BEHOLD YOUR GOD
A Perfect Law
The perfection of God’s law stands in marked contrast to the imperfection of the laws framed by earthly legislators.
The faultiness and inadequacy of men’ laws are marked in two ways at least. Firstly, men are obliged to constantly enact new laws and to modify or repeal old ones. Things which the law forbids today, it will permit in the near future. Behavior which is allowed in one country is strictly banned in another.
Secondly, when kings or congress pass their laws, in order to ensure that the people will respect the government and obey those laws, they formulate a list of punishments which they then administer.
But these things are not true of God’s law. It is so perfect and complete that there has been no modification or addition needed from the day it was first expressed. Its principles are so complete and all-embracing that, if perfectly obeyed, they are the flaw less pattern for both divine and human behaviour in either the sinless heavenly environment or the iniquitous situation on earth.
The life of Christ amply demonstrated the truth of this, for He kept His Father’s commandments in conditions so wicked that it was described as the time “when the transgressors” had “come to the full,” Daniel 8:23; the time when “The deception of sin had reached its height. All the agencies for depraving the souls of men had been put in operation. The Son of God, looking upon the world, beheld suffering and misery. With pity He saw how men had become victims of satanic cruelty. He looked with compassion upon those who were being corrupted, murdered, and lost. They had chosen a ruler who chained them to his car as captives. Bewildered and deceived, they were moving on in gloomy procession toward eternal ruin,—to death in which is no hope of life, toward night to which comes no morning. Satanic agencies were incorporated with men. The bodies of human beings, made for the dwelling place of God, had become the habitation of demons. The senses, the nerves, the passions, the organs of men were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the vilest lust. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the countenances of men. Human faces reflected the expression of the legions of evil with which they were possessed. Such was the prospect upon which the world’s Redeemer looked. What a spectacle for Infinite Purity to behold!
“Sin had become a science, and vice was consecrated as a part of religion. Rebellion had struck its roots deep into the heart, and the hostility of man was most violent against heaven. It was demonstrated before the universe that, apart from God, humanity could not be uplifted. A new ele-
ment of life and power must be imparted by Him Who made the world.” The Desire of Ages, 36, 37.
This was the condition of things when Christ came to this earth. Under those circumstances He demonstrated that God’s law was the only code of behavior. To do this He kept that law to perfection thus proving that Satan lied when he declared the law of God was imperfect and needed to be modified to meet changing circumstances. In this perfect adherence to the righteous precepts under these conditions, Christ not only proved to fallen man that the law was not too difficult for him to observe, but that it was the perfect guide and protection for all those who did keep it.
Consider now, the second factor in the difference between the law of God and that of man. This difference is that while men have to attach their own formulated penalties to the law, with God this is not necessary. In His system, breaking the law itself brings its own terrible fruitage in sorrow, and finally, destruction.
It is not to be concluded that God deliberately organized it this way. When it is understood why He formed and gave the law, it will be seen that this is the only way it could be. Essential to the successful accomplishment of the great aspirations within His creatures, is the possession of tremendous power. This power was designed for blessing and benefit only, but unavoidably, it has in it the potential for destruction. Being the only way to safeguard against that other and destructive side of power, law became essential. While power is handled in strict accordance with law, there is no problem. But let the law be disregarded and every kind of problem arises. Therefore, God did not formulate a law with a deliberately built-in system of punishments, but, instead, gave them a perfect protection from self-destruction. If they choose to set aside that protection then there is nothing to prevent the trouble from coming. First God gave the power and then the law to enable them to safely handle it.
Already it has been shown that compelling power, compulsion, the use of force, and such have no place in God’s work and are never found under His government but only under Satan’s. Likewise it has been seen that God, because He is interested only in voluntary obedience, gave to every one of His creatures “full liberty to yield or to withhold obedience.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 48. It would be impossible to give full liberty to withhold obedience, and then punish a person for exercising the very freedom given to him. To punish under those conditions is to deny that full liberty had been given.
There are two ways in which God could have administered punishments upon those who choose to withhold obedience. The first method would be to decree what the punishment should be and then to execute it by His own direct action. This is what the majority believe God does.
The second method would be to skilfully and deliberately build into the law, punishments which would automatically fall upon the transgressor. In
modern language this is called booby trapping. The farmer, for instance, has a patch of delicious melons growing and he knows that, despite the law forbidding theft, the young lads of the village will come at night for the feast. So he installs a trip wire attached to a high explosive. He has built into the law an automatic punishment which will reach out and strike the lawbreaker apart from the action of the law itself.
This is the course the Lord could have adopted to avoid the necessity of exercising His own power in any direct act of destruction.
Whether God punishes directly by His own action or indirectly by building destruction into the law, He would still be denying that He had, in reality, given His subjects “full liberty to yield or to withhold obedience.” He gave the liberty. Therefore He cannot punish any who exercise what He has given them.
If God used the first method, it would be blatant denial of His claim to have given them full liberty. If He used the second method, then He could well be charged with having adopted underhand means whereby He could claim that He had not directly denied their freedom, though in fact, indirectly He had.
God is not deceitful or underhanded. He is the God of truth. Therefore it needs to be clearly understood that He did not design a law with built-in punishments. Every one who is to have a part in the final presentations of the character of God must come to understand the real character of God’s law. The awful punishments which do fall upon the violators of God’s great principles are what the law was devised to protect man from, not what it was designed to bring upon him.
What must be understood with great clarity is that the law is in no sense God’s effort to protect His own position and authority. God is so completely outgoing, so utterly devoid of self-interest, self-justification, or self-protectionism in any form, that He could never have formulated the law to save Himself. It is not something which He has “thought up” as His wish or pleasure whereby the people could be identified as His subjects, doing His will and obeying His commands. Far from it! That law is a masterpiece of protection for the people themselves. It is so wonderfully designed that obedience to it ensures absolute immunity from sickness, suffering, sorrow, fear, suspicion, robbery, violence, and death. On the other hand, violation of its principles guarantees the introduction of these things in their worst forms.
None of these things is God’s invention designed for infliction on the transgressor. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. It is a sound principle, universally practised, that the servant is always paid by the employer to whom he renders service. If a worker, having given a month of industrious labor to Mr. Jones, then went to Mr. Brown to receive his wages, he would be met with an indignant refusal.
“I am not responsible for the wages owed to you by Mr. Jones,” he would emphatically say. “I do not pay the money earned by service on your
part to another employer. If you work for me than I will pay you but not otherwise.`
This reply is reasonable. It is equally reasonable that the same principles apply in the spiritual realm. Therein are two masters, God and Satan, or more correctly, righteousness and sin. Neither of these masters pays the wages earned in the service of the other.
The wages of sin is death and the gift of righteousness is life.
No one needs convincing that Satan never pays the gifts of God. All those who live the life of righteousness, know that they cannot look to the devil to pay even the smallest proportion of these. God alone can pay the gift of life. Satan has no part in this whatsoever.
If it is so easily seen that the devil never pays God`s gifts to the righteous, then it should be equally clear that the Lord never pays the wages owed by sin to its subjects. Sin and Satan alone pay those. God does not traffic in death for He is the purveyor of life. That is His merchandise and He dispenses no other. He does not pay wages in the currency of death.
“Sickness, suffering, and death are work of an antagonistic power. Satan is the destroyer; God is the restorer.” The Ministry of Healing, 113.
As the Restorer, “God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us.” ibid., 112. The law, then, has not been formed as an instrument of destruction but of salvation. The unfortunate attitude of hostility toward that law will be swept away entirely when its true purpose and role are understood. Then with the Psalmist, the exclamation of praise will go forth, “O how I love Thy Law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97.
The Holy Spirit had certainly imparted to the writer of these words a very different view of the law from that generally possessed by man. He had come to see that the law was not designed for God’s exaltation and protection but for the protection and blessing of mankind.
This we need also to see. Accordingly our attention will now be directed to studying God’s law as the precious gift of God for man’s blessing and security.
Both the first part dealing with the relationship of man to God and the second part covering man to man, were designed along the same lines. Consideration will be given to the first part initially.
Statement number one in the Decalogue is this: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3.
To the average person this suggests a picture of God concerned about His receiving the homage, respect, service, and worship which He felt was due to Him. To them, it is as if He were saying, “I am God and I do not intend that you shall forget that. I will tolerate no other god in My place for I will share My honor, position, and glory with none. I want, and I demand, exclusive recognition of My sole authority from each of you. I shall be
watching every one intently, moment by moment, with vigilance which never slumbers nor sleeps. If I find any drifting away from Me, any rendering of homage or love to another, My anger shall become exceedingly great and I will come in My fury to punish you without mercy.”
This is the view held by this earth’s majority. This is how they see God, because if they were in the same position with the same power, that is how they would relate themselves to their subjects. But, in fact, a more erroneous view of God’s intent could not be entertained. God had not thought of His honor, security, and safety when He formed that commandment. He was entirely preoccupied with His subjects and their needs. He knew the danger in which they were, and to make them secure from it He gave them this and the other commands.
Difficult as it may be at first to understand, the truth is that it was not possible for God to create man without a very definite element of danger being involved. Yet, once careful consideration is given to the objectives of love in bringing the earth and its inhabitants into existence, it will be perceived that it was not possible to do this without that threat being in attendance.
It began with the divine purpose to give man the precious love-gift of life. There was no obligation upon God to do it. Humanity should respond only with the deepest gratitude that God had elected to do this. But to give life was not sufficient. A home must be provided in which those possessed of this inimitable gift could enjoy such riches to the fullest. Without a home, existence would be an eternal drifting through supercold space with nothing to see or do. Those would covert what promised to be everlasting delight into perpetual horror.
Therefore, the creation of highly intelligent creatures necessitated the forming of a home in which they could develop and exercise the splendid powers given to them, achieving the highest aspirations of their active minds.
That was a wonderful provision but it was still insufficient. Both the individuals themselves and the world in which they lived must be equipped with suitable and sufficient powers to enable them to live their lives to the fullest potential. The infinitely wise and loving God saw this and without hesitation installed all those mighty powers in their proper place and balance. These powers may be grouped into two divisions, those within man and those outside him in the marvellous world of nature.
The powers in man may be listed as the power of thought, muscular power, the powers of speech, ambition, planning, reasoning, invention, love, joy, and so forth. The powers without in the world of nature are the powers of the sun, moon, gravity, wind, water, centrifugal and inertial forces, electricity, and many more.
All this, seemingly, would provide the sum of all that could ever be needed to give every creature the fullness of happiness and joy. After all, what more could man desire or need?
But it was still not enough.
It was not enough because power, though provided by God for only one purpose, the blessing and prosperity of all His creatures, inevitably possesses the potential of destruction. Enquiry may be made as to why the Lord did not provide powers that could not be subverted, but careful thought will show that this is impossible. Any power which is intended to do only good can also be turned to an evil purpose.
Therefore, God needed to add one more gift to make the work of creation complete and secure. That gift was the law. It was something very necessary to man, for without it he had no way of keeping those powers from becoming destroyers. This can readily be demonstrated by reference to the first commandment, the study of which, in the light of these principles, will prove that the law was not made by God for God but for man.
Any one of the great powers which God has invested in nature for man’s blessing can be chosen to develop this point. Accordingly the sun will be selected as the example.
Initially, the sun came into existence in response to the spoken creative work of God. This is the only way it could, for there is no other power in existence which can create anything, let alone something of the magnitude and power of that flaming orb. Satan could not do it, neither can man. But God’s work in respect to the sun and its role did not end with its creation, for it cannot fulfill its mission unaided. It, like all other powers, is totally unintelligent, thus possessing no capacity to direct its ways. This must be done by a power outside of and greater than itself under the guidance of a suitable intelligence. The only power which can do this is the power which made it. That is God’s power directed by the intelligent mind of God. That creative power in turn is exercised through His Son, Christ, Who not only “made the world,” but is constantly “upholding all things by the word of His power.” Hebrews 1:2, 3.
“God is constantly employed in upholding and using as His servants the things that He has made. He works through the laws of nature, using them as His instruments. They are not self-acting. Nature in her work testifies of the intelligent presence and active agency of a Being Who moves in all things according to His will. The Ministry of Healing, 416.
“Many teach that matter possesses vital power,—that certain properties are imparted to matter, and it is then left to act through its own inherent energy; and that the operations of nature are conducted in harmony with fixed laws, with which God Himself cannot interfere. This is false science, and is not sustained by the Word of God. Nature is the servant of her Creator. God does not annul His laws, or work contrary to them, but He is continually using them as His instruments. Nature testifies of an intelligence, a presence, and active energy, that works in and through her laws. There is in nature the continual working of the Father and the Son. Christ says, ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,’ John 5:17.
“The Levites, in their hymn recorded by Nehemiah, sung ‘Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things therein, . . . and Thou preservest them all.’ Nehemiah 9:6. As regards this world, God’s work of creation is completed. For ‘the works were finished from the foundation of the world.’ Hebrews 4:3. But His energy is still exerted in upholding the objects of His creation. It is not because the mechanism that has once been set in motion continues to act by its own inherent energy, that the pulse beats, and breath follows breath; but every breath, every pulsation of the heart, is an evidence of the all-pervading care of Him in whom ‘we live, and move, and have our being.’ Acts 17:28. It is not because of inherent power that year by year the earth produces her bounties, and continues her motion around the sun. The hand of God guides the planets, and keeps them in position in their orderly march through the heavens. He “bringeth out their host by number; He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth.’ Isaiah 40:26. It is through His power that vegetation flourishes, that the leaves appear and the flowers bloom. He ‘maketh grass to grow upon the mountains,’ and by Him the valleys are made fruitful. All the beasts of the forest seek their meat from God, Psalms 147:8; 104:20, 21, and every living creature, from the smallest insect up to man, is daily dependent upon His providential care. In the beautiful words of the psalmist, ‘These wait all upon Thee. . . . That Thou givest them they gather; Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good.’ Psalms 104:27, 28. His Word controls the elements, He covers the heavens with clouds, and prepares rain for the earth. ‘He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoar frost like ashes.’ ‘When He uttereth His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasures.’ Psalms 147:16; Jeremiah 10:13.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 114, 115.
These statements teach the active presence of God as the Controller of all the powers He has installed in the universe for the good of His creatures. But, why is it necessary for God to do this? Is it because He is determined to keep personal control over all things? Or is it because it must be so? Why could God not have set the whole complex machinery in motion and then left it to run of its own accord from the very beginning? Or why does He not delegate the work to other hands to leave Himself free from such things?
God does what He is doing because that is the only way it can be done and certainly not because of any desire on His part to reserve to Himself any special position. It was not possible for God to leave all these tremendous powers to themselves for it is the very nature of power to be unintelligent. The sun is a power of gigantic proportions, but it has not power to think or to direct its ways and even if it did, it would still need God to keep it supplied with energy.
Think of all the various powers in existence—fire, wind, gravity, the tides, hydraulics, and so on, and it will be seen that not one of them is an intelligence nor could be. Power and force are just that, while intelligence is designed to control and guide the powers. Even the physical powers in the human body are not intelligent. They depend upon the intelligence centered in the brain for control and guidance.
Therefore, the mighty sun must have a controller and guide to keep it exactly on its course and, at the same time, a source of energy to keep it forever fuelled and burning at a constant level. Should there be no such controlling power, then think of the possibilities. The sun could swing a little too far out and away from the earth with the consequence of such tremendous cooling on this planet that it would freeze solid. On the other had it could swing in too close and destruction would come with blazing heat. Again, it might burn too dimly or too brightly or even explode with the same destructive results.
Far more than we do, we need to appreciate how dependent we are upon that sun. If we were to carefully consider the effect of that power becoming either diminished or increased, then we would be far more grateful than we are for the Lord’s controlling and sustaining hand in the universe. The same facts and principles apply to all the mighty powers of heaven and earth.
Having established the truth that the hand of a mighty controller and energy-supplier is indispensable for the continuation of our lives upon the earth, we can proceed to the next question. Why does God do this? Why does He not give it to one of His mighty creatures to look after for Him?
The answer is because He cannot. It required a Creator’s power to set it up in the first case, and it requires the same Creator’s power to maintain it. Only He can do it. God gladly gives His creatures whatever He can, but this is one thing He cannot give, for there is not one of us, angel or man, who can keep those mighty powers under perfect control.
Therefore, it is essential that no other god be placed in God’s position as the Controller, Guide, and Sustainer of these mighty powers. To do so would be to put there a being who would have no hope of keeping those things under control. They would swiftly break out of their course in a holocaust of destruction.
To help in understanding this extremely important point let the following illustration serve. One of the biggest commercial passenger aircraft is the Boeing 747. In order to control and direct that tremendous power, a man must have, through long practice and training, highly developed skills. The law says that on a flight no one must set another person who is unqualified in the pilot’s place. Suppose that during a flight across the Pacific from Sydney to Honolulu, a passenger who has never flown a plane before goes onto the flight deck, overpowers the crew, binds them up securely, and then attempts to fly the machine to a destination of his own choice.
What is the inevitable result? That man has no hope of bringing the plane in successfully. He will not even know how to navigate it across the uncharted oceans, and he will crash the plane, killing every person on board. No one should have any difficulty in seeing this, especially if he has ever had his untrained hands on the controls of even a simple light aircraft and tried to bring it in to land. A 747 is a complex of unintelligent but gigantic powers which must have a master mind to direct. Should such a trained and skilled person be taken from the controls and another untrained one take his place, then certain disaster is the result.
This is exactly the situation with this earth and the mighty powers attendant upon it. God alone has the power and skill to guide them accurately and safely on their courses. Should that guiding hand be removed and another attempt to fill its place, then inevitable desolations would follow. There would be no way to prevent it. Some may object that God could prevent it. Certainly He has the physical power to do so, but in order for that power to be exercised to prevent that destruction, it has to be in the very place from which it has been dismissed. Once another god has been put in the place of the true God, then God can only save the situation, by forcing Himself back into the place from which He has been sent away, and this God will never do. This would violate the freedom of choice which He Himself gave to His creatures and which He will never invade even to a hair’s breadth.
But how would it be possible for God to vacate the position of control? How could this be brought about? Surely, it may be argued, no one could take God’s position away from Him!
It can be done quite simply and very quickly. What is more, it has been done.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were the ruler and owners of this world in a kingdom which they held under God and for God. “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth.” Genesis 1:26.
While they retained that dominion, God could and did maintain perfect control over the sun, the moon, and all the other mighty powers set in their places for the blessing and benefit of the human family. There was no problem, and the Edenic pair enjoyed perfect security, comfort, and prosperity.
But the time came when they passed the kingdom into the devil’s hands and he became “the prince of this world.” John 14:30. While Adam and Eve had held dominion under God, Satan did not. He had put himself in God’s place, and when Adam and Eve turned to give their dominion to Satan, they placed another god in the place of the true God. They directly broke the first commandment and thus removed from themselves the pro-
tection the first commandment was designed to give. Another god was in the place of the real God and this new god could not control the mighty powers of nature. Sudden and terrible destruction immediately threatened them.
It may be objected here that the whole argument is disproved by the fact that the threatened destruction did not fall upon them that day as God had said it would. This is true, but that does not make God a liar, nor does it disprove the argument. God’s word was fulfilled for they did die that very day. On the spiritual side of their natures the life of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, died out of them, to be replaced by another spirit, that of the devil.
They would have also died physically that day, had not the Lord interposed to introduce a delaying factor, designed in love, to give them a limited probationary period in which to reconsider their decision. In unquenchable love for the doomed, Christ stepped in to divert the punishment to Himself. He would take upon Himself, not that which God would administer to the sinner, but that which the sinner had brought upon himself.
Christ had to move swiftly for the Lord had warned that “in the day that” they ate of it they would surely die. Genesis 2:17. Christ had no time to lose if He would save them. So it is written, “The instant man accepted the temptations of Satan, and did the very things God has said he should not do, Christ, the Son of God, stood between the living and the dead, saying, ‘Let the punishment fall on Me. I will stand in man’s place. He shall have another chance.’” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 1:1085.
Right there in the Garden of Eden, all nature would have swung wildly out of its course with increasing ferocity had not Christ stepped in to give the world a period of probation in which to make a second choice either to serve God or to continue with another god—
the god of death and destruction. When at last the time of probation is ended with every man, woman, and child having made their choice for eternity, this is just what will happen. Christ will step out from His place as Mediator and all nature will collapse in a cataclysm of destruction. Of this final destruction we shall study much more later.
Now, let a summary be made of the facts just considered with particular emphasis being laid on the truth that the suffering and death which certainly follow the violation of the principles of the law, are not administered by God directly, nor are even a carefully built-in provision designed to automatically destroy the lawbreaker. The punishments are the unpreventable outworking of the removal by disobedience of the protections the laws are designed to give.
Here is that summary.
It would have been most unsatisfactory for the Lord to have made us without providing the supporting powers necessary to give us comfortable
living and the opportunity to develop all the gifts within us. The sun is needed for light and heat, the forces of gravity for our equilibrium, electricity to open to us the thousand and on possibilities in communication, electronics and so on. Should we ponder upon a life without the many gracious provisions of God for our welfare and pleasure, we would be far more grateful to the Lord for what He has done.
Note by Ron Beaulieu: We should also ponder the fact that God put Adam and Eve in a garden and He did not provide them with electricity which Mr. Wright evidently considers one of the “many gracious provisions of God.” Further, it is not debateable that those so-called “provisions of God” are not to be attributable to Him, but to the perversions of God’s provisions for man, since these perverted inventions (misuse of God’s provisions) have contributed to the pollution of the universe in ways which are detrimental to man’s best interest and health. One might attribute ills to all of those “provisions,” if the full truth were known. Just for one example, science has determined that the high tension electrical lines that furnish electricity cause harm to animals and man. Also, wireless devices can wreak havoc as can micro-waves. So in truth, these misuses of the provisions of God, are Satan’s perversion of such natural phenomena of electricity which is an operative function of the body’s electrical system.
Did God intend combustion engines that pollute the air we breathe? Did He intend all the pollutions that are a by-product attributable to most of the invented conveniences men applaud themselves for? I think not! I fully believe that God had greater things in mind for mankind than things that pollute the very air he breathes and the water he drinks. I believe without a particle of a doubt that we will experience those better options in the earth made new! End note.
But, it is impossible for power to exist without its being at the same time a potential for fearful and even total destruction. That is the very nature of power and it can be no other way. The greater the power, the greater the danger. Therefore, as surely as heaven is a place filled with the greatest of wonderful powers, it is therefore a potentially dangerous place.
God has no fear of introducing such peril for He knows that it is completely contained if the laws are faithfully obeyed. Under the control of laws obeyed, power can only be a blessing, but let the laws be disobeyed and it is nothing but a danger. The destruction which falls is not directed by God’s hands. It is the natural and unpreventable consequence of the violation of God’s law.
These things must be meditated upon until the purposes and character of God in this are fully understood; until it is seen that God neither inflicts the punishment by His own hand nor has it as an inbuilt threat which reaches out to automatically destroy those who get out of line; until it is seen that the death and suffering is the direct and unpreventable result of the sin; and that the Lord does only one thing, which is to work to save all from such disastrous results and guide them forever in those pathways which will ensure them perfect and complete happiness.
So it is with the violation of the first commandment. What is true of the results of its violation is true of all the rest. For instance, the second precept warns against bowing down to worship an image made of material things. There should be no difficulty in seeing that such an act of worship can only result in death to the worshipper on the following grounds. Every adoration of images as practiced by those who break the second commandment is on the basis of their believing that they can and will obtain all they need for life-support through the idol.
But they cannot believe that they will receive life through the idol and, at the same time, receive life from God, for if they truly believed that God is the only source of life, then they would never have turned aside from Him to seek it from, and through, an idol. Therefore, the very fact that they do worship an idol is their declaration that they have no faith that God can care for them and that they have turned aside from seeking it from God to find it elsewhere.
What is the only possible outcome of such an action on their part? God is the only source of life. To turn aside from that life source and seek it where it does not exist, is to die. God will not kill such a person. Such kill themselves. There is no fault with God, for He plainly warned them that
they were not to place another god in His place. He is the only life-giver and life-sustainer.
To illustrate the point again, think of an aviator who has ascended to altitudes where the oxygen is too rare to support life so he has to plug his breathing apparatus into the outlet connected with the oxygen supply. He has received specific instruction as to which is the correct outlet, but he deliberately chooses to plug into another socket with no connection to the supply. What is going to happen to this foolish man? He will quickly die for want of the essential oxygen. He will die because he has failed to observe the law. His death will be the direct result of that, and not in any sense the act of God.
In precisely the same manner, the man who bows before an idol to seek life from this source has pronounced his own death sentence. He cannot live, for, by his own choice, he cuts himself off from the channel of life. There is no fault with God. He provided the channel for life and warned that if man should discard that and seek life through an idol or an image, he would find none there and death would overtake him.
Accordingly, the second-commandment forbidding the worship of images and idols, is perfectly designed to save God’s children from separating themselves from the source of life to thus bring upon themselves certain destruction.
To take God’s name in vain is to call one’s self a Christian or a child of God, a member of His family thus bearing His name, and yet at the same time to live out of harmony with the principles of the family. To do this is to separate from the family and the blessings which can only be obtained while in the family. Again this is but to bring death upon one’s self.
The breaking of the fourth commandment likewise, is removing the protection God has provided to sustain life. This precept has to do with the great principle of respect for that which is another’s. Its violation opens the door to every kind of trouble and sorrow. To understand this better let us turn to the second side of the Decalogue and study the control of the powers which God has invested in man himself.
We will choose the command, “Thou shalt not steal.” This is an excellent place to begin—for the commands, “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” are but extensions of this commandment. To kill is to steal the life of another from him, even though such theft does not give the thief the life thus stolen. The committal of adultery robs a person of his or her life partner and the bearing of false witness robs a person of his reputation and credibility.
Now we will see how violation of the command, “Thou shalt not steal,” opens upon man the floodgates of woe. Consider the perfect society wherein stealing has never previously been known. The dwellers in this society have perfect trust in each other and without fear they leave their homes open at all times. Locks and bars are neither needed nor known.
Then there comes the day when one person steps out of the way and steals the property of someone else in the village. In the depths of the night the householder is awakened by the stealthy movements of an intruder, who, perceiving that his presence has been noted, flees, bearing a family treasure with him.
In this, the innocent suffer with the guilty. A simple illustration from the travel world of today will serve to show this. There was a time before anyone thought of hijacking an aircraft. In those days the passengers simply walked aboard and took their places. It was convenient and pleasant.
But then came the new era and everything changed. The wrongdoers in this connection are few in number, yet virtually every passenger who seeks to board an aircraft is now suspect. He must, even though innocent, undergo a thorough searching both of his hand baggage and his person. He suffers inconvenience and delay and longs for the return of the days of trust and good will. He is suffering punishment for the sins of another. But the punishment is not something which is being meted out by God it is the direct result of the crime.
Now let us return to our illustration of the village. Should more and more people follow the path of the lawbreaker and become thieves, then the problem will escalate into destructive proportions. Once the law has been cast aside and its protection removed, it is then only a matter of taking one step after another. The thief will not stop at taking merely property. He will take life and murder will worsen the situation. In order to defend themselves, the other thieves will resort to violence for self-protection. All this is precisely what has happened to bring the world to its present state of misery and woe.
As this is being written, Beirut in Lebanon is being torn to pieces with a murderous civil war, while in Northern Ireland, the Irish are slaying Irish with cold-blooded determination. What a fearfully unhappy situation in which to live. How far this is from the perfect plan God formulated for the well-being and happiness of man. Let it be emphasized that none of this woe and trouble comes upon man by any act of God, but by the natural outworking of the law’s being broken. God designed and gave the law as a perfect protection from all this, but man has chosen of his own free will to cast aside that protection. Before us, we see the result. It is only because the Lord is still able to exercise some restraint over mankind that man survives
at all. Should the law be totally cast aside and anarchy reign, the extermination of the race by its own hands would be the swift result.
We will not spend a lot of space considering this important fact for it is not necessary. It is self-evident that the breaking of the law governing man’s relationship to man brings its own terrible results upon the world. Consider the situation as it would be today if every man and woman never stole, never lied, never killed, and in fact, kept all the ten commandments. What a wonderfully happy and secure place the world would be, not because God had arbitrarily made it so, but because that is the way keeping the law would make it. This does not mean that God’s presence is unnecessary for such happiness. It is necessary for it is by His power that the law is kept. He is the fountain of all life and without Him there is no life.
Consider what the world would be like and how long mankind would survive if all law was done away with and every person was a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, a liar, and so on. It is impossible to think of a worse situation. Every man, so long as he managed to survive, would live in a state of perpetual terror. There would be no stability and no security.
As this grim, totally undesirable picture develops before the mind, ponder and see that the terrible conditions would not in any sense be the inflictions of God, but the result of removing the protection afforded by law. Here is the revelation of the cause and effect, and no change can be laid to God for any of it.
The final consideration to be made in this study of the outworking of violated law, is man’s relation to himself. The human body is a wonderfully designed and constructed mechanism. David, as he came to realize this, praised God in these words. “I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14.
With David, we should have a rich appreciation of God’s blessings in giving us a body and mind of such efficiency. Even after almost six thousand years of sin’s degradation, there is still mighty and wonderful power remaining. Such being so, what must it have been like in the beginning when the electrical energy in Adam’s brain was twenty times as great as it is now?
“God endowed man with so great vital force that he has withstood the accumulation of disease brought upon the race in consequence of perverted habits, and has continued for six thousand years. This fact of itself is enough to evidence to us the strength and electrical energy that God gave to man at his creation. It took more than two thousand years of crime and indulgence of base passions to bring bodily disease upon the race to any great extent. If Adam, at his creation, had not been endowed with twenty times as much vital force as men now have, the race, with their present habits of living in violation of natural law, would have become extinct.” Testimonies, 3:138, 189.
It is impossible for a body to be made with such power and efficiency without being a finely balanced piece of complexity requiring obedience to law to keep it in perfect condition.
The laws which govern the care of this mechanism are referred to above as being natural laws and they are, but this does not mean that there is nothing in the moral law to cover this situation. He who abuses his body thus lowering its efficiency, is robbing both God and others of the service which he would render had he the full powers of mind and body. Consider the enormous loss to the community through absenteeism from work because of sickness occasioned by careless disregard of the most simple laws of health.
More than this, the one who does not observe the laws of health and strength is destroying himself thereby breaking the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Therefore, while the care of the body mechanism is conformity to natural law, the breaking of those laws is also breaking the moral law.
Much study could be devoted to the relation of health and longevity to obedience to natural and moral law. Such a study would be both interesting and profitable, but we desire only to make the point that it is not God, but disobedience to those laws which brings upon the disobedient, whether wittingly or unwittingly so, a sure retribution.
It is convincingly self-evident that the man who, for instance, smokes tobacco products and drinks alcohol, steadily reduces his physical capacities and brings upon himself destructive diseases.
So clear is this evidence that even people who have long disregarded the moral law, recognize the direct connection between prolonged cigarette smoking and the incidence of lung cancer and early heart failures. More than ever, men can see that to pursue a certain course of unhealthful living will certainly bring a harvest of suffering and untimely death.
It is not God who afflicts poor sufferers with these diseases. They are the unpreventable result of the sin itself. God cannot and will not, in justice, work a miracle to counteract these evil effects, but because of this He is not to be named as the One Who has deliberately sent these punishments upon the people. He has done all that He can to save them from such trouble. In the first place He gave man the best body mechanism it was possible to give. Then, recognizing that man could not get the best out of this gift except by giving it proper care, the Lord gave him laws to protect it from the effects of wrong living. Also, God gave man the freedom to choose whether he would cherish and care for the gift, or treat it with disdain and destroy it.
So whatever suffering should then come upon man is not the responsibility or work of God. It is the direct effect of man’s works. He has only himself to blame. No charge can ever be laid to God’s account for this.
Such then is the nature of God’s law. It is a marvellously perfect provision by Him to meet our need, not His. He has not formulated it to assert
His authority or as an instrument whereby He is given the right to punish those who do not obey Him.
The sinner’s breaking of the law is his own act whereby he removes the divinely provided protection from death and destruction. Not only is it against God’s principles to exercise force to compel or punish people into obeying Him, but He does not need to, for the removal of sin is guaranteed by the mere fact that it is, in its own nature, a way of death and destruction. There is only one life path and that is the one God has mapped out for His people.
This is true of our relation to God, in our relation to our fellow men, and in relation to ourselves. When the nature of the law as it really is, is truly understood, then our obedience to it will be far more willing and successful.
Likewise, when the character and ways of God are genuinely comprehended and appreciated, something of the infinite love and kindness of God the eternal Father, will be perceived, generating sincere praise and gratitude for His love and wisdom. Then it will be known that God did not compose that law as the symbol of His authority, imposing it upon us as the obligation of service to Him, the medium whereby He could exact our service and homage. It will be realized that the law was made for the children of God. that perfect obedience to it was the complete saviour from death and destruction. The truth will be intelligently grasped that when Adam and Eve cast aside that saviour, then Christ gave Himself to be the Saviour to bring back the lost and perishing to the safe side of the law.
It will then be recognized that when men cast aside firstly the law and then Christ as their saviours, they will have exhausted all that heaven has and can do to save them. Beyond that limit, God can go no further, for that is the totality of His resources. This leaves Him with no choice but to grant to each apostate the total separation with its attendant annihilation which he has chosen. It will then be discerned with wonder and admiration that the only role filled by God is that of a Saviour so that men perish, not because He has reached out to destroy them, but because they have refused His saving efforts.
In summary, then, it is right to say that the law of God is the transcript of His character. God’s righteousness and the righteousness of the law are identical so that God’s behaviour is expressed in the precepts of that law. Therefore, His behavior is not something to which He has reined Himself as a strict discipline contrary to His nature. It is the natural expression of the tenets of the Decalogue.
Because this is the only kind of obedience in which He is interested, He made man in His own image “both in outward resemblance and in character.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 45. He writes that same law on our hearts so that it is also the transcript of our characters and we can and do obey the law as He obeys it—a natural outworking of our inner natures.
Thus we are able to give the only kind of obedience the Lord can accept—an obedience that is based upon a personal “conviction of His justice and benevolence.” The Great Controversy, 498.
Because the Lord can accept only a willing obedience given because of our love for Him, He will never use force to secure our allegiance, but, in perfect consistency with these principles, gives to all the “full liberty to yield or to withhold obedience.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 48.
As surely as He gives full liberty to withhold obedience, He can never punish any one of His creatures for exercising the liberty which He Himself has given.
This means, then, that the punishments which do come as a result of turning from God’s way are the fruit or result of our own course of action, not the administration of such things by the hand of God.
This is better understood when it is seen that God’s law is designed by Him to be a protection from the effects of powers which otherwise have ceased to be under proper control. Sin and sinners will be destroyed, but it will be the effect of their own course of action, not the outpouring of destruction by the hand of God.