The Purposes of the Law -- By: William J. McRae

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 09:2 (Winter 2000)
Article: The Purposes of the Law
Author: William J. McRae

The Purposes of the Law

William J. McRae1


This passage presents one of the most awesome and terrifying moments of all history. Three days earlier Israel had arrived at the foot of Mt. Horeb, the mount of God, in the range at Sinai. For two days the most careful preparations had been under way. It was now the third day.

A heavy thick black cloud broke upon them, enveloped the mountain, and settled over the camp. Then followed great roars of thunder that shattered the silence and bright flashes of lightning that pierced the darkness. Moses directed the terrified people to the foot of the mountain where they stood in holy reverence. A blazing fire descended from the distant heavens to the top of the mountain. Smoke began to billow heavenward as from a towering inferno. The entire mountain began to tremble like a mound of Jello.

What is the meaning of such a dramatic visual presentation? Surely it is to impress upon the children of Israel the majestic power of their sovereign God. But more than that, it highlights the tremendous importance of this solemn occasion. And what is the occasion? It is the giving of the Law. After Yahweh had spoken we read:

All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning 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, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin” (Ex. 20:18–20).

This visual display was to inject into them such a fear of God that they would not sin and such a reverence for Him that they would wholly obey His Law.

In this article we want to consider the purposes of this Law. Why did God give these Ten Commandments?

Some time ago two young men came to the front door of our home to share their faith. My wife answered the door and a short way into their presentation interrupted them with a question. She admitted to them she was a sinner and confessed she was concerned about meeting God, having salvation, and going to heaven. Her question was, “How can a guilty sinner like me get to heaven? What must I do?” The spokesman for the two traveling “evangelists” assured her that if she kept these ten commandments, all would be well with her God.

What a devastatingly discouraging answer. Who among us ...

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