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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 3

A commentary on the third speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 9-13. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 2

The Rebellion of Israel

Moses told Israel that they were not being given the Promised Land on account of their righteousness, but because Canaan had lost its case before the divine court. He then reinforces this idea by reminding them of their failed tests in the wilderness.

In fact, because of Israel's failures, they were only given a physical land and not the real inheritance that Abraham sought. To inherit the “better country” that Abraham foresaw, those Israelites would have to become overcomers. Likewise, when we compare that “church in the wilderness” with the New Testament church, we find that the situation did not change much in the Pentecostal Age. Both churches had their overcomers, of course, but both churches as a whole were not worthy of the Promises of God. Both failed multiple tests in their respective histories.

The Greater and Lesser Inheritances

What Moses said about Israel, then, applies also to the church in our time. Moses tells the church under Pentecost that the Age of Tabernacles is coming, in which Babylon (like Canaan) will lose its case in the divine court. The church will therefore inherit the land that Babylon has controlled for so long. However, they will inherit a lesser promise than that which Abraham foresaw. Only the overcomers will inherit immortality in this season.

The First Resurrection is not for all the dead, but only for those who, like Caleb and Joshua, overcame by faith, learned obedience, and came into agreement with the mind of Christ. It is clear from Rev. 20:4-6 that only the first resurrection is limited to a few, with the rest of the dead remaining in the tombs until the general resurrection a thousand years later.

When Jesus commented on the general resurrection of all the dead in John 5:28, 29, He made it clear that this resurrection would include both the just and the unjust in the same event. He could not have been referring to the first resurrection, because that one is limited to a few.

And so it is plain that there will be believers in both resurrections. The overcomers, who qualify as rulers, will be given life and authority during the Sabbath Millennium, while the church as a whole will receive its reward at the general resurrection at the end of the thousand years. See my book, The Purpose of Resurrection.

So the bulk of the church will be given a lesser inheritance in the Age to come while the Stone Kingdom emerges and grows (Dan. 2:35). Life spans will increase dramatically as men will live well past a hundred (Is. 65:20), but they will still not have immortality. Living conditions will vastly improve, but they will still need shelter and food to live. They will be given authority and responsibility according to their works, but they will not enjoy the same level of spiritual authority as the overcomers. They will be part of the effort of world evangelism as whole nations turn to Christ, and they will see a tremendous Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but they will not enjoy the fullness of the Spirit (Eph. 3:19) that the overcomers will receive in the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.

It will be a bitter-sweet experience for the church, for even though they will receive much, it will fall short of their expectations. In fact, one of the big surprises for many will be that instead of retiring on a cloud in heaven, they will find useful work in world evangelism in the earth. Then, at the end of the Tabernacles Age to come, which is described in Rev. 20:6 as a thousand years in length, the second resurrection will call forth all the dead to the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:12) for that final scene in the divine court.

Israel was Chosen but Rebellious

Getting back to Moses' speech, we read in Deut. 9:7-8,

7 Remember, do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you.

In other words, being “chosen” did not give Israel a license to sin, nor did it exempt them from the law's judgments. They might well have suffered the same fate as other nations--and worse, in fact, because “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). Being chosen, then, merely increased their liability for sin, because they despised the truth (law) that they had been given.

Forty Days on the Mount

In verses 9-11 Moses speaks of his forty-day sojourn on the Mount receiving the law and other instructions:

9 When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights [Ex. 24:18]; I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God; and on them were all the words which the Lord had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And it came about at the end of forty days and nights that the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.

In addition to the Ten Commandments, God also gave Moses instructions for the tabernacle (Ex. 25-27, 30) and for the priesthood (Ex. 28, 29). He called Bezalel to oversee the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 31:2) and also established the Sabbath calendar (Ex. 31:12-17). Only when those instructions were completed did God carve two stone tablets out of the mount and inscribe them with the Ten Commandments (Ex. 31:18).

In other words, it did not take forty days just to write the Ten Commandments. Most of that time was spent in revealing the detailed instructions for the tabernacle, so that it would accurately represent the pattern of spiritual truth in the tabernacle in heaven (Rev. 15:5). The details were important, because they prophesied of the precise nature of Christ and the truth of the perfected Kingdom.

The forty days that Moses spent on the Mount was also prophetic of Israel's forty years in the wilderness, in which they were supposed to learn these truths being revealed to Moses. The problem was that while he was receiving the law, the people at the base of the Mount began to worship the golden calf. This resulted in the first tablets being broken, which foreshadowed the failure of the Kingdom formed under the Old Covenant.

In the same manner, the forty Jubilees of church history under Pentecost were given for the same reason. Moses' journey up the Mount served as a prophetic type of Jesus' ascension to heaven prior to the second coming. The difference is that Moses ascended at the beginning of the Passover Age, a time of types and shadows, while Christ's ascent came at the beginning of the Age of Pentecost. Hence, there were a few necessary changes as time progressed and the anointing increased from age to age. The prophetic parallels show us the connections:

40 days for Moses, while Israel built the golden calf

40 years for Israel, the Church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38)

40 Jubilees for the New Testament Church in the wilderness

In each case a remnant stood out from the crowd, picturing the overcomers as distinct from the Church. In the first case, after Moses came down from the Mount and saw the golden calf being worshiped, he asked, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me. And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him” (Ex. 32:26).

I wonder if Aaron was among them.

In this case, judgment came upon the Church, and 3,000 were slain that day (Ex. 32:28). This is a very real picture of divine judgment upon the Church at the end of the 40 days. It has its counterpart in the New Testament Church, where 3,000 were added to the Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). But it also speaks of the end of the 40 Jubilees of Church history, when divine judgment again comes upon the Church for its worship of the golden calf (love of money, prosperity).

Hence, this number of trial, testing, and probation (40) ends often in divine judgment upon the majority, with a remnant commended as overcomers.

12Then the Lord said to me, “Arise, go down from here quickly, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made a molten image for themselves.”13 The Lord spoke further to me, saying, “I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.”

The wrath of God against the Church in the wilderness is expressed in this account. By law God had the right to disinherit them as a whole and to start over with Moses himself and his children. In effect, this would have set the Kingdom back some centuries, for Moses would have been like Abraham in that sense.

But if the seed of Abraham in general was rebellious, how would Moses’ descendants have fared any better after a few centuries? Human nature being what it is (since Adam), it is hardly possible that Moses’ children would have succeeded where the children of Abraham failed.

Indeed, if the children of Abraham are those who are of faith, as Gal. 3:7 says—and if they failed—how, then, could the children of the law (Moses) succeed? Obviously, this was not the solution to the problem of human nature. Human nature cannot be overcome either by faithless law or by lawless faith.

Faithless law is where men try to follow the law apart from true faith in God and being led by the Spirit. Lawless faith is where men say, “Lord, Lord, have we not done mighty miracles in your name?” and yet they are found to be practicing lawlessness (Matt. 7:23).

A New Covenant was needed, in which the law would be written on our hearts by faith. This solution is given to us as the law of the Spirit, harmonizing Abraham with Moses, as well as Paul and James.

Moses Breaks the Tablets

When Moses saw the people worshiping the molten calf of Egypt, he broke the tablets of stone that God had given him. Moses says,

15 So I turned and came down from the mountain while the mountain was burning with fire, and the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. 16 And I saw that you indeed had sinned against the Lord your God. You had made for yourselves a golden calf; you had turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded you. 17 And I took hold of the two tablets and threw them from my hands, and smashed them before your eyes.

The failure of the Old Covenant Kingdom reached its climax when it rejected Jesus Christ. Even as Israel was found worshiping the gold calf in violation of the law, so also did the nation of Judah reject Jesus Christ in favor of their own golden calves. Their rejection, in effect, smashed all Ten Commandments.

The question naturally arises: Under Moses, how could the people worship a golden calf while the fire on the Mount and the presence of God's glory was so visible? Likewise, there is a second question: Under Christ, how could the people reject Him when the works of God were so clearly manifested in the life that He lived and the works that He did? Incredible as it may seem, both events happened.

Moses’ Intercession

Moses continues in Deut. 9:18 and 19:

18 And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the Lord was wrathful against you in order to destroy you, but the Lord listened to me that time also.

When Moses returned to the Mount to intercede for the people, he again remained forty days and nights (Ex. 34:28). This was very much a repeat of the first forty-day cycle. In both cycles the tablets of the law were given, but yet the results were different. In the first, the law was broken when Moses returned, but in the second, the law was not broken. In fact, Moses’ face was glowing with the presence of God.

The first forty-day period represents the time spent under the Old Covenant, where the law was broken and the Covenant made “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). The second, however, where Moses ascended to intercede for the people, pictures Christ who ascended, where, as High Priest, He “lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

According to the pattern of Moses, at the end of this forty-day period, he returned carrying the new Tablets of Stone which were NOT BROKEN. In that he arrived in the camp transfigured in his face (Ex. 34:29), the story prophesies of the Age of Tabernacles that begins with Christ's return after forty Jubilees.

The Tabernacles Age, then, will be a time when the nations will learn the laws of God (Is. 2:2-4). Order will be restored as the Stone Kingdom grows and slowly fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:35). There will be no military crusades needed to convert the world. As men and women who are full of the Spirit of God will manifest the life of Christ to all nations, the knowledge of the glory of God will begin the process of covering the whole earth (Num. 14:21).