The Promises Made | Galatians 3:16, 17

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God, in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect” (Gal. 3:16, 17).

We have seen that Israel made the mistake of putting in the place of God’s covenant the things which the Lord gave to them to aid them in arriving at the full light and blessing of the covenant. There is another great mistake that Israel made, and the same mistake is made today by thousands of persons concerning Israel; and that is that the things which God gave to them were for them alone, not for the people of the world in general.

Israel, thinking thus, naturally shut herself away from the nations, and made all these things specially her own. Thus she separated herself from all the nations, and held herself aloof from, and above, the nations, as being holier than they, and because of this special holiness, as more highly regarded by God than were the other nations. Yet this whole conception of things was an utter mistake, and was a perversion of the intent of the things that God had given.

Everything that the Lord gave to Israel was for the benefit of the whole world. Israel was to be the missionary people who should extend to all nations the light and blessing given to her, in order that all nations might enjoy the light and blessing of God, as revealed in the Abrahamic covenant, to the full knowledge of which all these things that were given were to lead Israel, and all people.

We again set down here, for study, the passage from “Patriarch and Prophets,” which was quoted in last week’s article:
“If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there could have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt. They would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai, or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses.

“The sacrificial system, committed to Adam, was also perverted by his descendants. Superstition, idolatry, cruelty, and licentiousness corrupted the simple and significant service that God had appointed. Through long intercourse with idolaters, the people of Israel had mingled many heathen customs with their worship; therefore the Lord gave them at Sinai definite instruction concerning the sacrificial service” (“Patriarchs and Prophets,” page 364).

It was the apostasy of mankind in general that was the cause of God’s calling Abraham, and setting him as a light to the nations. It was the unfaithfulness of the descendants of Abraham that caused them “to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt.” In Egypt, amid its darkness of every sort, the ideas that they had received in descent from Abraham were more and more obscured until they were practically lost. And thus “in their bondage the people had, to a great extent, lost their knowledge of God, and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant.”

As they had thus lost the law of God from their minds, all this must be renewed. But, having no true conception of the law of God as in the Abrahamic covenant, this had to be taught them. Therefore God proclaimed his law with his own voice to all the people, and then gave it in written form, that they might under his guidance, discern its deep, spiritual principles. And that this might the better be done in their obscurity of mind, the principles of the Ten Commandments were drawn out in detail, in the writings of Moses, which the people had in their hands, and which they were to study constantly until these words of God and these holy principles should be engraved upon their hearts, imbedded in their souls and written in their minds; that is, until they had attained to the glory of the covenant with Abraham.

Now, since all this was necessary to Israel because of her unfaithfulness and the confusion of Egypt, it is certainly plain enough that all these things were necessary to the people of Egypt and the other nations that were in darkness, as she was, that these might find the knowledge of God and his salvation. Then, in the very nature of things, all these things, and all this teaching that came to Israel to bring them to the light of God, were intended by the Lord to be passed on by Israel to the other nations, that these also might be brought to where they should walk in the light of God.

Thus it is perfectly plain that the law of God in all its forms—as spoken from heaven, as written on the tables, and as drawn out in detail in the writings of Moses—was just as much for the nations of the world as it was for the people of Israel. And both Israel and the nations made the mistake of thinking that it was only for Israel, —Israel thinking so, and confining it to herself, and shutting it away from the nations; and the nations thinking so, and therefore despising it. And the nations were, indeed, helped in their mistake by the attitude that was assumed by Israel in her mistake. For when, in her self-righteousness, Israel shut herself away from the nations, despising them, this only resulted in the nations seeing her as shut away from them in self-righteousness, and despising them, and consequently, further resulted in their despising her, and all that was given to her for their benefit. And that same thing continues to this day concerning those things in the Bible, which were given to Israel for all the nations.

This is true, not alone of the moral law, but of the ceremonial law—the sacrificial system—as well. Before Adam left Eden, the sacrificial system was instituted. Noah observed it. Thus the sacrificial system pertained to all mankind; it was simply the means of expressing faith in God’s sacrifice, which he had made to save man from sin. As God has given the firstling of his flock, the best that he had, so every soul who accepted that gift of God, and would show his faith therein, would, in very gratitude to God, offer the firstling of his flock, the best of all that he had. That was true faith in God, and in the Lamb that he had given. “By faith Abel offered unto God” his sacrifice, “the firstlings of his flock,” “by which he obtained witness that he was righteous.” Thus Abel’s righteousness was true righteousness by faith. And that was the way for all mankind.

But as the nations apostatized, and came more and more under the darkening influence of Satan, they began to look upon God as, like themselves, a stern, forbidding, exacting judge, who was angry with them, and waiting only for the opportunity to punish them for their evil doing. Therefore they thought they must offer sacrifices to appease him, and the more precious and costly the sacrifice, the more favor they should gain, and so they were led to sacrifice their own sons and daughters. Thus the sacrificial system, which God had given to Adam, which was observed by Noah, and which was included in the covenant with Abraham, was altogether perverted and lost sight of in this apostasy of the nations. And the descendants of Abraham, in their unfaithfulness, through their association with the nations, and amid the darkness of Egypt, also lost sight of the true, the simple, and the significant service that God had given to Adam, and had continued with Abraham. Accordingly, when they came out of Egypt, the Lord renewed to Israel the sacrificial system, with definite instruction in it, that they might, according to his own direction, offer his sacrifices in purity, and according to truth; that they might see in these the true meaning that God put there at the beginning, which was the sacrifice that he had made, —the offering of his only begotten Son, —the firstling of his flock,—the best of all that he had.

Thus it is plain that the sacrificial system that was given to Israel was for the enlightenment and instruction of all the people of the world as certainly as it was for Israel; because it was Israel’s likeness to all the other nations in their darkness that made it necessary that this should be given to them.

God has no favorites, and never had any. All that he ever had is free to all people. All that he ever gave to anybody is free to all others, and he gives to any only that they may pass it on to all others. And those who receive, and do not pass it on to all others, but confine it to themselves, lose that which God has in truth given, and can cling only to the empty form of the truth, absolutely dry and barren.

This principle is present truth today, to the people of the Third Angel’s Message. There is positive danger, and there has been for years, that these shall repeat the history of the Jews.

[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | January 23, 1900]