<< Exodus 34: The Two First Tables of Commandments >>
Broken and Replaced

Cbr890 And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first; and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which  thou breakest. Exodus xxxiv. i.

IN contemplating Divine Revelation we must consider not only the perfection of Him from whom it flows, but also the imperfection of the being to whom it is given.

God is a Spirit, and has ever eternal ends in view. Whatever descends from Him must be spiritual elevated, and holy. My thoughts, He says, are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.--Isa. lv. 8, 9.

The divine side of revelation as originating in supreme wisdom must have divine thoughts in its bosom everywhere. It is a sphere that proceeds from the infinite and the eternal, and its character must partake of that which is infinite and eternal.

But there is also the human side of revelation. It is addressed to man. Unless it comes clothed in language that he can understand, and that will interest and attract him, it will fail in being a revelation to him. Divine Revelation is a ladder which teaches to heaven, and above which is the Lord, but it must have its foot on earth.

Man cannot be helped unless he is reached; he cannot be reached except by things which come down to his natural state. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.--1 Cor. ii. 14.

But every man is natural before he becomes spiritual hence the Word which is to render him spiritual must be so written that it will engage his attention, impress itself upon his memory, excite his affections, and command his obedience. All this our Word does, and, therefore, commends itself to man in all ages, and in all climes. It addresses itself to savage and to sage, to rich and poor, to bond and free, to the warrior and the man of peace, to the sailor and to the landsman, to the peasant and the philosopher.

The Word gives food to every class of mind. It shines, like the sun, upon the evil and upon the good. It descends, like the rain, upon the just and the unjust. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.--Ps. xix. 7-9.

If man had been different, the Word would have been different, not in its spirit, but in its form. There was a Revelation before the present Bible, to which allusion is made in Numbers xxi. under the name of the Book of the Wars of the Lord, v. 14. We also read of those who speak in proverbs or prophecies.--v. 27. That Word was adapted to the earlier states of mankind; our Word is adapted to mans later condition.

How strikingly is this alteration in the form of the Word, while in its essence it is still the same, represented by the circumstances connected with the Tables which Moses brought down from Sinai. The tables, as well as the writing, were the work of God in the first instance. After these were broken, in consequence of the idolatrous condition of the Israelites, then Moses was commanded to hew out the Tables, and God wrote upon them. The writing was the same, but the Tables were provided by man.

How often has it been objected to the Word that it hardly appears to be what we might expect a production of Infinite Wisdom to be. It is largely taken up with wars. It is all about the Jews, a small and insignificant nation. It is taken up with details about matters of dress, laws and customs of earth, directions as to food, and circumstances generally of little interest to one who seeks entirely to live for heaven.

To all this, however, the change of the Tables gives the explanation.

The Word in its essence was represented by those Tables. The ten commandments are simply two drawn out and applied to all the general phases of human conduct. Our Lord, the Divine Law-giver himself, so divides them. To the lawyer who asked which was the great commandment of the law He replied, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.Matt. xxii. 37-40.

Thus we see the ten commandments comprised in the two really involve the whole Word. Divine Revelation may be defined as love to God and man, expanded and applied to all the diversities of life in heaven and on earth: for the Word is settled in heaven, and into its wonders the angels also as well as men desire to look.

How instructive, then, is the incident of the breaking of the first Tables, which was the consequence of the idolatrous worship of the golden calf! It reveals to us that the Word is as we find it because mens low states required this natural covering. It speaks so frequently of wars because men love the scenes of broil and battle; but after they have been interested in earthly conflict, it raises their minds to higher things, and engages them to wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness in interior places. The bodily wars of the Israelites conduct to the wars of mans soul, and to the divine victories of Him who goes forth conquering and to conquer.

There is a description of an earthly country of great beauty and great fertility: a land flowing with milk and honey but this alluring prospect is given only to image to us that celestial land which is the everlasting home of all the good. Far otherwise would the Divine Word have been if man had remained spiritual. Then would divine things have been conveyed in their own language, the language of pure correspondences. There would have been no Jewish history as it is, but the states and laws of the regenerate life would have been palpably shewn to be the object of divine lessons. The law of the Lord would have been manifestly seen to be perfect, converting the soul. The Word of the Lord would have been known by all to be Spirit and Life.

But this could not be. Mankind have been, like the Israelites, too prone to worship the golden calf. Their minds have been debased, and their taste, changed, so that a purely Divine Revelation, with no use made of human elements, such as please the natural man, would not have been received. None would have understood it, none would have read it. Hence, in the actual Word we have history, biography, politics. A whole series of events are recorded that interest the man whose spiritual desires are yet but feeble. The child loves his Bible. The peasant and the peer alike find its pages attractive. It has had increasing numbers of readers in every age and every nation, since the Jews surrendered the sacred deposit to mankind.

And now in one hundred and fifty languages it has, probably, more readers than all other books put together.

The proof that the Word in its present form is the best adapted for the purposes of Divine Providence is its success. It is universally received more or less. The devout accept it, and live upon its sacred lessons which they perceive in the letter, and gleaming as holy rays through the letter. They, by a holy instinct, divine much of its hallowed meaning, because they hunger and thirst after righteousness.

The child ponders over the stories of Joseph and Samuel, and our blessed Lord; and eternal things enter his youthful soul, and draw him upwards.

The traveler reads the Holy Book, and is interested in its delineation of the customs of Eastern lands, and compares their past state with their present. The soldier reads it for its descriptions of warlike scenes, the politician for its delineation of the rise and fall of kingdoms. Even the doubter reads it to criticize and dispute; the unbeliever to deny. It is thus universally present and accepted more or less serviceably by all, and it exerts a divinely modifying influence where it is often not suspected.

Many a mind that now opposes and disdains the Word is nevertheless indebted to it for the comparatively orderly life he leads. The truth of the Word acting upon him through mother, nurse, family; and society, has formed him to steady, orderly habits, and when he is maintaining that he can be virtuous without the Bible, he is unconsciously practicing the virtues which have really been laid and nurtured by the precepts and the practices of dear old friends to whom the Bible was all in all.

This wonderful adaptation of the Word to the natural man is an amazing result of divine wisdom and mercy. It discloses the Divine Wisdom, for how few are there who are able to rise to the delight of feeding on purely spiritual things. Certainly not one in ten thousand even in cultivated and religious lands. But the authority of the Bible is accepted everywhere in Christian countries, and each person takes much or little of that spiritual nourishment, as his soul can bear. It is to him the bread of life. The letter is selected from the account of the proceedings of men, but within is the writing of God. Its form is human, its essence, its soul, is divine. Even the human is arranged and permeated by the divine: and so it is divine-human. Hew thee out two tables of stone, like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou breakest.

In the present condition of the Word there are many difficulties, things hard to be understood. It was so with the Word made flesh. He often said hard sayings. The Jews were often shocked. Yet He not only continued to speak in parables, but He justified it. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to them it is not given.

Difficulties exist both in the Word and in the world, and for the same gracious object. They are intended to improve man by stimulating him to exertion. The held must be cultivated, or there will be no harvest. The rock must often be blasted, or there will be no road. Virtue and success come from overcoming difficulties. Those nations where there is little toil by no means furnish the finest characters. Perseverance works perfection.

Hence the letter of the Bible has its difficulties, they are intended to provoke to deeper research, and to greater attainment.

The wonderful way in which the Word of God is adapted to universal man is one of the most astonishing displays of Divine Mercy. It is the Word taking our nature in the Divine Book, as was personally done when He took our nature in the Incarnation. The material was furnished by man, the hidden essence was the wisdom of God. The Word made flesh, took our infirmities even, and without this could not have lived, been tempted, suffered, groaned and died amongst us, nor have achieved our redemption. A Word too pure for Israel, too pure for the world, could not have been received, could not have been preserved, and, therefore, could not have achieved the diffusion of saving truth among mankind. It was needful that the basis, the letter of the Word should be hewn out of the circumstances and events of his own life history, the spirit of God writing in it the lessons of regeneration and of heaven. Israel loved the Word because it treated of Gods dealings with them. It told of their growth from a family to be a nation; of their early trials and descent into Egypt; of their slavery there, and their wondrous deliverance; of their marches and conflicts in the wilderness; of their encampment round Sinai while they received the law of their conquest of Canaan and all their nations history. These things formed the Tables hewn out by themselves, but under the direction of Divine Providence. In these the spirit of the Word was infused, writing the same things as had been given in a former revelation, and which will always be given in every revelation from God--the things of Love to God and Love to man.

How wonderful it is when we reflect that a history being enacted during nearly two thousand years among a comparatively obscure people should have been so regulated as to delineate the souls history in its progress to heaven, and the mental and spiritual history of all mankind. Yet so it is. Its very defects are perfections in its design. If it had been more perfect, it would have been too perfect for imperfect man.

The Word, as a divine work, is like man, whose imperfection at birth is the base of his everlasting perfectability; his mind without knowledge, like ground unoccupied, is ready to receive knowledge which can be opened and expanded for ever.

The appearances of the Word, though not true in themselves, are true to mans perceptions and essential to his conversion. When God is said to be angry, and to revenge, to tempt, and to punish without mercy, these declarations are not absolutely true, but it is perfectly true that the opposition of the divine laws to man, and the fruit of his evil doings which incessantly return upon himself, seem to the sinner to come direct from God, and it is right they should so seem, or he would never be roused to repentance. By these infirmities the Word is assailed is tempted and tried as it were, and by some rejected and crucified; but by these also it is received by the great majority, receives a home among men, and by the regenerate is ultimately glorified.

They who are obedient have their eyes opened, and they perceive the Divine Writing within, full of spiritual and celestial wisdom. While the self-righteous and self-conceited are exclaiming this book is not divine, see how it sins against good taste and high philosophy ; the humble and the contrite confess, Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not; one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

The Word speaks to man in its letter as carnal and earthy; but it leads him on until he becomes spiritual and heavenly.

When the Jews longed for war, and pressed to go forth and exterminate their enemies, and those enemies were such as Infinite Love saw that both for mankind and for themselves it would be best that the earth were rid of them, the permission to go to fight looked to the Jews like a command. But it was not so. It was a necessity, which Infinite Wisdom and Mercy, looking to the highest good of the race, could not forbid. The surgeon who cuts out a mortifying ulcer, or removes a gangrenous limb acts not from the desire of maiming, but from the necessity of saving. So with the Divine Being in the wars of the Word. They were permissions that abominations might be rooted from the earth, and that the Word of God might be written.

The outer Word was thus furnished by material from man, yet divinely directed and arranged, but the inner Word was inscribed within by the finger of God. By reading of Israels wars, the soldier land every man is more or less a combatant) may be enchained to the narrative and interested in the Divine Story, until at length the flashes of holy light break through, and he feels there are enemies in himself whom he must conquer. He has a Goliath, some giant lust that defies all his power to subdue; he has also a little David, the divine truth within, which makes use of sacred words of power--the smooth stones of the brook with which he strikes the giant on his forehead and he dies. Thus he learns that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness (Eph. vi. 12). So his eyes are opened, and he beholds wondrous things out of the law.

Thus do we own the Word as it descends among us; thus do we behold it achieving its wondrous triumphs among men; and thus it is glorified.

The descent of the Divine Truth, and its cohering with the sensual desires of man, was represented by the water descending from the mountain, into which Moses cast the dust of the shattered parts of the golden calf, ground to powder, and then gave to the people to drink (Deut. ix. 21).

Divine Truth enters thus blended with human imperfection, but in time it works itself pure, and shews itself as the water of life, clear as crystal.

The Word thus with two sides, and one side formed of human material, is thus the conjoining medium between heaven and earth. It is written on the outside for the natural man; on the inside for the spiritual man, and for angels.

How strange it is that we should so much have forgotten this great truth. For, how could a revelation be given from God, and not have a divine side towards Him? How could a revelation be received by man, unless it had a human side towards him? How could it conjoin the two together unless it had somewhat belonging to each?

The book in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne, as seen by John, was written within and on the back (Rev. v. 1), and was sealed with seven seals, because the true character of the Word can never be opened until both its inner and its outer meaning are admitted. Without the writing on the outside it would be unintelligible to man, and would not be accepted by him; without the writing on the inside, it would not lift his contemplations and his aspirations to heaven.

Blessed, then, for ever blessed, be the All-wise, that in forming His Word He said, Hew thee out two tables of stone like unto the first. In shape the same, in substance different. But, blessed also be His Holy Name that He was pleased to say, I mill write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables.

When the precepts of the Word have thus been accepted in the heart, they communicate light, experience, and wisdom. They give light as to what the will of the Lord really requires. They are divine lamps, by means of which our defilements are discovered. But they not only disclose our impurities, they also bring to view the goodness of our Lord, the order of His kingdom, the misery of opposing spirits, and opposing states. They reveal also the necessity of regeneration, and impart the power to proceed in that holy work. The experience thus acquired is the best of all teachers. Hence the Psalmist, in that grandest of all the Psalms, the one dedicated to the setting forth of the excellence of the Divine Law, the 119th, exclaims, O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. Therefore I love thy commands above gold: yea, above fine gold.

Lastly, let us daily pray that the heavenly writing thus forming the spirit and life of the Word map be transferred to the living tables of our inmost affections, so that the new covenant may be ours, whose terms run thus: This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them said the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.--Jer. xxxi. 33, 34.

Author: Jonathan Bayley --- From Egypt to Canaan (1869)

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