God’s warnings through Moses – Part 5 of ‘The Hope of Israel’

(This is an edited version of chapter 5 of Mauro’s book.)

God’s covenant at Mount Sinai was very broad in scope, extending to the entire community that left Egypt with Moses, but was conditional in character, i.e. the performance of its promises by Jehovah was dependant upon certain express conditions, which the Israelites bound themselves to fulfil. Here are the terms of that covenant, as proposed by God and agreed to by ‘all the people’:

‘Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant’ – note the condition – ‘then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation’ (Ex. 19:5-6).

Here are three things, which, on the express conditions of obedience and fidelity on the part of the children of Israel, God promised to make of that people: first, a peculiar treasure to Himself; second, a kingdom of priests; third, a holy nation. The promise of earthly territory was not included in that first Sinaitic covenant.

Thereupon Moses, in his role of mediator of that covenant, 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’ (vv. 7-8). So the terms of the contract were agreed to by both the contracting parties.

Then God spoke in their hearing the ‘Words’ they were to keep, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20); and He also gave to Moses ‘the judgments’ whereby their dealings with one another were to be governed (Ex. 21-23). And thereupon ‘Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments; and all the people answered with one voice and said, All the words which the Lord hath said we will do’ (Ex. 24:3).

Accordingly the contract was reduced to writing and was executed in a most solemn manner; it being a blood covenant, which was the most binding. For Moses took ‘the book of the covenant,’ that is the scroll of parchment on which the terms of the contract were inscribed, and read in the audience of the people, and took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words’ (Ex. 24:6-8).

Within the space of forty days that covenant was broken by the abominable idolatry of the golden calf and the shameless rites with which the people, led by Aaron, worshipped it (Ex. 32). The terms of that covenant were never again ratified with that people. I will discuss presently what were the terms of the substituted covenant that God made with the children of Israel, but would like to impress upon the reader, as truth of the highest importance, that the three wondrously glorious promises of the covenant of Exodus 19 – 24 were reserved for a later time. For, to those who had believed on Messiah, the apostle Peter writes that God had made them, apart from all conditions, ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people’ (1 Pet. 2:9).

When the Israelites made and worshipped the golden calf, God was minded to destroy them and to make of Moses a great nation (Ex. 32:10). Had He done so, He would nevertheless have fulfilled the promises He made ‘to Abraham and his seed’ (Gal. 3:16); for Moses was a direct descendant of Abraham. For the same reason it follows that, in fulfilling those promises to Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:7, 29), God has kept His covenant with Abraham in letter as well as in spirit.

But Moses interceded for the people; and God spared them, and commanded Moses to lead them to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob (Ex.33:1); and He made with them another covenant (Ex. 34:10); which covenant, in respect to what was promised, was very inferior to the covenant they had broken; for this substituted covenant (which was not a blood covenant) was restricted to the terms and conditions upon which God would permit them to continue in possession of the land of Canaan. Those terms and conditions are set forth in detail in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses, after the recital of them, writes:

‘These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which He made with them in Horeb’ (Deut. 29:1).

The subsequent history of the Israelites shows that they broke this covenant also; and not in one requirement only, but in every requirement, thereby forfeiting the stipulated blessings, and incurring its curses. That covenant having been finally annulled (‘done away,’ as in 2 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 10:9, etc.), there remains now, of all the covenants ever made by God with a people in this world, none but ‘the everlasting covenant,’ or ‘new covenant,’ whereof Jesus Christ is the Guarantor (‘surety,’ as in Heb. 7:22), who fulfils all the conditions of perfect obedience, even ‘unto death’; and is also the Mediator (Heb. 9:15; 12:24), which covenant was sealed with His own blood.

Therefore, as regards God’s covenants with ‘Israel after the flesh,’ the matter stands as follows: the conditional promises were all nullified by their breach of covenant; whereas the unconditional promises were all fulfilled to them, to the last detail, through Moses and Joshua; and God, moreover has caused that fact to be plainly recorded, as we shall see in the Part that follows.

Let us now consider some of the records made by Moses concerning the covenant under which the Israelites entered into possession of the land that God had sworn to their fathers to give them.

A very comprehensive prophecy is found in Numbers 33:55-56, where God plainly says, through Moses, that in case they should fail to drive out the inhabitants of the land, as He had repeatedly commanded them to do, then as a first consequence, those that were permitted to remain should become pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and ‘moreover, it shall come to pass that I shall do unto you as I thought to do unto them,’ and what He purposed as to those idolatrous nations was their national extermination or expulsion from that land. This undertaking concerning Israel under the Old Covenant has been completely fulfilled.

Deuteronomy 4:1 contains a summary of the covenant. They were to hearken always to God’s statutes and judgments; and, upon that express condition, they were to go in and possess the land. Every other blessing mentioned in Deuteronomy is made to depend upon that same condition. Deuteronomy 4 lays special emphasis upon the Second Commandment (verses 15-24); for it was because of the breaking of that commandment that the promises of the Sinaitic covenant had been forfeited; and now God proclaims to the whole nation, and makes it a matter of record, what would certainly be the consequences to them if they should break this substituted covenant. And not only so, but He confirms His word with a solemn oath, saying, ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto you go over to Jordan to possess it; you shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed’ (Deut. 4:26). Will God fulfil His word? Shall heaven and earth bear witness that He did not mean what He said?

We must carefully note the promise of mercy (verses 29-30) which should be fulfilled to them if, when scattered among the heathen (verses 27-28), any of them should turn to the Lord:

‘If from thence you shall seek the Lord your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation and all these things are come upon you, if you turn to the Lord your God and shall be obedient unto His voice.’

This is the promise of the gospel of Christ. It is repeated in Isaiah 55 (‘the sure mercies of David,’ Isa. 55:3,7, Acts 13:34); and is recalled by Paul in 2 Cor. 3:16. It is the one and only hope for the descendents of Israel, as for all mankind. The conditions are, turn to the Lord’ (i.e. repent) and ‘be obedient to His voice’ (obey the gospel by coming in faith to Jesus Christ). We must especially observe that this promise is to the individual, there being no promise here for the nation as a whole. This is the mercy of the everlasting covenant which God had sworn to their fathers (Deut. 4:31). Thus it stands in the Word of God.

But compare this with dispensational teaching, according to which God will bring the dispersed as a body again, after the day of gospel salvation is ended, to Palestine ‘in unbelief’; and will there convert the entire nation, not by faith, but by the sight of Jesus Christ standing on the Mount of Olives!

The above quoted warning and oath of God that He would, in the event of their lapse into disobedience and idolatry, destroy them from off the land, was never revoked or modified, that I can find; but on the contrary, it was reiterated again and again.

‘You shall not go after other gods of the people which are round about you… lest the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy you from off the face of the earth (or land)’. (Deut. 6:14-15.)

In Deuteronomy 8:1-18, Moses charges the children of Israel to remember all God’s dealings with them in Egypt and in the wilderness, saying:

‘Otherwise it shall be, if you do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods and serve them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyed before your face, so shall you perish, because you would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord you God.’

Here God declares explicitly the completeness of their destruction as a nation. It was to be such as obliterated those nations which the Lord had destroyed before their face. Can it be supposed He did not mean this? And if He meant it, how can anyone maintain, in the face of so clear a statement, the doctrine of a national restoration for Israel?

Furthermore, the form of this tremendously impressive warning, ‘You shall surely perish,’ is like that given to Adam, ‘You shall surely die.’ But in the case of Adam, God’s enemy, the father of lies, raised a question concerning the divine utterance; ‘Has God really said?’ With This example and its disastrous consequences in mind, we should be suspicious as to the source of the doctrine which declares, concerning the nation of Israel, that, it should not perish, but that, on the contrary, it is to be not only saved, but also is to be exalted to the place of supremacy among and over the nations of the world.

In Deuteronomy 11:1-9, Moses recalls God’s judgments on Pharaoh, his land and his army; also His judgments upon Dathan and Abiram; and he admonishes the people of Israel to be warned by these, and to keep the commandments of the Lord, ‘that you may prolong your days in the land.’ Over and over Moses declares that God was giving them that land solely because He had promised their fathers He would do so; and that their continued possession of it depended upon their obedience and fidelity.

Again in this same chapter (verses 16 – 17), Moses bids them to take heed that ‘you turn not aside and serve other gods and worship them; and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you… and you perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord gives you.’

Then at verses 26-28 we read the choice God presented to them: ‘Behold, a blessing and a curse! A blessing if you obey… a curse, if you obey not.’ And a worse fate awaits those who don’t obey the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9)!

Then follow a number of chapters (Deuteronomy chapters 12 to 26) containing ‘the statues and judgments,’ they were to obey as the condition of their remaining in possession of the land and enjoying God’s favour and blessing there; and in chapter 27:14-26 are twelve curses which, after they had entered the land of Canaan, the Levites were to recite, as coming upon those who should sin against the Lord; and to each curse all the people were to respond, ‘Amen.’

Then in chapter 28 is the solemn declaration that, if they would not hearken and obey: ‘all these curses shall come upon you … until you be destroyed’ (verses 15-20). And then, after the recital of a long list of the appalling evils that were to overtake them, Moses says:

‘Because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies which the Lord shall send against you;… and He shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck until He has destroyed you.’ (Deuteronomy 28: 47-48).

This was fulfilled in the Roman oppression of Israel, iron being the symbol of the Roman empire (Dan. 2:40 & 7:7). And then follows in Deuteronomy 28: 63-67, that marvellously exact and vividly descriptive prophecy, which God gave through Moses, of the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the horrors of which were to be unsurpassed in all history; which prophecy ends with this prediction:

‘And it shall come to pass that, as the Lord rejoiced over you to do good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and you shall be plucked from off the land to which you go to possess it. And the Lord shall scatter you among all people, from the one end of the earth unto the other … And among these nations you shall find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest,’ etc.

This is their condition at the present time, even in the Land of the Patriarchs, and it should be noted that in this same chapter Moses says concerning ‘all these curses’ that ‘they shall be upon thee, for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed forever’ (v. 46).

In Deuteronomy 29:1, we learn that the covenant under which the Israelites were given possession of the land of Canaan was not, as appears to be commonly supposed at this present time, the covenant of Sinai (and we have already seen that the promises of that covenant did not include their possession of any earthly territory). For here we read: ‘These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.’ And this is followed by a further warning that the breach of this latter covenant would be punished by an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah; that is, an irrecoverable ruin (v. 23).

Then we find that great hope of mercy set forth in Deuteronomy 30:1-10: ‘And it shall come to pass when all these things come upon thee’ – so the events warned of were all to happen, and what then? Special attention should be given to this chapter, because here is where mercy is promised them; and here are stated the conditions on which they may obtain it, after they should have been destroyed as a nation, plucked from off their land, and scattered among all the nations of the earth.

First there is the promise of a return from captivity if, among the nations wither the Lord should have driven them, they should ‘return unto the Lord your God’ (v. 2). Then follows a passage (vv. 11-14), which is quoted in part by Paul in Romans 10:6-10, concerning which he says that ‘the word,’ there spoken by Moses, is ‘the word of faith which we preach, that if you shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.’

Thus we find that the very last hope of mercy that is held out through Moses to that ‘disobedient and gainsaying people,’ to whom God says ‘I have stretched out my hands all the day long,’ is the ‘one hope’ of the gospel of Christ which has as its promise, eternal life, and the receipt of the promised inheritance in the resurrection.

Verses 15-20 of Deuteronomy 30 are intensely solemn, and their meaning is so plain it would be like charging God with trifling (as scoffers make light of His warnings concerning hell and eternal torment), to say that this pledge, which God calls heaven and earth to witness, does not mean exactly what it says. Again we have the plain statement, ‘If thine heart turn away… you shall surely perish, and shall not prolong your days in the land.’

In Deuteronomy 31:15-21, God appears to Moses and plainly tells him that ‘this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of strangers, and will forsake Me, and break My Covenant. And My anger shall be kindled against them.’ Therefore He commanded Moses to teach them that remarkable prophetic ‘song,’ which witnessed beforehand what they would do, and what was to befall them. ‘For,’ says God, ‘I know their imagination even now, before I have brought them into the land’ (v.21).

To this Moses adds (vv. 27-30) that he knew their rebellion even while he was with them; ‘And how much more,’ he asks, ‘after my death? For I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves, and evil will befall you in the latter days’ (and no subsequent recovery is hinted at; though surely, if such a thing were to be, it would appear here).

The Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, has as its conclusion the verse that Paul quotes in Romans 15:10, namely: ‘Rejoice, O ye nations with His people.’ This was revealed by the Holy Spirit to be a promise of the gospel to the Gentiles, to whom Paul was made the special messenger of God. Paul had already shown (Rom. 11:7) that ‘His people’ was not the nation of Israel in its entirety, but only that part of it (‘the remnant according to the election of grace’) which He foreknew; with which remnant the saved from among the Gentiles were to be incorporated; thus forming the true Israel of God, represented by the ‘good olive tree.’

Thus it was foreseen of God, from the time of Moses, that the only hope of the natural Israelite at this stage of human history is to believe in Jesus Christ and be graffed into ‘their own olive tree’. What better thing could be desired for them?


It is appropriate at this point to note that the apostles of Christ, and they who follow their teaching, were (and are) looking for the very same things that the fathers of Israel were looking for; for as Peter – writing ‘to them that have obtained like precious faith with us’ (the apostles of Christ) –  says: ‘We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness’ (2 Pet. 3:13).

Thus the outlook of the true ‘Israel of God,’ that ‘holy nation’ which is, and always was, composed only of those who are ‘of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all’ (Rom. 4:16), was ever the same. And it was, as we should expect, a radically different outlook from that of the degenerate and apostate Jews, who looked for an age (or ‘dispensation’ as it is now called) of earthly glory for the reconstituted Jewish nation; an age in which that nation will occupy the place of dominance over the Gentiles. Manifestly Peter could not have written the above quoted verse if he had held the now current doctrine of a millennium of earthly greatness for the Jewish people.

Indeed the entire chapter three of Peter’s second letter bears strong testimony against that doctrine. The general subject of the chapter is ‘the promise of His coming’ (v. 4), and its special purpose is to warn the Lord’s people of what would seem to them a long delay in His second coming and to assure them that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some would regard it, but that the reason for the seeming delay was because of the long suffering of God, and of His desire that not any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (vv. 3-9).

To all that give due attention to this passage it must surely be evident that what is immediately to follow this day of salvation for all men is ‘the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men’ (v. 7), ‘the day of the Lord’ (v. 10), ‘the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat’ (v. 12).

Manifestly, if this now present day of salvation were to be followed by a day of glory, peace and prosperity for the earth, a day in which the entire Jewish nation and other nations as well, are to be saved, there would be no long- suffering and mercy on the part of God in prolonging the Saviour’s absence; but just the reverse. The reason provided by Peter for the delay is valid only if the return of the Lord is to usher in the day of judgment, and if it coincides with ‘the coming of the day of God.’ The apostle reminds us that the world that existed in the time of Noah, ‘being overflowed with water, perished’; and goes on to say that, ‘the heavens and earth which are now… are kept in store’ – not for a thousand years of peace and plenty, but – ‘reserved unto fire’ (v. 7).

In verse 10 he warns us, as do other Scriptures (Mat. 24:42; 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15), that our Lord’s coming will take the world by surprise; and he couples the warning with information which shuts out all possibility of a millennial dispensation to follow His coming. For the apostle says:

‘But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.’

And then he admonishes us as to what our ‘conversation’ (manner of life) ought to be in view of the immanency of these exterminating judgments; and that we should be ‘looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat’ (v. 12).

Manifestly it is impossible that we should be ‘looking for,’ and more so that we should be ‘hasting unto,’ the coming of that day, if a millennial age is to intervene.

This passage from Second Peter is referred to again in a later Part.