The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 28: Idolatry at Sinai
How could Israel be led into idolatry just after hearing the law forbidding it thundered from the mountain?
Pacific Press Publ. Assoc.
While Moses was absent it was a time of waiting and
suspense to Israel. The people knew that he had ascended
the mount with Joshua, and had entered the cloud of thick darkness
which could be seen from the plain below, resting on the
mountain peak, illuminated from time to time with the lightnings
of the divine Presence. They waited eagerly for his return.
Accustomed as they had been in Egypt to material representations
of deity, it had been hard for them to trust in an invisible
being, and they had come to rely upon Moses to sustain their
faith. Now he was taken from them. Day after day, week after
week passed, and still he did not return. Notwithstanding the
cloud was still in view, it seemed to many in the camp that
their leader had deserted them, or that he had been consumed
by the devouring fire.
During this period of waiting, there was time for them to
meditate upon the law of God which they had heard, and to
prepare their hearts to receive the further revelations that He might
make to them. They had none too much time for this work; and
had they been thus seeking a clearer understanding of God's
requirements, and humbling their hearts before Him, they would
have been shielded from temptation. But they did not do this,
and they soon became careless, inattentive, and lawless.
Especially was this the case with the mixed multitude. They were
impatient to be on their way to the Land of Promise—the land
flowing with milk and honey. It was only on condition of obedience
that the goodly land was promised them, but they had lost
sight of this. There were some who suggested a return to Egypt,
but whether forward to Canaan or backward to Egypt, the
masses of the people were determined to wait no longer for
Feeling their helplessness in the absence of their leader, they [p. 316] returned to their old superstitions. The "mixed multitude" had
been the first to indulge murmuring and impatience, and they
were the leaders in the apostasy that followed. Among the objects
regarded by the Egyptians as symbols of deity was the ox or calf;
and it was at the suggestion of those who had practiced this form
of idolatry in Egypt that a calf was now made and worshiped.
The people desired some image to represent God, and to go
before them in the place of Moses. God had given no manner of
similitude of Himself, and He had prohibited any material
representation for such a purpose. The mighty miracles in Egypt
and at the Red Sea were designed to establish faith in Him as
the invisible, all-powerful Helper of Israel, the only true God.
And the desire for some visible manifestation of His presence
had been granted in the pillar of cloud and of fire that guided
their hosts, and in the revealing of His glory upon Mount Sinai.
But with the cloud of the Presence still before them, they turned
back in their hearts to the idolatry of Egypt, and represented
the glory of the invisible God by the similitude of an ox!
In the absence of Moses, the judicial authority had been
delegated to Aaron, and a vast crowd gathered about his tent, with
the demand, "Make us gods, which shall go before us; for as
for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of
Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. [* See Appendix, Note 4.]
The cloud, they said, that had heretofore led them, now rested
permanently upon the mount; it would no longer direct their travels.
They must have an image in its place; and if, as had been suggested,
they should decide to return to Egypt, they would find favor with
the Egyptians by bearing this image before them and acknowledging
it as their god.
Such a crisis demanded a man of firmness, decision, and
unflinching courage; one who held the honor of God above popular
favor, personal safety, or life itself. But the present leader of
Israel was not of this character. Aaron feebly remonstrated with
the people, but his wavering and timidity at the critical moment
only rendered them the more determined. The tumult increased.
A blind, unreasoning frenzy seemed to take possession of the
multitude. There were some who remained true to their covenant
with God, but the greater part of the people joined in the
apostasy. A few who ventured to denounce the proposed image [p. 317] making as idolatry, were set upon and roughly treated, and in
the confusion and excitement they finally lost their lives.
Aaron feared for his own safety; and instead of nobly standing
up for the honor of God, he yielded to the demands of the
multitude. His first act was to direct that the golden earrings
be collected from all the people and brought to him, hoping
that pride would lead them to refuse such a sacrifice. But they
willingly yielded up their ornaments; and from these he made
a molten calf, in imitation of the gods of Egypt. The people
proclaimed, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up
out of the land of Egypt." And Aaron basely permitted this
insult to Jehovah. He did more. Seeing with what satisfaction the
golden god was received, he built an altar before it, and made
proclamation, "Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord." The announcement
was heralded by trumpeters from company to company
throughout the camp. "And they rose up early on the morrow,
and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and
the people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play."
Under the pretense of holding "a feast to the Lord," they gave
themselves up to gluttony and licentious reveling.
How often, in our own day, is the love of pleasure disguised
by a "form of godliness."! A religion that permits men, while
observing the rites of worship, to devote themselves to selfish or
sensual gratification, is as pleasing to the multitudes now as in
the days of Israel. And there are still pliant Aarons, who, while
holding positions of authority in the church, will yield to the
desires of the unconsecrated, and thus encourage them in sin.
Only a few days had passed since the Hebrews had made a
solemn covenant with God to obey His voice. They had stood
trembling with terror before the mount, listening to the words
of the Lord, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." The
glory of God still hovered above Sinai in the sight of the
congregation; but they turned away, and asked for other gods. "They
made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image. Thus
they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox." Psalm
106:19, 20. How could greater ingratitude have been shown, or
more daring insult offered, to Him who had revealed Himself
to them as a tender father and an all-powerful king!
Moses in the mount was warned of the apostasy in the camp [p. 318] and was directed to return without delay. "Go, get thee down,"
were the words of God; "thy people, which thou broughtest out
of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have
turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them.
They have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it."
God might have checked the movement at the outset; but He
suffered it to come to this height that He might teach all a lesson
in His punishment of treason and apostasy.
God's covenant with His people had been disannulled, and
He declared to Moses, "Let Me alone, that My wrath may wax
hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will
make of thee a great nation." The people of Israel, especially
the mixed multitude, would be constantly disposed to rebel
against God. They would also murmur against their leader, and
would grieve him by their unbelief and stubbornness, and it
would be a laborious and soul-trying work to lead them through
to the Promised Land. Their sins had already forfeited the favor
of God, and justice called for their destruction. The Lord therefore
proposed to destroy them, and make of Moses a mighty
"Let Me alone, . . . that I may consume them," were the
words of God. If God had purposed to destroy Israel, who could
plead for them? How few but would have left the sinners to
their fate! How few but would have gladly exchanged a lot of
toil and burden and sacrifice, repaid with ingratitude and murmuring,
for a position of ease and honor, when it was God Himself
that offered the release.
But Moses discerned ground for hope where there appeared
only discouragement and wrath. The words of God, "Let Me
alone," he understood not to forbid but to encourage intercession,
implying that nothing but the prayers of Moses could save
Israel, but that if thus entreated, God would spare His people.
He "besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth Thy
wrath wax hot against Thy people, which Thou hast brought
forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a
God had signified that He disowned His people. He had
spoken of them to Moses as "thy people, which thou broughtest
out of Egypt." But Moses humbly disclaimed the leadership of
Israel. They were not his, but God's—"Thy people, which Thou
has brought forth . . . with great power, and with a mighty [p. 319] hand. Wherefore," he urged, "should the Egyptians speak, and
say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the
mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?"
During the few months since Israel left Egypt, the report of
their wonderful deliverance had spread to all the surrounding
nations. Fear and terrible foreboding rested upon the heathen.
All were watching to see what the God of Israel would do for
His people. Should they now be destroyed, their enemies would
triumph, and God would be dishonored. The Egyptians would
claim that their accusations were true—instead of leading His
people into the wilderness to sacrifice, He had caused them to
be sacrificed. They would not consider the sins of Israel; the
destruction of the people whom He had so signally honored,
would bring reproach upon His name. How great the responsibility
resting upon those whom God has highly honored, to make
His name a praise in the earth! With what care should they
guard against committing sin, to call down His judgments and
cause His name to be reproached by the ungodly!
As Moses interceded for Israel, his timidity was lost in his
deep interest and love for those for whom he had, in the hands
of God, been the means of doing so much. The Lord listened
to his pleadings, and granted his unselfish prayer. God had
proved His servant; He had tested his faithfulness and his love
for that erring, ungrateful people, and nobly had Moses endured
the trial. His interest in Israel sprang from no selfish motive.
The prosperity of God's chosen people was dearer to him than
personal honor, dearer than the privilege of becoming the father
of a mighty nation. God was pleased with his faithfulness,
his simplicity of heart, and his integrity, and He committed to
him, as a faithful shepherd, the great charge of leading Israel to
the Promised Land.
As Moses and Joshua came down from the mount, the former
bearing the "tables of the testimony," they heard the shouts
and outcries of the excited multitude, evidently in a state of
wild uproar. To Joshua the soldier, the first thought was of an
attack from their enemies. "There is a noise of war in the camp,"
he said. But Moses judged more truly the nature of the commotion.
The sound was not that of combat, but of revelry. "It is
not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the
voice of them that cry for being overcome; but the noise of them
that sing do I hear." [p. 320]
As they drew near the encampment, they beheld the people
shouting and dancing around their idol. It was a scene of heathen
riot, an imitation of the idolatrous feasts of Egypt; but how unlike
the solemn and reverent worship of God! Moses was overwhelmed.
He had just come from the presence of God's glory,
and though he had been warned of what was taking place, he
was unprepared for that dreadful exhibition of the degradation
of Israel. His anger was hot. To show his abhorrence of their
crime, he threw down the tables of stone, and they were broken
in the sight of all the people, thus signifying that as they had
broken their covenant with God, so God had broken His covenant
Entering the camp, Moses passed through the crowds of revelers,
and seizing upon the idol, cast it into the fire. He afterward
ground it to powder, and having strewed it upon the stream
that descended from the mount, he made the people drink of
it. Thus was shown the utter worthlessness of the god which
they had been worshiping.
The great leader summoned his guilty brother and sternly
demanded, "What did this people unto thee, that thou hast
brought so great a sin upon them?" Aaron endeavored to shield
himself by relating the clamors of the people; that if he had not
complied with their wishes, he would have been put to death.
"Let not the anger of my lord wax hot," he said; "thou knowest
the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me,
Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the
man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not
what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath
any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it
into the fire, and there came out this calf." He would lead Moses
to believe that a miracle had been wrought—that the gold had
been cast into the fire, and by supernatural power changed to a
calf. But his excuses and prevarications were of no avail. He was
justly dealt with as the chief offender.
The fact that Aaron had been blessed and honored so far
above the people was what made his sin so heinous. It was Aaron
"the saint of the Lord" (Psalm 106:16), that had made the idol
and announced the feast. It was he who had been appointed as
spokesman for Moses, and concerning whom God Himself had
testified, "I know that he can speak well" (Exodus 4:14), that
had failed to check the idolaters in their heaven-daring purpose. [p. 323] He by whom God had wrought in bringing judgments
both upon the Egyptians and upon their gods, had heard
unmoved the proclamation before the molten image, "These be
thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of
Egypt." It was he who had been with Moses on the mount, and
had there beheld the glory of the Lord, who had seen that in the
manifestation of that glory there was nothing of which an image
could be made—it was he who had changed that glory into the
similitude of an ox. He to whom God had committed the government
of the people in the absence of Moses, was found sanctioning
their rebellion. "The Lord was very angry with Aaron
to have destroyed him." Deuteronomy 9:20. But in answer to the
earnest intercession of Moses, his life was spared; and in penitence
and humiliation for his great sin, he was restored to the
favor of God.
If Aaron had had courage to stand for the right, irrespective
of consequences, he could have prevented that apostasy. If he
had unswervingly maintained his own allegiance to God, if he had
cited the people to the perils of Sinai, and had reminded them
of their solemn covenant with God to obey His law, the evil
would have been checked. But his compliance with the desires
of the people and the calm assurance with which he proceeded
to carry out their plans, emboldened them to go to greater lengths
in sin than had before entered their minds.
When Moses, on returning to the camp, confronted the rebels,
his severe rebukes and the indignation he displayed in breaking
the sacred tables of the law were contrasted by the people with
his brother's pleasant speech and dignified demeanor, and their
sympathies were with Aaron. To justify himself, Aaron endeavored
to make the people responsible for his weakness in
yielding to their demand; but notwithstanding this, they were
filled with admiration of his gentleness and patience. But God
seeth not as man sees. Aaron's yielding spirit and his desire to
please had blinded his eyes to the enormity of the crime he was
sanctioning. His course in giving his influence to sin in Israel
cost the life of thousands. In what contrast with this was the
course of Moses, who, while faithfully executing God's judgments,
showed that the welfare of Israel was dearer to him than
prosperity or honor or life.
Of all the sins that God will punish, none are more grievous
in His sight than those that encourage others to do evil. God [p. 324] would have His servants prove their loyalty by faithfully rebuking
transgression, however painful the act may be. Those who are
honored with a divine commission are not to be weak, pliant time-servers.
They are not to aim at self-exaltation, or to shun disagreeable
duties, but to perform God's work with unswerving fidelity.
Though God had granted the prayer of Moses in sparing
Israel from destruction, their apostasy was to be signally
punished. The lawlessness and insubordination into which Aaron
had permitted them to fall, if not speedily crushed, would run
riot in wickedness, and would involve the nation in irretrievable
ruin. By terrible severity the evil must be put away. Standing
in the gate of the camp, Moses called to the people, "Who is
on the Lord's side? let him come unto me." Those who had
not joined in the apostasy were to take their position at the right
of Moses; those who were guilty but repentant, at the left. The
command was obeyed. It was found that the tribe of Levi had
taken no part in the idolatrous worship. From among other
tribes there were great numbers who, although they had sinned,
now signified their repentance. But a large company, mostly of
the mixed multitude that instigated the making of the calf,
stubbornly persisted in their rebellion. In the name of "the
Lord God of Israel," Moses now commanded those upon his
right hand, who had kept themselves clear of idolatry, to gird
on their swords and slay all who persisted in rebellion. "And
there fell of the people that day about three thousand men."
Without regard to position, kindred, or friendship, the ringleaders
in wickedness were cut off; but all who repented and humbled
themselves were spared.
Those who performed this terrible work of judgment were
acting by divine authority, executing the sentence of the King of
heaven. Men are to beware how they, in their human blindness,
judge and condemn their fellow men; but when God commands
them to execute His sentence upon iniquity, He is to be obeyed.
Those who performed this painful act, thus manifested their
abhorrence of rebellion and idolatry, and consecrated themselves
more fully to the service of the true God. The Lord
honored their faithfulness by bestowing special distinction upon
the tribe of Levi.
The Israelites had been guilty of treason, and that against a
King who had loaded them with benefits and whose authority
they had voluntarily pledged themselves to obey. That the divine [p. 325] government might be maintained justice must be visited upon
the traitors. Yet even here God's mercy was displayed. While He
maintained His law, He granted freedom of choice and opportunity
for repentance to all. Only those were cut off who persisted
It was necessary that this sin should be punished, as a testimony
to surrounding nations of God's displeasure against idolatry.
By executing justice upon the guilty, Moses, as God's instrument,
must leave on record a solemn and public protest against their
crime. As the Israelites should hereafter condemn the idolatry
of the neighboring tribes, their enemies would throw back upon
them the charge that the people who claimed Jehovah as their
God had made a calf and worshiped it in Horeb. Then though
compelled to acknowledge the disgraceful truth, Israel could point
to the terrible fate of the transgressors, as evidence that their sin
had not been sanctioned or excused.
Love no less than justice demanded that for this sin judgment
should be inflicted. God is the guardian as well as the
sovereign of His people. He cuts off those who are determined
upon rebellion, that they may not lead others to ruin. In sparing
the life of Cain, God had demonstrated to the universe what
would be the result of permitting sin to go unpunished. The
influence exerted upon his descendants by his life and teaching led
to the state of corruption that demanded the destruction of the
whole world by a flood. The history of the antediluvians testifies
that long life is not a blessing to the sinner; God's great forbearance
did not repress their wickedness. The longer men lived, the
more corrupt they became.
So with the apostasy at Sinai. Unless punishment had been
speedily visited upon transgression, the same results would again
have been seen. The earth would have become as corrupt as in
the days of Noah. Had these transgressors been spared, evils
would have followed, greater than resulted from sparing the life
of Cain. It was the mercy of God that thousands should suffer,
to prevent the necessity of visiting judgments upon millions. In
order to save the many, He must punish the few. Furthermore,
as the people had cast off their allegiance to God, they had
forfeited the divine protection, and, deprived of their defense, the
whole nation was exposed to the power of their enemies. Had
not the evil been promptly put away, they would soon have fallen
a prey to their numerous and powerful foes. It was necessary [p. 326] for the good of Israel, and also as a lesson to all succeeding
generations, that crime should be promptly punished. And it was
no less a mercy to the sinners themselves that they should be cut
short in their evil course. Had their life been spared, the same
spirit that led them to rebel against God would have been
manifested in hatred and strife among themselves, and they would
eventually have destroyed one another. It was in love to the
world, in love to Israel, and even to the transgressors, that crime
was punished with swift and terrible severity.
As the people were roused to see the enormity of their guilt,
terror pervaded the entire encampment. It was feared that every
offender was to be cut off. Pitying their distress, Moses promised
to plead once more with God for them.
"Ye have sinned a great sin," he said, "and now I will go up
unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your
sin." He went, and in his confession before God he said, "Oh,
this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods
of gold. Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not,
blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written."
The answer was, "Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will
I blot out of My book. Therefore now go, lead the people into
the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, Mine Angel
shall go before thee: nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will
visit their sin upon them."
In the prayer of Moses our minds are directed to the heavenly
records in which the names of all men are inscribed, and
their deeds, whether good or evil, are faithfully registered. The
book of life contains the names of all who have ever entered the
service of God. If any of these depart from Him, and by stubborn
persistence in sin become finally hardened against the
influences of His Holy Spirit, their names will in the judgment
be blotted from the book of life, and they themselves will be
devoted to destruction. Moses realized how dreadful would be
the fate of the sinner; yet if the people of Israel were to be
rejected by the Lord, he desired his name to be blotted out with
theirs; he could not endure to see the judgments of God fall
upon those who had been so graciously delivered. The intercession
of Moses in behalf of Israel illustrates the mediation of
Christ for sinful men. But the Lord did not permit Moses to
bear, as did Christ, the guilt of the transgressor. "Whosoever [p. 327] hath sinned against Me," He said, "him will I blot out of My
In deep sadness the people had buried their dead. Three
thousand had fallen by the sword; a plague had soon after broken
out in the encampment; and now the message came to them that
the divine Presence would no longer accompany them in their
journeyings. Jehovah had declared, "I will not go up in the
midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume
thee in the way." And the command was given, "Put off thy
ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee."
Now there was mourning throughout the encampment. In
penitence and humiliation "the children of Israel stripped themselves
of their ornaments by the mount Horeb."
By the divine direction the tent that had served as a temporary
place of worship was removed "afar off from the camp."
This was still further evidence that God had withdrawn His
presence from them. He would reveal Himself to Moses, but not
to such a people. The rebuke was keenly felt, and to the
conscience-smitten multitudes it seemed a foreboding of greater
calamity. Had not the Lord separated Moses from the camp
that He might utterly destroy them? But they were not left without
hope. The tent was pitched without the encampment, but
Moses called it "the tabernacle of the congregation." All who
were truly penitent, and desired to return to the Lord, were
directed to repair thither to confess their sins and seek His
mercy. When they returned to their tents Moses entered the
tabernacle. With agonizing interest the people watched for some
token that his intercessions in their behalf were accepted. If
God should condescend to meet with him, they might hope that
they were not to be utterly consumed. When the cloudy pillar
descended, and stood at the entrance of the tabernacle, the people
wept for joy, and they "rose up and worshiped, every man in his
Moses knew well the perversity and blindness of those who
were placed under his care; he knew the difficulties with which
he must contend. But he had learned that in order to prevail
with the people, he must have helped from God. He pleaded for a
clearer revelation of God's will and for an assurance of His
presence: "See, Thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and Thou
hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Yet Thou [p. 328] hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace
in My sight. Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace
in Thy sight, show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee,
that I may find grace in Thy sight: and consider that this nation
is Thy people."
The answer was, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will
give thee rest." But Moses was not yet satisfied. There pressed
upon his soul a sense of the terrible results should God leave
Israel to hardness and impenitence. He could not endure that
his interests should be separated from those of his brethren, and
he prayed that the favor of God might be restored to His people,
and that the token of His presence might continue to direct their
journeyings: "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up
hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people
have found grace in Thy sight? is it not in that Thou goest with
us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the
people that are upon the face of the earth."
And the Lord said, "I will do this thing also that thou hast
spoken: for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee
by name." Still the prophet did not cease pleading. Every prayer
had been answered, but he thirsted for greater tokens of God's
favor. He now made a request that no human being had ever
made before: "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory."
God did not rebuke his request as presumptuous; but the
gracious words were spoken, "I will make all My goodness pass
before thee." The unveiled glory of God, no man in this mortal
state can look upon and live; but Moses was assured that he
should behold as much of the divine glory as he could endure.
Again he was summoned to the mountain summit; then the hand
that made the world, that hand that "removeth the mountains,
and they know not" (Job 9:5), took this creature of the dust, this
mighty man of faith, and placed him in a cleft of the rock, while
the glory of God and all His goodness passed before him.
This experience—above all else the promise that the divine
Presence would attend him—was to Moses an assurance of success
in the work before him; and he counted it of infinitely
greater worth than all the learning of Egypt or all his attainments
as a statesman or a military leader. No earthly power or
skill or learning can supply the place of God's abiding presence. [p. 329]
To the transgressor it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands
of the living God; but Moses stood alone in the presence of the
Eternal One, and he was not afraid; for his soul was in harmony
with the will of his Maker. Says the psalmist, "If I regard iniquity
in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Psalm 66:18. But "the
secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show
them His covenant." Psalm 25:14.
The Deity proclaimed Himself, "The Lord, The Lord God,
merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness
and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty."
"Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth,
and worshiped." Again he entreated that God would pardon
the iniquity of His people, and take them for His inheritance.
His prayer was granted. The Lord graciously promised to renew
His favor to Israel, and in their behalf to do marvels such as had
not been done "in all the earth, nor in any nation."
Forty days and nights Moses remained in the mount; and
during all this time, as at the first, he was miraculously
sustained. No man had been permitted to go up with him, nor during
the time of his absence were any to approach the mount. At
God's command he had prepared two tables of stone, and had
taken them with him to the summit; and again the Lord "wrote
upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments."
[* See Appendix, Note 5.]
During that long time spent in communion with God, the
face of Moses had reflected the glory of the divine Presence;
unknown to himself his face shown with a dazzling light when he
descended from the mountain. Such a light illumined the
countenance of Stephen when brought before his judges; "and all
that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face
as it had been the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. Aaron as well as
the people shrank away from Moses, and "they were afraid to
come nigh him." Seeing their confusion and terror, but ignorant
of the cause, he urged them to come near. He held out to them the
pledge of God's reconciliation, and assured them of His restored
favor. They perceived in his voice nothing but love and entreaty,
and at last one ventured to approach him. Too awed to speak,
he silently pointed to the countenance of Moses, and then toward [p. 330] heaven. The great leader understood his meaning. In their
conscious guilt, feeling themselves still under the divine displeasure,
they could not endure the heavenly light, which, had they been
obedient to God, would have filled them with joy. There is
fear in guilt. The soul that is free from sin will not wish to
hide from the light of heaven.
Moses had much to communicate to them; and compassionating
their fear, he put a veil upon his face, and continued to do
so thereafter whenever he returned to the camp from communion
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By this brightness God designed to impress upon Israel the
sacred, exalted character of His law, and the glory of the gospel
revealed through Christ. While Moses was in the mount, God
presented to him, not only the tables of the law, but also the
plan of salvation. He saw that the sacrifice of Christ was
pre-figured by all the types and symbols of the Jewish age; and it was
the heavenly light streaming from Calvary, no less than the glory
of the law of God, that shed such a radiance upon the face of
Moses. That divine illumination symbolized the glory of the
dispensation of which Moses was the visible mediator, a representative
of the one true Intercessor.
The glory reflected in the countenance of Moses illustrates
the blessings to be received by God's commandment-keeping
people through the mediation of Christ. It testifies that the closer
our communion with God, and the clearer our knowledge of
His requirements, the more fully shall we be conformed to the
divine image, and the more readily do we become partakers of
the divine nature.
Moses was a type of Christ. As Israel's intercessor veiled his
countenance, because the people could not endure to look upon
its glory, so Christ, the divine Mediator, veiled His divinity with
humanity when He came to earth. Had He come clothed with
the brightness of heaven, he could not have found access to men
in their sinful state. They could not have endured the glory of
His presence. Therefore He humbled Himself, and was made
"in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), that He might
reach the fallen race, and lift them up.
Click here to read the next chapter:
"Satan's Enmity Against the Law"