our ignorance and telling us the things that we so desperately need to hear.
Do you still think that if God gives you the strength, your works will be acceptable? Or if you are a converted person, then your works are good enough? Maybe you still think that if you do good works from a heart that is motivated by love, THEN the law will be happy with you?
Come back again next time, and we will answer this very clearly by looking at our Great Example. How did Jesus live? Who did the good works in His life?
If He is our example, then it should be pretty obvious. I look forward to you joining me again.