God's Written Law and Israel
1. As a written law, it was given in the form of a covenant to Israel alone. As a preface to the giving of the "Ten Words" on Sinai, the Lord speaks thus through Moses to Israel: "Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; ... 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" (Exodus 19:3-5). Then after the giving of the law at Sinai, we read that Moses "took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people" (Exodus 24:7). As the giving of the law proceeded, the divine Voice enjoined upon Moses the making of a written record, "Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel" (Exodus 34:27).
After the completion of the written record, the Levites were commanded, "Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. (Deut. 31:26). In his article on the Decalogue, Dr. Sampey writes, "It was to Israel that the Decalogue was primarily addressed, and not to all mankind."
2. This divine covenant set forth in the Pentateuch is clearly described as a legal matter. Thus the Ten Commandments are spoken of as "the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you" (Deut. 9:9). And the legal record is referred to variously as "the book of the covenant" (Exodus 24:7) and "the words of the covenant" (Deut. 29:1). Furthermore, the penalties of the divine law are called "the curses of the covenant" (Deut. 29:21). Finally, the blood of the animals sacrificed in obedience to the law is characterized as 'the blood of the covenant" (Exodus 24:8). And the ark, which stands as a symbol of both moral and ceremonial law, is named "the ark of the covenant" (Numbers 10:33).
3. Regarded as a covenant, the blessings of the law were conditional, dependent on Israel's obedience. "If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: ... a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). "If thou shalt hearken diligently ... to observe and to do all his commandments ... all these blessings shall come on thee" (Deut. 28:1-2). (See also Deuteronomy 28:1-14). On the other hand, if the people of Israel find themselves groaning under the judgments of God, they must understand that all this is come upon them because "They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law" (Psalm 78:10).
4. Viewed as a law code, it was given to Israel because of sin. In answering the question, Wherefore then the law? Paul says "It was added because of transgressions" (Galatians 3:19). When the children of Israel left the bondage of Egypt their deliverance and exodus was accomplished in accordance with the gracious promise of a sovereign God. But how did they react to this undeserved deliverance? The sorry record in Exodus tells of their fearful wish to be back under the bondage of Egypt rather than face the perils of Pharaoh's host, their petulant murmuring against Moses because of the bitter waters at Marah, their lusting after the fleshpots of Egypt, their readiness to stone Moses because of their thirst in the desert - all this in the face of the Lord's mighty working of miracles in delivering them over and over. It was the transgressions of Israel that brought them to the foot of Sinai, for they continually failed to walk by faith under the gracious promises of a sovereign God. Strongly reminiscent of their failure is the warning of Hebrews 12:15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God". No other failure can be so disastrous in the moral and spiritual realm.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 11)