In Exodus 24:23 we read these words, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.'” (NKJV) This passage tells us that “the Lord” was the author of the commandments given to Moses. Therefore, Moses was the messenger, not the author.
So, who does “the Lord” refer to? I assume (perhaps wrongly so) that most believers understand this refers to the Son of God. Why would this be true? Well, lots of reasons. Perhaps the primary reason is that within the triune nature of God (which I don’t pretend to fully understand), it is the Son who is described as taking action in all things that involve the earth and mankind.
Evidence for the Son of God
We see this in Hebrews 1 where it says that God “has in these last days spoken to us by His son, whom He has appointed heir of all things , through whom also He made the worlds;” (verse 2, NKJV) From the beginning then, it was uniquely the Son of God who created the universe (“the worlds”) and it is he who has been made “heir of all things” – that is the physical realm. In the next verse, we read that it is also the Son of God who sustains the physical universe “by the word of His power.” This verse also tells us that the Son of God “purged our sins” by Himself. Verse 10 makes the involvement of the Son in creation very clear when it says, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.”
From a logical perspective, this makes perfect sense because the Son of God is the only member of the triune God who has a physical body and is both God and man. He is uniquely qualified to be the interface between God and mankind.
For these and other Biblical reasons which I won’t take time to cover here, I conclude that the one who engraved both sides of the stone tablets of the Testimony (Ex 32:15) and talked with Moses face to face was none other than the Son of God, though not yet in the incarnate form of the Messiah.
What the Israelites got wrong
Jewish people often speak of their ancestors “wandering in the desert for 40 years.” In fact, this description appears in Scripture (see Numbers 32:13). But is this really what happened?
It turns out, that while this is the perspective of the people, it is NOT God’s perspective. In Deuteronomy 8:2 and Deuteronomy 29:5 we read God’s perspective – namely, that He led them. In fact, He led them to specific places in order to see if they would keep His commandments or not. During that entire time, he provided for them so that they had plenty to eat and even their clothes and sandals never wore out. Astonishing, really.
In Numbers 33, God lists, by name, each of the places He took his people – from their starting point in Rameses, Egypt to Beth Jesimoth and Abel Acacia Grove on the plains of Moab. It is clear that the people were not left to wander, but instead, were led by God through the medium of a pillar of cloud and fire – each step of the way.
Some things to take away
It is interesting to note that during the life of Moses, the commandments are never referred to as “the law of Moses”. I doubt that Moses would have put up with that name for a second. Nobody knew better than Moses that God was the author of these instructions, not any man. It is not until after the death of Moses during the time of Joshua’s leadership that we first hear of “the law of Moses.”
We would do well to keep in mind that both “wandering in the desert” and “the law of Moses” are descriptions from man’s perspective. They are both misleading. Neither are truly helpful or accurate. Using them is similar to declaring that in the wilderness, the Israelites were “led by a cloud.” (see Exodus 13:21 & 22)
However, it is also necessary to point out that both these human expressions became fully engrained in the Israelite culture. By the time of the Messiah’s appearance, the term “law of Moses” (and even the shorthand version, “Moses”) was so well understood that even Jesus used this expression, though He was the one who actually wrote and gave the laws to Moses! (see Luke 24:44) Was this in part because it would have completely blown the minds of his listeners had he attempted to straighten them out? Probably so.
When we read or hear descriptions like “the law of Moses”, it is helpful to make a mental transposition from man’s perspective to God’s perspective – from “the law of Moses” to “the law of Jesus.” This will remind us to pay attention and to remember that these are not temporary, arbitrary instructions for a past generation but standards for righteousness based on God’s own eternal nature. They are loving gifts to make straight our paths through life.