Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God in keeping His commandments

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11 Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Deut 8:11

“Exodus 23:2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:”

“Ezekiel 14:13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: 14:14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.”

Why Israel’s Idolatry Must Be Punished

It was necessary that this sin should be punished as a testimony to surrounding nations of God’s displeasure against idolatry. As the Israelites would hereafter condemn idolatry, their enemies would throw back the charge that the people who claimed Jehovah as their God had made a calf and worshiped it in Horeb. Though compelled to acknowledge the disgraceful truth, Israel could point to the terrible fate of the transgressors as evidence that their sin had not been excused. EP 225.3

Love no less than justice demanded that judgment be inflicted. God cuts off those who are determined upon rebellion, that they may not lead others to ruin. In sparing the life of Cain, God had demonstrated the result of permitting sin to go unpunished. His life and teaching led to the state of corruption that demanded the destruction of the whole world by a flood. The history of the antediluvians testifies that God’s great forbearance did not repress their wickedness. EP 225.4

So at Sinai. Unless punishment had been speedily visited upon transgression, the same results would again have been seen. The earth would have become as corrupt as in the days of Noah. Evils would have followed, greater than resulted from sparing the life of Cain. It was the mercy of God that thousands should suffer, to prevent the necessity of visiting judgments upon millions. To save the many He must punish the few. EP 226.1

Furthermore, as the people had forfeited divine protection, the whole nation was exposed to the power of their enemies. They would soon have fallen prey to their numerous and powerful foes. It was necessary for the good of Israel that crime should be promptly punished. EP 226.2

And it was no less a mercy to the sinners themselves that they should be cut short in their evil course. Had their lives been spared, the same spirit that led them to rebel against God would have been manifested in hatred and strife among themselves. They would eventually have destroyed one another. EP 226.3

Moses’ Christlike Love for Israel

As the people were roused to see the enormity of their guilt, it was feared that every offender was to be cut off. Moses promised to plead once more with God for them. EP 226.4

“Ye have sinned a great sin,” he said, “and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.” In his confession before God he said, “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.” EP 226.5

In the prayer of Moses, our minds are directed to the heavenly records in which the names of all men are inscribed, and their deeds, good or evil, are registered. The book of life contains the names of all who have entered the service of God. If any of these by stubborn persistence in sin become finally hardened against His Holy Spirit, their names will in the judgment be blotted from the book of life. EP 226.6

If the people of Israel were to be rejected by the Lord, Moses desired his name to be blotted out with theirs; he could not endure to see the judgments of God fall upon those who had been graciously delivered. The intercession of Moses in behalf of Israel illustrates the mediation of Christ for sinful men. But the Lord did not permit Moses to bear, as did Christ, the guilt of the transgressor. “Whosoever hath sinned against Me,” He said, “him will I blot out of My book.” EP 227.1

In deep sadness the people buried their dead. Three thousand had fallen by the sword; a plague had soon after broken out in the encampment; and now the message came to them that the divine Presence would no longer accompany them in their journeyings: “I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.” And the command was given, “put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.” In penitence and humiliation, “the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.” EP 227.2

By divine direction, the tent that had served as a temporary place of worship was removed “afar off from the camp.” This was further evidence that God had withdrawn His presence from them. The rebuke was keenly felt, and to the conscience-smitten multitudes it seemed a foreboding of greater calamity. EP 227.3

But they were not left without hope. The tent was pitched without the encampment, but Moses called it “the tabernacle of the congregation.” All who were truly penitent and desired to return to the Lord were directed to repair thither to confess their sins and seek His mercy. When they returned to their tents, Moses entered the tabernacle. The people watched for some token that his intercessions in their behalf were accepted. When the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the entrance of the tabernacle, the people wept for joy, and they “rose up and worshiped, every man in his tent door.” EP 227.4


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