One of the most remarkable apsects of the Nineteenth Chapter of the Book of Exodus is the response of the Hebrew people to God’s announcement that they were about to receive His Law and Commandments. Even before they hear a single statute they whole-heartedly agree to the terms and conditions and boldly declare that they will obey the Lord fully.
What is it in the heart of man that inspires us to believe that we are capable of meeting God’s holy expectations? And why do we so readily seem to prefer the confining restrictions of law and rules over grace and liberty? Like so many of us, the children of Israel were eager to prove themselves and vindicate their own sense of piety. Though they had already failed time and time again to trust in the guidance of God, murmuring and complaining their way through the wilderness of Sinai, they now believed that they might succeed under law where they had failed under grace.
Up to this point, the Hebrews had indeed been living in a state of grace. The Lord laid no expectation upon them save to trust Him, declaring that He had bore them on eagle’s wings. What a beautiful analogy this is! He who is carried on the wings of an eagle flies far above the snares and troubles that would surely entangle him on the ground. Neither must he strive to stay aloft, for it is the Eagle Himself Who flaps the wings that keep the passenger airborne. What safety there is to ride on Eagle’s wings, as do all who trust in Jesus Christ. Though the enemy might fire his arrows from below, the Eagle Who carries the child of God shields them with His own body, prefering that He Himself be pierced through rather than allowing a single shot to reach its intended target.
With God’s announcement at the foot of Mt. Sinai comes the end of an era. No more will the Hebrews fly upon the wings of their Eagle, but will now be compelled to walk upon the ground. Though the leading and guiding of the Pillar does not depart at this time, God will issue His Law to them, a Law that they are all too eager to receive, a Law with which they are all too powerless to comply. Even so, it seems that they are no more aware of the feebleness of their own depraved flesh than so many others who, in our own day and time, futilely attempt to please a holy God by setting about to establish a righteousness of their own. Though the Lord Jesus Christ has graciously provided a righteousness with which to cover us, making us acceptable to God based on His merit rather than our own (Rom. 3:21-22), there are those who claim to be resting on Christ yet are trying to please God through the keeping of the Law.
We see at the very first mentioning of the Law that the children of Israel misunderstood its intent and purpose. For the Law of God was never given to man as a path whereby to reach Him, but rather to show man how great is the chasm that separates us from our Maker. The Law was not given to righteous men in order that they might show themselves righteous, but to wicked sinners so that they might be fully revealed for the sinners they are (Matt. 9:11-13, Rom. 7:11-13, 1 Tim. 1:8-10).
How short was the time between the giving of God’s Law and the time when the Israelites began to break it! How unfortunate it is that they could not recognize their own weakness and proclivity to sin. How tragic that they could not honestly assess their own track record thus far and realize that compliance with the entirety of God’s holy Law is an undertaking impossible for any man to achieve. Perhaps an even greater tragedy is the fact that this spirit of misguided pride, this unwillingness to acknowledge the wickedness that exists within our own hearts is still just as much of an obstacle preventing people today from humbly coming before the Throne of Grace and confessing their need for a Savior.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
The keeping of Law and Commandments will not save anyone because none of us are able to perfectly keep God’s Law and Commandments. We need a Savior. We need Jesus.
It is to Jesus that all glory goes,