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At Sinai

Consider this scene. It is unprecedented in history. It is the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity, so it is possibly the most misunderstood, lampooned and vilified single event ever.

It's a boiling hot day, early summer in the Sinai wilderness. Around three million people, men and women, young and old are standing at the foot of the mountain, looking upwards. From dense smoke covering the mountain comes first a loud trumpet sound then a voice, the very voice of God.

What followed was the Ten Commandments, which God later inscribed on the stone tablets. Think of how special these are. The first Person to speak them was God Himself. The first Person to write them down was also God Himself.

Did this really happen? It either did, or it didn't. We are people of faith. It doesn't mean that we have switched off our brains, it's just that we have learned to not only believe in God, but to trust Him too. If we struggle with this event, or with any similar event in the Bible, then we can choose to disbelieve it. Many have chosen this path. The alternative approach is to believe it. Now I did say, believe it and by that I mean really believe it, not half-believe or believe it in a way that explains the event in a way to satisfy one's rational brain. Because the plain truth is that, if we believe that the Bible is God's book for us, then we should accept that every word has been endorsed by God Himself and if He says that three million folk heard His voice at Sinai, then that's what happened. To disbelieve it or explain it away as an error, exaggeration or an allegory, is basically calling God a liar. That's putting it strongly, but it really is time to get real with God and His word.

There is a saying that history repeats itself. This is mostly true, but three exceptions particularly come to mind: the fall of Adam, the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, and God speaking to three million people at Sinai. All are one-off events that have never been duplicated, the first two for obvious reasons. As for the third, it must have been an awesome event, oh to have been there! Three million were there and that's what separates Judaism (and, by extension, Christianity too) from every other religion. It's the only religion that came from national revelation rather than personal revelation. God spoke to three million people, not to a solitary Mohammed or Buddha, who had unverifiable personal experiences. Now one man could get it wrong, but three million ...?

Think about this in another way. If God hadn't spoken to the Children of Israel, or personally given the Torah, the teachings and instructions, to Moses, then the whole framework of Judaism, the whole language and mechanism of salvation, would never have been given to mankind and Christianity would never have taken hold, because this new faith was built on the foundations of the old.

Jesus the Messiah didn't appear in a vacuum, but into a religious framework built around those very teachings and instructions given to Moses. If they had never been given to Moses, or they had not been of divine origin, then the concept of Messiah would have been dead in the water. How could we need a Messiah if we didn't understand what we needed to be saved from, or what mechanism - the shedding of blood - God has chosen to use to allow us to get right with Him? Sinai had to have happened, as an actual event, otherwise our faith would be in vain!

That's how important the Torah is. That is why the Psalmist was able to say:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119: 9-16)

But this is not a story with a happy ending for those who lived in Bible times. We shall see why in the next installment.

Steve Maltz
May 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth)

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