The Sinai Compromise
God Structures Jesus Into the Law
Having led the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was instructed by the Lord to stop at the foot of a mountain in the Sinai desert. There he was told to gather all the tribes of Israel together in a single body so that God could come before them personally and give them His laws face to face.
This was an extraordinary event, and it crystallized the Hebrew religion to come. At first the Israelites were excited at the thought of God's appearance before them and their hearts swelled with anticipation.
But as God began to approach the people, this expectancy gave way to grave apprehension, and soon a feeling of terror overwhelmed them all. The mountain erupted in fire, the earth began to quake violently and the sky blackened with intense clouds like smoke from a furnace.
Out of the clouds great flashes of lightning spewed. Peals of thunder rolled across the desert together with the sound of a great trumpet whose blast grew louder and louder the closer God came to the terrified Israelites. (Ex.19:16-20).
Suddenly realizing that many of them were going to die during God's visitation the Israelites ran to Moses and begged him to have God send an intermediary in His place. (Ex.20:18-20). God agreed to their request and it is this event which structured Jesus Christ into the Law.
The reason why the Israelite religion demands a Messianic intermediary stems from this legal compromise at Sinai.
At first the people thought that Moses was to be the intermediary (Ex.20:19), but he told them 'no', and explained that the intercessor was to be someone else. (Dt.18:14-16).
Moses told them:
"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves -- from your own brothers; To him you must listen."
"This is what you yourselves asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the Assembly. 'Do not let me hear again' you said, 'the voice of the Lord my God, nor look any longer on this great fire, or I shall die'; and God said to me, 'All they have spoken is well said. I will raise up a prophet like yourself for them from their own brothers; I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell them all I command him to say." (Dt.18:15-19).
The compromise at Sinai not only deferred God's visit, it left a void as far as the Testimony of heaven was concerned. Most of the Lord's commandments remained unstated.
There were always meant to be more than ten, but the balance of God's commandments had to await the voice of heaven's intercessor.
The proof that the Israelites fully understood all of this was revealed by their consuming expectation ever afterward of the coming Messiah. The entire Hebrew religion was built on the promise of this holy Intermediary defined at Sinai.
That is why the people of Jesus' time were so astir -- they were waiting in fervent expectation of the Christ predicted by Moses.
When Moses said, "God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves...to him you must listen." (Dt.18:15), he bound the Israelites to the obedience of Jesus, who was the prophet of God that these words were written for.
But when he appeared, Jesus turned out to be more than a prophet and more than an intermediary betweem man and God. He came as Divinity. He came as God Himself, clothed in flesh. This is the meaning of the Trinity, and it freed the world from the Law's stipulation for an Intermediary because the moment Jesus was glorified in heaven, the intermediary became our ruling God. Because Jesus is God, nothing stands between man and God.
At that instant of glorification, the master of the Law of Moses became the Master and Lord of all creation. This meant that Jesus' words were far more than mortal inspiration; they were, in fact, the direct Testimony of God. Fifty-two days after the crucifixion (on a day we call Pentecost) the Holy Spirit descended on the world with the glorified Testimony.
The Gospel of Jesus is on the same level as the Ten Commandments. It is above anything else in scripture. "He who comes from above is above all others. He who is born of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven...speaks God's own words." (Jn.3:31-34). Jesus brought the missing Testimony which the compromise had blocked at Sinai.
Jesus brought a peaceful visitation by God. There was no theophany associated with His appearance. The sky did not cloud over. The earth did not heave and roll. There was no lightning; no thunder. He did not bring words of judgment. Instead He brought an offer of peace and salvation -- an olive branch, and a WARNING of judgment.
Accompanying His offer of reconciliation Jesus told humanity what would happen if the peace He offered was rejected. A terrible time is coming and those who do not make their escape by the road He defined will die in the coming carnage. The coming catastrophe, He warned, is so encompassing, there is no possibility of rescue out of it by any other means than the terms He has offered.
The theophany of God, He said, is set to return in a world-ending display that will bring everlasting Judgment. It is not far away, He warned. There is very little time. That is why His call carries such a sense of urgency.
We can see in the great event at Sinai all the overtones of that final day at the end of the world when, again, because of God's personal appearance, dark clouds will cover the land and terrifying signs will signal the termination of all who have not obeyed God's Messiah and broken with sin in His name
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E.C.S.Leavenworth III; Goodnews Christian Ministry.