The Gospel According to Moses


Week XVI: A Relationship with the Awesome God


Day 106: The Ninth Commandment, Truth

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16

The ninth commandment raises the issue of telling the truth, not just in a court of law, but of being a lover and speaker of the truth at all times. Jesus said that truth was an essential element in being a true follower of God: "those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth." Paul said that the truth was an important part of the Christian’s spiritual armor—it’s the belt that holds up his pants!

We would all like to believe that we stand for truth in the abstract sense of, say, the truth of God’s Word. That isn’t what’s being talked about in the verses we’ve just referred to, however. The Lord is looking for a people who are true in the sense of being honest, looking at things straight on, being able to assess themselves and other things factually, not emotionally or defensively.

That’s a rare quality indeed, and it’s doubtful if anyone on earth is truly unbiased and fair-minded on every issue. If Christians were honest about themselves and others there would be nobody leaving churches, there would be no divisions or schisms among us. The Bible isn’t all that complex once you’ve decided to let it speak for itself, but most Christians aren’t honest enough to do that. It’s not that hard to get along with other people, if both are agreed to hold the truth in love, but few will do that, either.

Every man is wise in his own eyes, Solomon said. And in another place, "Every man justifies his own self." That’s why he was the wisest man in history—he had no delusions about man’s truthfulness or trustworthiness. Everyone is out to protect his own skin and his own loved ones, regardless of right and wrong most of the time. Everyone sees things from their own point of view, and few bother to put themselves in another’s position... "that’s just too bad for’s either them or me." Right and wrong, justice and truth, are irrelevant.

If we claim to be serious Christians then we better start dealing with this subject of honesty in the inward parts, truth from the heart. God doesn’t justify him who justifies himself, but him who sees himself clearly and asks for forgiveness in the light of what he sees. You may win the game by bluff and counter-bluff, influencing folks over to your side by half-truths and innuendo here on earth; but God is looking at the heart. He sees things the way they truly are, regardless of the way you can justify them..

If you want to see the kingdom of Heaven you want to start worshipping in spirit and truth, right now, before you get any deeper in your deception.


Day 107: The Tenth Commandment

Thou Shalt Not Covet

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Exodus 20:17

Someone explained to me when I was a teenager in catechism class just what the word "covet" meant, but it never really registered or brought conviction to my soul until I read Paul’s comment in Romans 7:7, "...for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." (KJV). Then it became clear—ah, coveting is lusting, desiring something you don’t have.

When you watch a girl walk down the street and want her, it’s covetousness. When you admire a beautiful house or car or motorcycle a little too much, it’s covetousness. When someone else gets the promotion you wanted, or a pat on the back from the boss or pastor, and you feel ugly and jealous about it, that’s covetousness.

How do you know if it’s too much, when simple admiration turns to lust and covetousness? It’s when what you have seems lesser and insufficient by comparison—that’s when it crosses the border into sin. When you look at that woman, or man, and you sigh because your own spouse will never look that good, it’s sin. When you see someone’s Cadillac and want to go trade in your Ford right away, when someone else’s job makes you feel like "what’s the sense of even going to mine tomorrow," when you don’t want to listen to your tape-player after hearing your friend’s CD player, that is sin.

Another way to spot covetousness is when it causes jealousy in your heart. Now I realize that most of you listening to me probably get over the outward show of jealousy within a few minutes and manage to say, "I’m really happy for so-and-so," but try and remember yesterday’s message about truth, and start being honest with yourself. If you feel even a little twinge of satisfaction when you hear of someone else’s misfortune, that’s jealousy, and it proves that covetousness has been hiding in you all along. If you are genuinely happy for the person who got the recognition, but you are mad at the boss for not recognizing you, that’s still covetousness—they got something that you wanted, that you lusted after. If it was a genuine drive to excel or do good, or be used of God, you wouldn’t feel bad about being overlooked, but when it’s lust that drives you, it shows up in frustration and jealousy.

Covetousness and lust, like all the rest of the Ten Commandments, are taken very seriously by the Lord. 1 Corinthians 6:10 says clearly that the coveters, along with thieves, idolaters, fornicators, and others, will not enter the kingdom of God. It’s that serious. All the commandments are. God gave us the Ten Commandments so we’d know how to behave as Christians. Yes, we’re saved by grace but that doesn’t free us from obeying the Word. It’s high time that Christians quit screaming "legalism" every time they got convicted by the truth, and started living up to the standards of holiness God expects. We might all get to heaven if we were a little more receptive and sensitive to the whole Word.


Day 108: Israel Chooses Middlemen

And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightening flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us lest we die."

Exodus 20:18,19

It must have been quite a sight to see—the quaking mountain, thunder and lightening, the Shekinah cloud of God descending, a loud trumpet blast, and even the audible voice of God thundering out to the people on the plain below. If there was any room for doubt in the Israelites’ hearts as to the existence of God, it must have been wiped out that day. Don’t you wish God would do a little bit of that stuff when we’re witnessing these days, to help us prove our point?

The Israelites were impressed, but it didn’t have the desired effect. They believed in God alright, but they didn’t want to get close to Him—they were scared silly, and even though Moses tried to calm their fears they wouldn’t listen. "You talk to God for us," they said, "we don’t want to get too close to anyone who’s capable of shaking mountains, just in case He decides to shake us or something; we’re afraid we might die."

And that’s how Israel rejected a personal relationship with their God. They knew He existed, they wanted Him on their side, but they didn’t want to know Him personally. "Moses, you go and talk to God, and then pass on what He says to us." That was their proposition. If you really knew God personally, you’d have to obey Him and serve Him—there would be not only privileges but responsibilities inherent in that relationship. But it would be easier to keep their lives in their own hands, to keep some control, if they dealt with a middle man, and didn’t have to face God Himself. It’s easier to say "no" over the phone, or in a letter, than to someone’s face. They could keep God’s claims on their lives at a distance if they kept God Himself at a distance. Of course, they didn’t think all this through as they stood before Mt. Sinai, but it’s a fair representation of where their hearts were at. If they wanted to serve God, if they loved the Lord, they would have wanted to get as close as possible, like Moses Himself.

God took them up on their offer. He had wanted to have a personal, intimate relationship with them, to be their God in a special way, and for them to be a kingdom of priests to Him. They said no. So just a few of them became priests to the rest. They wanted middlemen and that’s what they got. Moses, Aaron, and his sons became the ones who could go to God personally in the tabernacle—and even they could only do so under very strict conditions. The people would have to go to these men in order to be made acceptable before God. I don’t know if they ever felt sorrowful about their decision. That’s what they wanted and that’s what they got. But God had so much more for them, if only their hearts had been able to receive it and enter into it.

How close do you want to get to God?


Day 109: The Letter & the Spirit

And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightening flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us lest we die."

Exodus 20:18,19

When the people of Israel rejected a personal relationship with the Lord, they got a long list of laws instead. Not that God wouldn’t have given them the Law anyway—He would have, to show them the ways of God, emphasize the holiness of God, and to prophesy of the Messiah to come through all the sacrifices and temple rituals. But the law became to the Israelites, not an instrument by which they might know the ways of God better, but a substitute for God Himself. In essence theysaid, "We don’t want to know God Himself, just tell us about Him, show us a picture or something, let us hear about Him, but don’t make us know Him personally."

The effect of the Law is still the same today. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, "But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." Too much emphasis on the laws of God put a veil between us and Him, but if you really turn to God with all your heart the veil is taken away, and true spirituality—a true relationship with God—results.

The emphasis in the New Testament is on the Spirit rather than the law—"for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life," (2 Cor 3:6). God wants us to know Him personally, to seek Him personally for guidance, rather than relying on a set of rules. That’s why the New Testament doesn’t have books of the law with every doctrine and teaching laid out for us in a systematic way.

Of course, being led by the Spirit isn’t as easy, naturally speaking, as having everything all in order on paper (or tablets of stone). That’s why many Christians today prefer to go with the letter after all. They want their beliefs about God, and what He expects of us, all figured out, sorted, and written down, so they always know just what to do, so they have a quick and concise answer to every question, so they can bless or condemn others without uncertainty. There are no gray areas as far as they’re concerned. That is always wrong, this is always right. They have a proof text or two for every stand they take so they can say, "This is what the Word of God says."

But as zealous as they are for the Word, they sometimes miss the God of the Word—as zealous as they are for the law, they miss the Spirit of the law. For even the Bible is not an end in itself, it’s a means to the end. The end is to know God personally, to see Him as He is, rather than merely a photo or a description, and to become pleasing to Him in all things.


Day 110: The Uncontrollable God

And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightening flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us lest we die."

Exodus 20:18,19

Israel liked the concept of a God who wanted to have a special you-be-my-people-and-I’ll-be-your-God relationship, but the reality of it scared them half to death—it was just too much to grasp and handle. It’s kind of like the child who loves horses, looks at all the picture books, and has little model horses all over his bedroom... then you try to put him on the back of a real horse and he freaks out; this big uncontrollable monster is not his idea of a horse; it’s too real!

It was the supernatural phenomena that really threw Israel off. A wind blowing back the waters of the Red Sea was one thing, but a shaking, talking mountain was way too much! There are a lot of modern-day Christians who feel about the same way when it comes to a supernatural God. Of course, they agree that God is supernatural, but somehow it’s much easier to handle if He only showed His supernatural tendencies back in the Bible days, not today.

As the little child instinctively senses that he can’t control that huge horse, so the modern evangelical senses that he can’t handle the real God. Up until now they’ve been able to explain the ways of the Lord pretty well: He does do this, He doesn’t do that, He’d never do such-and-such, and so on. But a mountain-shaking God, or today’s version of it, a sick-healing, demon-expelling, tongue-speaking, dead-raising, water-walking kind of God... well, you can’t contain Someone like that in your neat little theological outlines and arguments. He might bust out of your little doctrinal boxes and become too hot to handle!

Pentecostals and charismatics can do the same thing, too. Many allow only a choice selection of the manifestations of the Spirit—you can speak with tongues but not prophesy; you can pray for the sick, but if you cast demons out of one of our deacons our doctrinal positions could really get confused; miracles are for today—all except personal prophecy, that is...

When God’s really moving men cannot control it. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re supposed to exercise the spiritual gifts decently and in order, just like it says in 1 Corinthians fourteen, but in a time of true revival, when the Spirit of God is free to do what He wants to do—well, He’s going to do the unexpected as often as not. Everything He does will be in keeping with His character as declared in the Bible, but there will always be a few new twists. God still likes to confound the wise, especially those who think they’re wise about Him. He’ll heal those without any faith at all, He’ll pour out His Spirit where we thought He never could, He’ll shake people up and knock them over—in order to get them to sit up and take notice. But He won’t hurt you. So don’t be afraid of the supernatural, or try to limit (quench) the Spirit’s activity. The key is to at least know God well enough to recognize Him when He starts doing something, even if you don’t necessarily know what He’s going to do next.


Day 111: The Christian & the Law

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil,"

Matthew 5:17

As we continue our series of messages entitled "The Gospel According To Moses," and as we go specifically at this time into the books and chapters containing the Law of Moses. there are a few things we need to clarify right away. Christians have many misconceptions about the intent and purpose of the law, and their relationship to it and the Old Testament as a whole. "That’s Old Testament," some say, as though that means we don’t have to honor it, or maybe God had a radical personality change between the testaments. God doesn’t change—perfection cannot be improved upon—and though the New Testament takes the truths of the Old into greater clarity and greater revelation, it does not follow that we now dismiss the laws and principles of the former.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil," (Mt 5:17). Inherent in the idea of fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (ie. the Old Testament) is the idea of vindicating them. "They were not bad, I agree with what they contain," He is saying, "If you think my teachings are in a different spirit, or somehow contradict them, it’s just because you don’t understand them properly; and because unregenerate men have interpreted them in a way that tends to bondage. That’s not how they were intended to be taken.

The Apostle Paul seems to spend a lot of time steering people away from the Law, at first glance. But if you look closer at what He’s saying, you notice that he’s not belittling the Law itself, but rather the false concept that righteousness can come from the observing it. He goes to great lengths—in Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and elsewhere—to establish that Old Testament saints were justified by faith, just like us, and not by the works of the Law. But of the Law itself he says, "the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good," and "the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully." In fact, "the law has become a tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith." (see Rom 7:12, 1 Tim 1:8, Gal 3:24)

Neither Jesus nor Paul, the chief voices of the New Testament, support the contention that Christians should do away with the Old Testament, or that somehow it is good for storytelling, but not for serious instruction in righteousness. The person who avoids the law like it was written by some other god, or ignores it because he or she is under the New Testament dispensation, has been misled, and needs to rethink his idea of Christianity. No, we’re not bound by all the ceremonial rules and regulations, and we shouldn’t be offering sacrifices on an altar—but we should understand why not. And we should understand our proper relationship to the Law, so we can understand the gospel of Jesus Christ better. Stick with us for the next few days as we look at "the Christian and the Law."


Day 112: How Old Testament Jews were Saved

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.

Hebrews 11:1-2

The first thing we need to understand about the Law of Moses is the purpose it was given in the first place. Contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t given in order to get people saved. As Paul points out repeatedly in the New Testament, no one ever got saved, or declared righteous by God on the basis of keeping the Law. If that’s the case, then no Old Testament Jew was truly saved—if the law was given for salvation. That means David, Daniel, Joshua, Samuel, even Moses himself are still in Hell today. So much for the concept that the Old Testament saints were saved by Law, while the New Testament believers are saved by grace! The fact is they were saved by grace through faith just as we are.

Look at our text. The "men of old," that is the Old Testament Jews, gained approval before God on the basis of faith. A couple of verses later Paul says quite conclusively, "without faith it is impossible to please God." He speaks of Abel, who was approved by God, while his brother Cain (who offered up the works of his own hands to God) was not approved. The difference? Abel offered a better sacrifice by faith. The apostle speaks of many other Old Testament characters in that same chapter, and declares that they lived and died by faith—not once is the Law mentioned in his narrative.

Look at Paul’s argument in the book of Romans. "We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law," he says in 3:28. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," he says in 3:23, and that means David and Moses, and Abraham, as we’ve pointed out. So how did they get saved? By faith, he goes on to say in chapter four of Romans, just as he does in chapter eleven of Hebrews. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith, without the works of the Law.

1 Corinthians ten is very pertinent to this subject. "Our fathers were all under the cloud," it says, "and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." Where is the Law in this discussion? It’s not yet given. That’s right, all the spiritual experiences described here happened before the Israelites arrived at Sinai and received the Law. They were partakers of Christ, they were baptized, eating spiritual food, and drinking of the living waters of Christ—and the Law was not yet even given. Salvation by Law? Not at all. The Israelites were saved by faith in the God that led them out of Egypt, and he did that before they ever heard of the Law.

So what is the Law for? We’ll look more at that tomorrow.


The Gospel According to Moses, Week XI

The Gospel According to Moses, Week XII

The Gospel According to Moses, Week XIII

The Gospel According to Moses, Week XIV

The Gospel According to Moses, Week XV

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All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.

Copyright © 2005  Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

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