I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We began a new study in our series on God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations last time. We laid quite a bit of foundation, and I want to pick-up where we left off, and look briefly at a period of time, a prophetic period, that figures in prominently for the people of Israel.
I speak of the period of time Jesus spoke of in Luke 21:24, a time our Lord referred to as, “The time of the Gentiles.” He said in what is known as, “The Olivet Discourse”:
“And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” [Luke 21:24]
The “times of the Gentiles” with regard to the city of Jerusalem, came to an end after the six-day Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) war in 1967. The city of Jerusalem was under Gentile control for some 2,000 years prior to the six-day war, and has been under Israeli control ever since. It is arguably the most hotly contested piece of real estate in the world today.
The “times of the Gentiles” with regard to the Temple will have a resurgence of sorts in the time of the Great Tribulation. The Temple does not stand today in Jerusalem of course, but the scripture makes it clear it will be re-built in the days just before, or perhaps just after the beginning of the Great Tribulation, and when it is the outer court of the Temple will be under Gentile control for a period of 42 months, or three-and-a-half years. John wrote in the book of Revelation:
“But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” [Rev. 11:2]
The “times of the Gentiles” began with the children of Israel’s bondage in Egypt. Israel continued to be more or less dominated by Gentile nations throughout the Dispensation of Law. Following the Exodus from Egypt, the armies of Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, to bring them back into bondage. The children of Israel were, you might say, “between a rock and a hard place”, as they stood helplessly before the Red Sea. God commanded Moses to lift up his rod and stretch out his hand over the Red Sea. When he obeyed, the waters rolled back, and the children of Israel were able to cross over on dry ground. It was a true miracle of the Lord. When the last of God’s people had crossed over, God then commanded Moses to lift his hand over the sea again, and the Egyptian armies were overthrown by the waters:
“But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.” [Ex. 14:29, 30]
The children of Israel, while it wouldn’t seem so to the natural mind, were in a really good position at this time. With the Red Sea in front of them, the Egyptian armies behind them, the only thing they could do was look up to the Lord for deliverance. God brought a mighty victory! They crossed the Red Sea, journeyed in the wilderness for three months, and came to Sinai where they stayed for one one year and one month (Ex. 19:1, 2; Num. 1:1). It was at Sinai that the Torah (Or Law, or instructions) were given, the Tabernacle was built, and the nation was organized and instructed in the Law.
I think it is important to understand the terms, Law of God and the Law of Moses. The two are used interchangeably throughout the Bible. There are some groups who try to make distinctions between the Ten Commandments, which they refer to as, The Law of God, and the dietary laws and instructions regarding the Feasts of the Lord, which they call, The Law of Moses. However this teaching is contrary to scripture, where no such distinction is mentioned.
The word most often translated as “Law” in the Hebrew scriptures (what we refer to as the Old Testament), is the Hebrew word, Torah. Law really is not the best translation of this word. It would be better translated, instructions. The word “Law” in the Bible is used to refer to the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), and the entire Word of God (See Psalm 119). The instructions God gave to His people Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai also are referred to as the Law. The Hebrew Bible is divided into three parts: The Torah (Gen. – Deut.), the Prophets, and the writings (which pretty much takes in the Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, etc.). Jesus referred to the scriptures as, “the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).
At Sinai God gave the Law (instructions) to Moses, and through Moses to the people. The Law was actually given to Moses three separate times. The first time God gave it orally (Ex. 20:1). The response of the children of Israel was:
“Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” [Ex. 20:19]
The people feared the awesome display of the presence of God. It is apparent that at some point Moses wrote these words of the Lord in a book (Ex. 24:3, 4). The second time God wrote the Law on two tables of stone with His own finger and delivered them to Moses (Ex. 31:18). Moses returned from the top of the mountain, carrying the tablets of stone with him, and saw the children of Israel in idolatry, dancing around a golden calf:
“So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.” [Ex. 32:19]
Again Moses climbed the mountain and for the third time God gave him the Ten Commandments. The first tablets of stone had been the work of God; but because Moses had broken them, God commanded him to hew or carve out stones like the ones he had destroyed and climb back up the mountain where God again wrote out the Law (Ex. 34:1 – 4). The second tables of stone were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant (Deut. 10:1, 2).
There is much confusion in the world and the Church with regard to the Law of God. Next time I want to take a look at the three categories, types, or divisions of the Law. Hopefully we will gain a better understanding of the role God’s Law has (or should have) in society and in our lives today.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson