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by Al Maxey

Issue #819 -- March 30, 2021
The law ... dictated by God Himself is, of course,
superior in obligation to any other. It is binding
over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times.
No human laws are of any validity if contrary to it.

Alexander Hamilton {1755-1804}

"And He Added No More"
Reflecting on a Mysterious Phrase
Spoken by Moses to the Israelites

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), one of our nation's "Founding Fathers," in the quote that appears above this Reflections article, is talking about the "law of nature," which to Hamilton, as well as our other Founders, was rooted in the very nature of our Creator Himself. Indeed, it was based upon this law that our own republic was formed, although many of us in this land have seemingly forgotten this truth. We would all do well to read a fabulous article titled "The Law of Nature and of Nature's God," which appears on the web site of the National Center for Constitutional Studies. In that article, the author writes, "America's Founders knew that the only reliable basis on which to found a government was on a foundation that never changes. They called it 'the laws of nature and of nature's God.' Natural law was central to American thought even before the Revolution. ... The most ancient and most influential source from which the Founders drew their understanding of natural law was the Holy Bible, which they had studied from their childhood. ... 'I will give thee...a law,' the Lord declared to Moses, and He inscribed it on stone tablets to govern the house of Israel. ... Biblical teachings had a powerful impact on America's Founders. In fact, between the years 1760 and 1805, the Bible was the most frequently cited source in American political writings. ... As our forefathers sought to build 'one nation under God,' they purposely established their legal codes on the foundation of natural law. They believed that societies should be governed, as Thomas Jefferson put it, by 'the moral law to which man has been subjected by his Creator'."

God's "moral law" transcends all other law (whether secular-societal or religious-ceremonial). All other types of law are temporary at best; they were never designed to be everlasting mandates for all peoples regardless of time or place. Not so with God's "moral code," however. That law is changeless, timeless, universal. Societal standards and norms, and the laws by which such are regulated, are constantly changing (as, indeed, they must in order to be relevant to the people of that time and place). Religious rules and regulations also change; they were never designed by Deity to be permanent and inflexible. "Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary" (Hebrews 9:1), yet they were temporary; they would be terminated as a legally binding force when the Messiah ushered in the new dispensation (vs. 10). This does not apply to the Lord God's "moral code," however. That law is forever binding upon all people. In this dispensation this moral law is known in the NT writings as "the royal law," and it is a "law of love" that is shown in our dealings with both our Creator and His creation. It is summed up in this way: Love God and Love Others. If we live by this law, then we have understood and embraced the fullness of God's will for us. All other law, secular or religious, bows to this moral code, for only this law is changeless and enduring throughout the ages. I would urge the reader to carefully consider my following studies on this truth: "Pondering the Royal Law: A Reflective Study of James 2:8" (Reflections #579), "Regulating the Redeemed: What is Paul's Intent in 2 Timothy 2:5?" (Reflections #708), and my recorded Bible class "From Law to Liberty: Reflecting on our Journey away from Legalism and into Freedom in Christ."

As already noted, from the very beginning our Creator informed His creation of His expectations with regard to the conducting of their lives. He is holy, and they are to be holy. God was not overly interested in the rigid regulation of every aspect of one's life. Rather, He was far more concerned that their attitudes and actions reflect the reality of His nature. This had nothing to do with temporary rules and regulations governing religious expression or societal/cultural norms. It had everything to do with embracing and evidencing His universal, timeless moral law. I have dealt with this in my article "The Seven Noahide Laws: A Universal Moral Code Given Through Adam & Noah" (Reflections #286). All of which prepares us for a brief comment that is made by Moses to the people of Israel as he reviewed for them the spiritual significance of the giving of The Ten Commandments. In Deuteronomy 5:22, Moses said (after listing and reviewing those ten commands God had previously given to His people), "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me" (NASB). Notice that phrase: "and He added no more." What does this mean? Why did Moses say this? Is there an important message for us in this brief statement? I believe that there is, and that it is one the people of God have largely overlooked from then until now.

God's intent was never to weigh mankind down with countless rules and regulations. Men have taken the rather simple expectations of the Creator for His creation and buried them in laws of their own making. These additional legalisms are so voluminous that it is difficult to even categorize them all, much less understand and apply them all to our daily lives. Man has taken that which is simple and complete, and he has turned it into a nightmare of complexity. God gave Moses only ten commandments to give to the people, "and He added no more." Yes, the people did indeed receive instructions about how to build the tabernacle, how to offer various sacrifices, and other such instructions, but these were never designed to be forever binding upon all of humanity. They were temporary, and they were only for a certain people for a certain period of time ... and then they were terminated. The only "law" that God intended to endure and to be applicable for all people everywhere was His universal "moral code." Beyond that "He added no more!" It was man who added more, and who, in fact, added a lot more, resulting in a rigid, regulated religious system too burdensome for anyone to bear (which was/is true in both OT and NT dispensations).

As one might imagine, this short statement by Moses has not been well-received by some within the religious realm of both Judaism and Christianity. Why? Because, if the above understanding of that statement is true, then it forever removes from self-serving religionists and sectarians their power to impose and enforce rules and regulations of their own choosing. Elevating personal and party precepts, practices, and preferences to the level of eternal law is forbidden. If God "adds no more," then by what authority do they do so?! Therefore, they have come up with an alternative interpretation. They insist that Moses was referring to the fact that God "terrified" the Israelites by His "fearful presence and voice," and that out of consideration for their terror, God "spoke no more" to them, but chose instead to impose all the other ceremonial and sacrificial and societal laws through a mediator: Moses. Thus, countless additional rules and regulations may be added, and those adding them can claim to be official representatives of God.

It is true that the people were fearful when they heard the voice from the mountain, and when they saw the fire and smoke. They were terrified that they would die by being in such close proximity to God, so they appealed to Moses to appeal to God to cease speaking to them directly, but rather to speak to them only through Moses. God agreed, and thus only spoke to them through other means, yet He was saddened that they did not have a heart within them that would long for and accept that more intimate interaction with Him (Deuteronomy 5:29). Moses did indeed receive additional instructions from God, and these were indeed conveyed by him to the people, but even here it was reinforced to them that what God was truly looking for from them was their heart filled with love for Him and one another. Moses said, "Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you: ... 'Hear, O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart'" (Deuteronomy 6:1, 4-6). Here we see the Lord, through Moses, restating the truth that what He commands is for them to LOVE, and to that central truth "He adds no more." Yet, even here the religionists balk, again asserting that what God really meant was that He would no longer terrify them with His presence and His voice, but that He would only dole out His demands through their religious leaders! How convenient for the religious leaders!!

Although most translations of this phrase in Deuteronomy 5:22 read, "... and He added no more," there are some versions of the passage that have changed the wording to suggest and reflect the other interpretation. Thus, we find such renderings as the following:

The thinking behind this particular view is that the presence of God is something to be feared, even by His people. The English cleric and theologian John Wesley (1703-1791), in his Notes on the Bible, depicted God's bringing of the people to Himself after freeing them from Egyptian bondage as "a dispensation of terror, designed to make the gospel of grace the more welcome." Pastor David Guzik, in his popular "Enduring Word Commentary," takes a similar approach: "The Mount Sinai experience was not one of sweet fellowship with God. The message of Mount Sinai was not 'come unto Me,' but 'stay away, for I am holy, and you are not.' We, under the New Covenant, have not come to Mount Sinai and the message 'stay away;' we have come to Mount Zion, where God's message is 'come unto Me'." Yes, the people of Israel, as they assembled before Mt. Sinai "trembled and stood at a distance" (Exodus 20:18). Rather than affirming their fear as a natural response to God's "reign of terror" in this "dispensation of terror," and that God's message was "stay away," Moses immediately addressed their misplaced feeling of terror: "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin" (Exodus 20:20). Yes, we must have a healthy respect and reverence for (the other meaning of "fear" as used in the Bible) the Lord God; He is most certainly worthy of that reverence. But God has no desire for His children to be terrified of Him. God is not an abusive father; His children have no reason to cower before Him, expecting Him to lash out at them at any moment and kill them. A command oft repeated in the Scriptures is "fear not." Indeed, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18). Revere our God? Yes! Fear our God? Never! I believe Wesley and Guzik both got it terribly wrong on this passage.

It is true that God spoke, in a powerful voice, the words of the Ten Commandments. It is true that the people actually heard this voice and trembled. It is true that the rest of His tenets for His people (the societal, sacrificial, ceremonial aspects of His law for Israel) He gave to Moses, who then gave them to the people. These were not spoken directly to the people, but only to Moses. I believe there was a purpose for this distinction, however. The fact that His eternal, everlasting "moral code" was spoken directly to the people, while the other aspects of His civil and religious law, which were temporary in nature and delivered through Moses, was God's way of indicating the supremacy of the former over the latter. One was enduring, one was not. One was rather flexible: the social and ceremonial aspects of daily life and worshipful expression could, would, and should be open to relevant and responsible change according to time, place, and culture. The moral law, however, is timeless and changeless. Eternal law was spoken directly by the Eternal I AM, thus giving it greater force. When this law was delivered by God Himself, "He added no more!" And neither must we! It is not to be changed or tampered with! It is complete! God has no desire to overwhelm His people with legal technicalities and rigid regulation of every aspect of their lives. Rather, He calls us to come unto Him, experience His LOVE, and replicate that LOVE in our lives to the best of our ability and opportunity. This He spoke to His people directly; the rest, being of lesser concern, was given more indirectly. The Ten Commandments were/are "an epitome of universal moral truth, and internally complete as such," thus "they were spoken by God's own voice ... and He added no more!" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3, p. 115].

"God 'added nothing more' (vs. 22) refers to these Ten Commandments that were spoken and then written by God on the two stone tablets. They constitute the basic behavioral code that was to determine not only their allegiance and lifestyle, but also that of all succeeding generations as well. No other such short list of commands begins to compare with the effect that these have had in world history. In spite of being constantly broken, they stand as the moral code par excellence" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 61]. "The pre-eminence of these Ten Commandments was shown in God's announcing them directly: other laws and institutions were communicated to the people through the instrumentality of Moses" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 145]. The latter "laws and institutions" could and would undergo change throughout the coming ages as necessity dictated. Not so with God's moral law. It was perfect as it was in any and every circumstance; there was no need to add to it or take from it. The British pastor F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) correctly noted, "'He added no more' because the Law is perfect. It is written in stone, and therefore is permanent" [Through the Bible Day-by-Day, e-Sword]. Dr. Joseph Benson (1749-1821), an English Methodist minister and leader within that movement, wrote that God "spoke with loud voice unto the people" on that occasion "to show the pre-eminence of that law above the rest, and its everlasting obligation" [Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, e-Sword].

Yes, this "royal law," this "law of love," has gone nowhere; it is still very much with us to this day. "This Law is not abolished, but fulfilled in Christ, by whose Spirit its precepts are written in the minds and hearts of believers" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3, p. 112]. "It is not made up of isolated precepts, but is to be regarded as a unity. Our Savior declares that it is summed up in two commandments, and the apostle Paul reminds us that 'Love is the fulfilling of the Law' - Love to God the root, love to man the fruit" [ibid, p. 106]. "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Son, in the "loud voice" of His personal example, displayed the beauty of the Decalogue for all to behold. God is love, a love divine the Son reflected in His walk among us, a love to which He has called us, and to which He added no more!! Father, help us to hear that call to holiness that You have spoken through Your Son, and help us not to become distracted by all the religious noise that surrounds us as men add much more to the beauty and simplicity of Your Word and Will. AMEN.


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Pennsylvania:

I continue to be blessed by your mailings. Thank you! I have a question: Where do the churches of your tradition stand on the issue of predestination? Thank you.

From an Elder in Oklahoma:

Al, I have a question about "the angel of the Lord." I was reading in Judges 6 about God calling Gideon to fight the Midianites. Verse 11 says "the angel of the Lord" came. Then verse 14 says, "The Lord turned to him and said...". Several verses later we also find this being referred to as "the Lord," rather than "the angel of the Lord." My question is: who is this "angel of the Lord"? Is the passage referring to God, Jesus, or just an angel? It certainly isn't clear to me. Thank you for your Reflections. God, through you, is blessing a great many people. May He continue to bless you!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Your latest article "Baptized in Order to Believe: The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's View of Baptism: The Sometime Sacrament" (Reflections #818) was very interesting and helpful. Your articles never disappoint the reader who is looking for something thought-provoking to read. I need to reread an article you wrote some years ago on baptism not being for salvation (at least, that is what I remember about that article). As a "Church of Christ" preacher (who has been preaching for four decades now) I think about this topic a lot. The preachers in my town are all very close, and we enjoy a neat fellowship. The Methodist minister just called me his "best friend." He wasn't baptized for the same reasons I was (at age 11), but his life exudes a Spirit-led devotion that mine lacks. So, how can we say that he is not saved?! I can't say that. Yet, my Church of Christ background still wants to divide over "baptized/not baptized" (i.e., one is in or is not in Christ Jesus based on that). Campbell and Stone argued over this, as I'm sure you are aware. I am leaning more toward Stone's "dividing line" as to who is saved or not saved: the former being the one who exhibits the fruit of the Spirit in his/her life. Anyway, agree or disagree (and I agree with most of it), your article this week was really good (as always).

From a Retired Army Chaplain in Indiana:

Shalom, Al. Your latest Reflections ("Baptized in Order to Believe") reminded me of my time 37 years ago as a student at Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, TN. I wrote a paper titled "Grace, Faith, and Good Works in Ephesians 2:8-10." I had no difficulty affirming God's grace as the basis for salvation, faith as the means, and good works as the result and the grateful response to being saved. Yet, "the place and purpose of baptism" was more difficult to address (I am sending you a copy of said paper so you may reflect first-hand on my attempt, should you so desire). It was not an artful dodge by which I avoided a sacramental view of baptism, as my understanding of baptism connected it to faith as a gift from God for the primary purpose of our own assurance of salvation! After all, who knows better than God Himself the propensity for human doubt?! Only God can know the precise moment whereby He accepts the trust/faith of any soul reaching out to Him for deliverance! Consequently, to ask how much faith is "enough" faith to save is not really the right question. It is not the amount of faith that saves, but rather the object of faith: who is none other than Yeshua, our divine Bridegroom! Thank you, Al, for a most thought-provoking Reflections. Blessings upon you and your family!

From a Reader in Toronto, Canada:

Many years ago, I had a discussion with a pastor of a Lutheran sect in Finland. He used Luke 1:41, 44 to try and prove that infants could believe, and could/should therefore be baptized. He also taught that Christians were commanded to smoke because Isaiah 65:5 says that God smoked. If God smoked, His children must!

From a Reader in California:

Al, I read your article on "Walking and Talking with God: Reflecting on Austris A. Wihtol's Hymn" (Reflections #817) and had a thought about God "jesting" (as per the line in the hymn "My God and I"). God obviously has a great sense of humor: He made us!! I think one of Christ's last comments in the upper room at the last supper - "You believe at last!" - is a bit of a jest. I can see the humor in Christ's statement. "Here I've been with you for over three years. Well, I'm surely glad you finally got around to believing, especially right before I go to the cross!" I hope you and yours are doing well.

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