14:7, note a
Afraid of God?
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach. . . . Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Rev. 14:6, 7)
"Fear God" is the key command
in the angel's appeal. Some today believe that God just loses His temper
and takes it out on people who don't choose to please Him hoping to get
them to be afraid and change. This is the picture that Satan would paint
for us. It's not true pr0813.
Others believe that God has no real standards, or if He does, He knows
we can't follow them, so why worry about it. They believe that, since God
is love, He won't really punish those who choose to live in sin also
One day God will wipe all tears away. He will bring a final end to sin. He will pay sinners the full wages they will have earned. (re2105; na0109; ro0623; ro1219; is1311; jb2130; re2009). The punishment will be proportional to the wickedness. (mt1627, lu1247f, je2514). We will have time to explore the topic later when we talk about hell.
We were discussing the angel's call to fear God. Let's look at John's statement about love and fear in his first epistle. It sounds like he disagrees with what he recorded in Revelation. (1 John 4:16-18).
We could bring John's statements into harmony by assuming that only the wicked would need to fear God. Indeed, those who know what is right and turn to sin may only look forward fearfully to the judgment (Heb. 10:26, 27). They have fallen among the wicked. But we also know that one day, a voice from the throne will call out, "Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great." (Rev. 19:5). So the redeemed are referred to as those who fear God. We are still in trouble.
After God spoke the ten commandments from Sinai, Moses made a strange statement. Let's look at the verse in context.
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. (Ex. 20:18-21).
Moses seems to be contradicting himself saying, Don't fear but fear. As we look closely, however, we can see the principle of pure fear of God. By keeping the fear of God before their faces they would [stay close to Him in a love relationship and] not sin. As they kept in mind His awesome power and the supreme importance of the ten rules He had just given for their happiness, they would be safe from the consequences of disobedience. They would know the perfect love that casts out fear. And that relationship is for us, too.
We must keep in mind a sense of the terrible consequences of sin, knowing of the burden borne on Calvary, and knowing that we will receive the wages of our own sin if we refuse God's gift. Not that God wants to hurt us, but that the fruit of cherished sin will be reaped (Micah 7:18; Ezek. 33:11; Rev. 14:19, 20; Rom. 12:19). The righteous simply have a different relationship to the fear of God. With His perfect love in their hearts and surrounding them through His grace, they may have the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7). They are in peace as those living at the foot of a mighty dam, knowing that the deadly torrent will be kept from hurting them. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Rom. 13:11)
The wicked reject the fear that recognizes how terrible sin is, and God has no choice but to bring to them the fear of bearing the natural results. May we learn to hate sin, while loving those who need to be delivered from it.
As we continue in this chapter, we will see the end-time result of the alternative to fearing God and giving Him glory. What a joy it is to follow our Lord with a loving fear of profound respect for Him.
Old and new covenants
(In the context of Moses' statement about fear)
Looking at the attitudes of
the people at the time God spoke the ten commandments helps us understand
the old and new covenants. The concept of a covenant being "old" comes
from Paul's discussion in Hebrews 8 to 10, specifically Heb.
8:13 (I'm assuming Paul to be the author of the letter). You might
want to read the three chapters. He is addressing Jewish Christians whose
confidence in their new religion was getting weak (Heb.
10:35). In warning them about going back to the old covenant he draws
on a passage in Jeremiah. Here are Paul's words, introducing, then quoting
"For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:" (Heb. 8:8-10)
What was wrong
with the old covenant?
Notice that the fault of the first covenant was with the people, not with the law (and hence not with God who gave the law). They did not continue in it. In fact the new covenant would be better, not because of a different law, but because of a different place for it to be written in the hearts of the people. Looking back at what happened we can see what the Lord was talking about through Jeremiah and Paul.
Did the people accept the first covenant? Here is the passage: "And [before the law was spoken from Sinai] Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. . . . And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD." (Ex. 19:3-9) So, yes, the people accepted the covenant.
Moving ahead to just after the ten commandments were spoken, we see how the people were to keep the law. "And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not." (Ex. 20:20).
Then Moses read the words of the ceremonial laws of Ex. 20:22 through chapter 23, and the people again pledged, ". . . All that the Lord hath said we will do, and be obedient." (24:7). Wonderful. And what happened next?
Moses went up the mountain to receive the first tablets of stone on which God inscribed the commandments which He had spoken in chapter 20. As Moses neared the camp on his descent, what did he discover? The people had broken their promises and were dancing around an idol -- a gold image of a calf!
How had this happened? "And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." (Ex. 32:1). They did not keep the fearful respect for God before their faces. That fear should have led them to realize that they couldn't keep their pledge without His help. As a symbol of the broken covenant, Moses threw down the stone tablets and they shattered! (Ex. 32:19).
God allowed the people to try to be faithful in their way, with a covenant promise they could not keep in their own strength. Until faced with their terrible sin, they sensed no need of help (although they should have remembered the eagle wings with which God had brought them out of Egypt, Ex. 19:4).
Morning and evening sacrifices
One of the ceremonies Moses had explained represented the grace of the coming Messiah. It was the sacrifice of a year-old lamb twice daily. (Ex.29:38-46). Every morning and evening the people were to claim, by faith, the merits of the Christ's coming sacrifice at Calvary. While the lamb was being slain in the courtyard, a priest offered incense in front of the veil which secluded the most holy place inside the tabernacle. Thus, as the people would pray each morning and evening while the lamb was slain and the incense arose, they would receive grace to keep them faithful and grace for forgiveness. This is the same new covenant we live by as we look back to Calvary. Christ's part is in providing our salvation. Our part is in claiming His power in our lives. The people neglected to understand the need for this dependence on divine power.
Abraham had accepted the new covenant, too. The Lord promised to be his shield. ". . . he believed [by faith] in the LORD; and he the Lord counted it to him for righteousness." (Gen. 15:6) This is righteousness by faith. God later told him ". . . I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." (Gen. 17:1, 2)
What did Paul declare in Phil 4:13? Did he say, "I can do all things God asks?" No, that would have been an old covenant promise. Here are his words. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Jesus said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5).
The new covenant Jeremiah wrote about would be the law established in the minds and hearts of the people, where it should have been all along (Ps. 40:8). But more than being words in a new place, it would be in a relationship with the one who overcame so that they could overcome. ". . . and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jer. 31:33; Rev. 3:21). We can never do it alone. The following promise is too good not to quote:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." (Isa. 41:10). In the strength of His righteousness, we may be victorious! That's the new covenant in the Old Testament. Worth copying and sticking to the refrigerator. Israel's spiritual and physical victories were based on the same promises and were directed to the same results -- God's glory (Isa. 41:20). ". . . without me," Jesus said, "ye can do nothing."
Did God withhold
the new covenant blessing until Jesus came to this earth?
Some might see the statements in Jeremiah about a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-33) as a prophecy about a new plan God would have for being saved after Jesus came in the flesh. But the context of the chapter refers to rebuilding Jerusalem after the captivity (Jer. 31:23, 38). Although that may be symbolic of the future, we must also see its contemporary meaning. In Jeremiah's time, the people were wicked and headed for captivity. God was already promising restoration of the covenant to His people, the covenant they were then breaking. The promised covenant -- the covenant made new -- was to be God's relationship with His people when they would return to Jerusalem, centuries before the birth of Christ. We cannot say that Jesus' coming changed the conditions of the covenant. God's way of happiness is expressed in His law. The "law" in the Jeremiah passage, and hence in the book of Hebrews, has to be the eternal, unchanging law of God.
The Hebrews who received the epistle needed to claim the new covenant promise. If, in discouragement, they were to return to their old religion, they would be denying the power of Christ through His blood. The blood of animals never did bring salvation except as it expressed faith in the blood of the Messiah to come. In ignoring the Christ those animals were to represent, they would be seeking salvation by their works.
But didn't Jesus give us a new law of love?
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:36-40)
Jesus quoted from the Old Testament which He said could be summarized in these two statements. At the heart of it all are the ten commandments which are divided into these two laws. The first four commandments show our duty to God and the last six, our duty to man. But the eternal law of God can be expressed even more simply with one word which expresses God's character love. So we have various descriptions of how to live at peace with God, none of which replaces the others.
1 rule, Rom 13:11
2 rules, Matt. 22:36-40
10 rules, Ex. 20:1-17
The whole Old Testament
The whole of inspired Scripture
"And hereby we do know that
we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and
keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But
whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby
know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself
also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:3-6)
For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven (Ps. 119:89). Praise God for that certainty.