Notes of an Address on Exodus 31:18; John 8:2-12; 2 Corinthians 3:3-8, 17-18; Hebrews 7:7-12
I desire to follow a little in the line indicated by those who have already spoken to us. It need cause us no surprise if we find ourselves in trying times, for the scripture has forewarned us that in the last days difficult times would be present. All around us there is a great worldly legal religions system, and we are all more or less influenced by it. The man after the flesh is recognized, and the law is better known than the gospel, hence the great thing for us to see is that our hearts are brought well under the influence of the grace of God. If grace is preached to the world, the object of it is to bring men under the influence of it, and we are told in Hebrews that it is a good thing that the heart be established with it, and to look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; and it is the desire that we should be better acquainted with this grace in which we stand that leads me to bring these scriptures under your notice. I refer to the writing on the two tables of stone, on the ground, and in the hearts of men.
What was written upon the two tables of stone was written with the finger of God, and presented what He required from those to whom the law was addressed. It was not the revelation of God, but the declaration on the part of the lawgiver of His demand upon the people of Israel. He says, as it were, to Israel, You are to be that, or come under the curse.” They were not that, and consequently came under the curse.
When Moses came down from the mount the first time, the people were found worshipping a golden calf. The law was already broken, and in his anger he cast the tables of stone out of his hands and broke them in pieces. The people had utterly failed, brought themselves under the curse, and Moses could make no atonement. He went back again to God with a desire in his heart to give himself for the people, and asks God to blot him out of His book; but that sacrifice was refused, and Moses has to return to the people with their sin unatoned for, and death, condemnation, and the curse still resting upon them. They needed righteousness, but Moses could not stand for them. He could do little else than present the claims of God, and if they did not answer to these claims they must bear the consequences. Hence the glory of the lawgiver, which rested in his face, was a terror to them, and he was compelled to put a veil upon his face when speaking to them.
But the writing which is brought under our notice in John 8 is of a very different character to what we have been considering in Exodus. At Sinai you get the requirement of God set before the people, and engraven with the finger of God upon the tables of the covenant; but here in Christ you get the full and blessed answer to that requirement. All that was demanded from the man after the flesh is found in the Son of God down here in humiliation. Everything that God required He has found in Christ, upon whom He opens heaven and declares, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Under the eye of God Christ traced upon the dust of this world everything that was pleasing to the heart of God. What was written upon the tables of stone has not been written in vain, for Christ is the full answer to it. Those tables were placed in the ark of the covenant, and Christ is the true Ark of the covenant, the Man perfectly according to the heart of God. “Thy law,” He could say, “is within My heart.” God read in the walk of Christ across the floor of this world the perfect fulfilment of everything He had demanded under law, all that was agreeable to God was found in Him, He loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
And this righteous One risen from the dead is our righteousness. He gave Himself for us. There has been no refusal of His sacrifice. God has accepted it. He has made propitiation for our sins, and now He appears in the presence of God for us. Moses could not make atonement for the people, neither could they find righteousness in him. Christ has made atonement for us, and He is our righteousness. He appears before the face of God for us.
But there is another side to the writing of Christ upon the ground. Not only did He trace in His pathway, under the eye of God, all that the holiness and righteousness of God required from man, but He has also traced in His walk and ways and works before our eyes all that God is in His love and grace to man; and this not only in His pathway through this world, but upon the very dust of death’s domain the heart of God has been portrayed in all its mighty love, for the love of God has been commended to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
All this is for us to read, and how attractive it is to the weary, burdened heart! The lawgiver terrified the people; even Moses quaked with fear in the presence of the demand of God; but the publicans and sinners drew near to hear the Son of God. The Pharisees might clamour about law, but He who was full of grace and truth was there; and though these proud men did not like Him, every distressed and anxious heart sought Him. Paying no attention to those men, who neither knew themselves, the poor woman, nor the Son of God, He stoops down and writes with His finger on the ground, as if saying to them, “Do you not see I am writing something very different from that which occupies your minds?” He was here, and not only here in life, but in death, the witness of what was in the heart of God for man, how God was disposed towards His fallen creature. All this is immensely attractive to us. He has brought to as the knowledge of God, and has brought our hearts under the power of it by the gift of the Spirit.
When we come to 2 Corinthians 3 we get the Spirit and righteousness ministered, and Christ written in our hearts. The Spirit is in contrast to the letter, and means that all that was and is required has found its answer in Christ, for “the Lord is that Spirit.” The tables of stone were in themselves nothing to God. It could not have satisfied Him to have His law simply upon stones. They were nothing to God, and they were nothing to the people, except to present to them what God required. But this cannot be said of Christ, for He is everything to God, and He is also everything to us. In Christ I see what the demand of God is, but in the same Person I see the answer to that demand; and He is all that for me. If He is righteous, He is my righteousness; if He is holy, He is my holiness; if He has met every claim of God, He has met all for me, and in Him I find redemption. Christ perfectly meets the demand of God, and meets it all for me, and what He is as the blessed perfect Man is engraven upon our hearts by the Spirit of the living God. All that He is as the image of the invisible God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit, and all that He is as the Man after God’s own heart has been engraven in our hearts by the same Spirit; and I think it takes both these things to make up the glory of the Lord, that is to say, all that He is as the true God, and all that He is as the perfect Man He is engraven upon the fleshy tables of our hearts, as the law will be upon the hearts of the people of Israel, when God takes them up again. They in that day will have their delight in the law and it will be kept by them. Israel in that day will be the tables of stone. What I mean by this, is that what was written upon the tables will be written upon their hearts, and they will be descriptive of it. They will then be, by the work of God, what they never could be by their own work, perfectly according to the mind of God. Christ is written upon our hearts, for we are to take character from Him. He is also the great attraction for us in the heavens. We love to contemplate the glory which shines in His unveiled face. We do not desire that face to be veiled. There is no need that it should be. We read there all that God is for man, and all that man is for God. We come under the influence of what is presented in Him, and it has a transforming effect. If we are occupied with what is presented to us in Christ we are powerfully affected by it, and we become changed into the same image. The lines engraven upon our hearts by the Spirit of the living God become deepened as we behold His glory, and we come out here in this world where He is not, descriptive of Him.