SEEING their leader walk out of sight up smoking Mount Sinai had a strange effect on many of the people. Even though quaking with awe, their curiosity was so strong that they wanted to follow Moses. Before he could get very far up the mountain, God ordered him back.
Moses Rushes Down
"People are trying to follow you," God informed him. "Return at once and warn them against trespassing on holy ground. If they come too close, they will die. You may bring Aaron when you come back, but no one else." (Ex. 19:24.) On his way down, Moses loudly warned those approaching the barricades to turn back. "We don't mind you reprimanding us," some of them said, "but we don't want a reprimand from God. We might not live through it." (Ex. 20:19.) The people having been warned, there were more terrifying sights and sounds, followed by dramatic silence again. Then out of the silence broke the most awesome of sounds.
The Voice of the Eternal Booms Out the Ten Commandments
"I am the Eternal, your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt!" This pronouncement from the One known as Jesus Christ was followed by more disturbing silence. An ear-splitting trumpet blast then preceded God's thundering out His ten great laws — THE TEN COMMANDMENTS! "YOU SHALL HAVE NO GODS BUT ME!" boomed the thunderous voice after
the echoes of the trumpet had died away. This wasn't the Father in Heaven speaking. It was the Spokesman who became Jesus Christ, speaking in the name of the Supremely Divine God Family. (Eph. 3:15 and John 1:18.) Moses, Aaron and the seventy elders, huddled back from the barricades, hardly dared glance up at the brilliant light above them. After a short silence a second Commandment rumbled from the sky: "YOU SHALL NOT CARVE IMAGES OF THINGS IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH FOR THE PURPOSE OF BOWING DOWN TO THEM IN WORSHIP! I AM A JEALOUS GOD! I PUNISH THOSE WHO HATE ME DOWN TO THEIR THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATIONS, BUT I SHOW CONSTANT LOVE TO THOUSANDS WHO LOVE ME AND OBEY MY LAWS!" Again there was a short period of utter silence. Then: "YOU SHALL NOT USE THE NAME OF THE ETERNAL YOUR GOD IN ANY WRONG OR USELESS MANNER! I WILL PUNISH THOSE WHO UTTER MY NAME WITHOUT RESPECT AND REVERENCE!" Intense silence prevailed shortly, to be broken by the tremendous Voice giving a fourth Commandment: "REMEMBER TO OBSERVE THE HOLY SABBATH! YOU SHALL LABOR AND DO ALL YOUR BUSINESS ONLY ON THE FIRST SIX DAYS OF THE WEEK! THE SEVENTH IS A HOLY DAY IN HONOR TO YOUR GOD. ON THAT DAY YOU SHALL DO NO SERVILE WORK! NEITHER SHALL ANY OF YOUR FAMILY, YOUR SERVANTS, YOUR ANIMALS NOR ANY PERSON LIVING WITH YOU! YOUR GOD REBUILT THE EARTH IN SIX DAYS AND RESTED ON THE SEVENTH! HE THEREFORE MADE THE SEVENTH DAY HOLY TIME!" The next silence was longer than the others because it was the division between the four Commandments that have to do with man's duty to his Creator and the six that show his duty toward his fellow man. All ten add up to perfect love for God and man. The last six were separated by short spans of silence. "GIVE SPECIAL RESPECT TO YOUR PARENTS, THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG IN THE LAND YOUR GOD GIVES YOU AS A GIFT!" "YOU SHALL NOT MURDER!" "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY!" "YOU SHALL NOT STEAL!" "YOU SHALL NOT LIE ABOUT ANYONE!" "YOU SHALL NOT DESIRE TO WRONGFULLY OWN THE HOME OF ANOTHER PERSON! YOU SHALL NOT COVET HIS WIFE, SERVANTS OR ANY OF HIS POSSESSIONS!" (Ex. 20:1-17.) The trumpet sounded again, signaling the conclusion to the uttering of the Ten Commandments. These were and are the vital laws through which an all-wise and all-loving God reveals to mankind the way to find happiness, good health, protection and prosperity.
In Force from the Beginning
The ten holy laws had been in effect long before then. Adam and Eve knew about them, and bitterly regretted breaking several. Men of ancient times, including Abraham, were aware of and obeyed them. (Gen. 26:5.) Down through the centuries pagan ways had become so mixed in with God's laws that God chose this time at Mount Sinai to distinctly set forth His rules for living in a clear way to His people. They were meant for all human beings. Obedience to them results in the best of everything. If all people kept the Commandments, there would be no war, poverty, sickness, misery, jails, asylums or unhappiness! Down through time most people have chosen not to follow God's laws. They have foolishly believed man's ways are easier and better. However, man isn't capable of successfully leading a long and happy life without obeying God's spiritual and physical laws. Millions of people have never so much as heard of God, mostly because their ancestors chose to ignore their Creator. The result has been six thousand years of suffering, poverty and unhappiness for a lot of people. Today the opportunities to find out about God are greater in some nations than they were in the past, though pagan beliefs are again increasingly mixed with so-called Christianity. One of the most harmful, taught even by respected church leaders, is that keeping the Ten Commandments isn't necessary. The Bible states that "false shepherds" will spring up to try to hide the truth. (Acts 20:29, 30 and II Peter 2:1.)
Moses Returns Atop Sinai
When finally Moses and Aaron got up from where they had been kneeling, the strong light above them had dimmed and the guiding cloud still obscured the mountain's peak. The seventy elders walked away to tell the people that Moses would go up the mountain to hear more from God. This relieved the crowd, which had become increasingly fearful of God's closeness and His voice. When he was well up Mount Sinai and obscured by the cloud, Moses was informed of many things he was to tell the elders to pass on to the people. "They need further rules to spare them from trouble," God said to Moses. "Remember these judgments I will give you." Thereupon Moses was given rules covering many circumstances and situations requiring God's wisdom. They included how to deal with murderers, thieves, sorcerers and the disorderly, how to settle various charges and claims, how to observe God's yearly Sabbaths and even how to handle vicious animals. (Ex. 21, 22 and 23.) It was pointed out that rebellion was a serious sin, but that willing obedience would result in helpful miracles. "You will be confronted with nations of idol-worshipers when you near Caanan," God continued. "I shall weaken their armies with swarms of hornets, so that you will take the land bounded by the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the deserts of Arabia and the Euphrates River. I shall free you from sickness and disease, cause your women to bear many children and your flocks and herds to multiply greatly. I will not allow other peoples to remain in your land, lest you mingle with them and serve their gods." (Ex. 23:28-33.) Moses returned to the valley to tell the elders what he had been told. The elders passed the information on to the people, who readily agreed to abide by it. Moses recorded the rules and conditions of this agreement between the Israelites and their Creator.
The Making of the Covenant at Sinai
Next morning Moses directed the building of an altar on a slope of Mount Sinai. Around it were placed twelve large stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Young men prepared animals for peace offerings placed on wood on the altar. Moses took half of the blood from the animals and sprinkled it over the wood fuel. As flames crackled through the wood, he read aloud the newly-written agreement before the people. "So be it!" the elders exclaimed after the reading. "We will be obedient to whatever God asks!" "So be it!" the people chorused. "We will obey God!" "Then witness this blood of agreement with our Creator!" Moses proclaimed as he sprinkled the other half of the blood on the elders who represented the people. (Ex. 24:4-8.) Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Hur, Aaron's two oldest sons and several elders, later went up Mount Sinai. Part way up, as they paused to rest, the guiding cloud lowered to envelop the upper part of the mountain. An alarming darkness resulted, out of which grew a strange light. The climbers looked above to take in an awesome sight. The cloud had vanished, leaving a sapphire-like expanse flecked with beautiful beams of light. (Ex. 24:10.) The men fell on their faces when they realized they were staring up at a radiant Being in that blue translucency! "God has come down to us!" Moses declared to the astonished onlookers, who could scarcely believe they were seeing one of the God Family who later appeared as Jesus Christ. (I John 4:12.) At first the men were afraid, but gradually such a relaxing exhilaration came on them they were able to rest and even eat in the presence of the One who had created the universe! (Verse 11.) This was a very special privilege few men have experienced. Most people fail to realize it is also a special privilege to talk to the Creator, something that can be done simply by a proper attitude and prayer. After a while the view faded and the cloud reappeared to cover the peak of the mountain. God's voice rumbled out of the cloud, telling Moses to come on up to receive tablets of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments to take to the people. Realizing he might be gone quite a while, Moses told the men to wait until a certain time and then go back down if he hadn't returned. He chose Joshua to continue upward with him. Farther up, their progress was stopped by the increasing density of the cloud, through which strange, flickering beams of light could be seen.
What Was the Covenant?
The covenant or agreement made at Mount Sinai between God and Israel was nothing to be taken lightly. It was later referred to in the Bible as a sacred marriage contract between God, as the husband, and Israel as the wife. It was a binding promise God would always take care of His wife, Israel, who would always be faithful and never have anything to do with the false gods of other nations. The rules of the marriage covenant were the Ten Commandments and the civil laws later given on Mount Sinai. The terms were that Israel was to remain faithful by obeying God's laws to insure happiness, good health, many children and prosperity. Unfaithfulness would mean misery, disease, poverty and possible DIVORCE. To better understand about the old covenant, it's necessary to jump ahead in the chain of events and divulge that Israel failed to live up to its terms. The covenant was broken. Israel was punished and divorced and sent out of the Promised Land. (Jer. 3:6-10.) Centuries later, when Jesus Christ came to Earth, He drew up terms for a new marriage agreement with Israel. He became the mediator or agent of a proposed new covenant, much as Moses was the agent or go-between of the old covenant. The new covenant won't be completed until Jesus returns to rule the world. (Heb. 8:8.) After proposing the new covenant, Jesus died, thus freeing Israel from the first marriage contract. Even though God (Jesus Christ) divorced Israel, that nation was still bound to Him until His death. Many religious denominations teach that because the old covenant is broken and dead, the Ten Commandments are dead and not to be obeyed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Belief in that lie has caused much misery to mankind. The Ten Commandments were the basis of the old covenant. They are living, unchanged spiritual laws, staying in effect as does God's physical law of gravity, regardless of what anyone has to say about it. Those ten spiritual laws are meant for all men in all nations down through time. The breaking of the covenant didn't lessen their effect. They existed before the old covenant was made. They are the main spiritual laws of the new covenant. Jesus had to die because they were broken. The ceremonial and ritual laws after the old covenant agreement to remind the Israelites of their sins were no part of the Ten Commandments. (Jer. 7:22 and Gal. 3:19.) For six days Moses and Joshua waited in the heavy vapor. There were times when they had the urge to try to return to the valley, but they patiently waited for whatever God expected of them. On the seventh day a voice called for Moses to proceed upward. Moses asked Joshua to wait for him, and disappeared into the mist, which opened just enough to show the way.