3. The Purpose and Significance of God’s Work in the Age of Law
Relevant Words of God:
The work that Jehovah did in the Israelites established among humanity God’s earthly place of origin, His sacred place where He was present. He confined His work to the Israelite people. At first, He did not work outside of Israel; instead, He chose a people He found suitable in order to restrict the scope of His work. Israel is the place where God created Adam and Eve, and out of the dust of that place Jehovah made man; it is the base of His work on earth. The Israelites, who are the descendants of Noah and of Adam, were the foundation of Jehovah’s work on earth.
The significance, purpose, and step of Jehovah’s work in Israel were to begin His work on the whole earth, gradually spreading to Gentile nations from its center in Israel. This is the principle according to which He works throughout the universe—to establish a model, then broaden it until all people in the universe have accepted His gospel. The first Israelites were the descendants of Noah. These people only had the breath of Jehovah, and could take care of the basic necessities of life, but they did not know what kind of a God Jehovah was, nor did they know His will for man, much less how they should revere the Lord of all creation. Adam’s descendants did not know what rules and laws they must obey, or what work the created must do for the Creator. All they knew was that the husband must sweat and labor to provide for his family, and that the wife must submit to her husband and perpetuate the race of humans that Jehovah created. In other words, this people had only Jehovah’s breath and His life, but did not know how to follow God’s laws or how to satisfy the Lord of all creation. They understood far too little. So although there was nothing crooked or cunning in their hearts, and though they seldom had jealousy and strife, they did not know or understand Jehovah, the Lord of all creation. These ancestors of man knew only to eat what Jehovah made, to enjoy what Jehovah made, but they did not know to revere Jehovah; they did not know that they should worship Him on bended knee. How could they be called His creatures? And so, were not the words, “Jehovah is the Lord of all creation” and “He created man as an expression of Himself, to glorify Him and represent Him,” spoken in vain? How can people who do not revere Jehovah be a testament to His glory? How can they be expressions of His glory? Do not Jehovah’s words “I created man in My image” then become a weapon in the hand of Satan—the evil one? Do these words not then become a mark of humiliation to Jehovah’s creation of man? In order to complete that stage of work, Jehovah, after creating mankind, did not instruct or guide them from Adam to Noah. It was not until after the flood that He formally began to guide the Israelites, who were the descendants of Adam and of Noah. His work and words in Israel guided the lives of all the people across the land, showing them that Jehovah was not only able to blow breath into man, so that he had His life, and was resurrected from the dust and made a creature of God, but could also scorch mankind with flames, and curse mankind, using His rod to govern mankind. So, too, did they see that Jehovah could guide man’s life on earth, and speak and work among them by day and by night. He did the work only so that His creatures might know that man came from dust picked up by Him, that man was made by Him. Furthermore, the work He began in Israel was meant so that other peoples and nations (who in fact were not separate from Israel, but had branched off from the Israelites, yet were still descended from Adam and Eve) might receive the gospel of Jehovah from Israel, so that all creatures in the universe would revere Him and hold Him to be great. Had Jehovah not begun His work in Israel, but instead, having created mankind, let them live carefree lives on the earth, then because of man’s physical nature (nature means that man can never know the things he cannot see, that is, that he does not know that Jehovah created mankind, let alone why He did so), he would never know that Jehovah created mankind and is the Lord of all things. If Jehovah had created man and placed him on the earth as His enjoyment, then simply dusted off His hands and left rather than leading among man for a period of time, then all humanity would have returned to nothingness; even the heaven and earth and all things that He created, including all humanity, would have returned to nothingness and been trampled upon by Satan. And so Jehovah’s wish that “He should have a place to stand on earth, a holy place among His creation” would have been shattered. So instead, after God created mankind, He guided them in their lives, and spoke to them, all in order to realize His desire, to achieve His plan. God’s work in Israel was meant only to execute the plan He had set in place before His creation of all things, and therefore His working first among the Israelites and His creation of all things were not at odds with each other, but were both for the sake of His management, His work, and His glory, deepening the meaning of His creation of mankind. He guided the life of mankind on earth for two thousand years after Noah, during which He taught them how to revere Jehovah the Lord of all things, taught them how to conduct themselves and live their lives, and most of all, how to act as a witness for Jehovah, obey Him, and revere Him, and to praise Him with music like David and his priests.
Before the two thousand years during which Jehovah did His work, man knew nothing, and almost all degenerated to the depth of promiscuity and corruption that preceded the flood; their hearts were devoid of Jehovah, let alone His way. They never understood the work Jehovah was going to do; they lacked reason, much less knowledge, like living, breathing machines, ignorant of man, God, the world, and life alike. On earth they engaged in much seduction, like the serpent, and said many things that were offensive to Jehovah, but because they were ignorant Jehovah did not chastise or discipline them. After the flood, when Noah was 601 years old, Jehovah formally appeared to Noah and guided him and his family, leading him, the birds, and the beasts that survived the flood, and his descendants until the end of the Age of Law, a total of 2,500 years. He was formally at work in Israel for 2,000 years, and the period for which He was at work both in Israel and outside of it was 500 years, which together makes 2,500 years. During this period He instructed the Israelites that to serve Jehovah, they should build the temple and wear priests’ robes, and walk barefoot into the temple at dawn, lest their shoes sully the temple and the fire be sent down on them from the top of the temple and burn them to death. They carried out their duties and submitted to Jehovah’s plans. They prayed to Jehovah in the temple, and after they were inspired by Jehovah, that is, after Jehovah had spoken, they led the people and taught them they should revere Jehovah—their God. And Jehovah told them that they should build the temple and the altar, and at the time set by Jehovah, that is, on Passover, they should prepare newborn calves and lambs on the altar as sacrifices to serve Jehovah, so as to restrain them and put reverence for Jehovah in their hearts. Whether they obeyed this law would be the measure of their loyalty to Jehovah. Jehovah also set the Sabbath day for them, the seventh day of His creation. The day after that He made the first day, a day for them to praise Jehovah, to offer Him sacrifices, and to make music for Him. On this day, Jehovah called together all the priests and divided the sacrifices on the altar for the people to eat so that they could enjoy the sacrifices offered to Jehovah. And Jehovah said that they were blessed and had a part with Him, and that they were His chosen people (which was Jehovah’s covenant with the Israelites). This is why, up to this day, the people of Israel still say that Jehovah is only their God, and not the God of other peoples.
During the Age of Law, Jehovah laid down many commandments for Moses to pass on to the Israelites who followed him out of Egypt. Jehovah gave these commandments to the Israelites, which were unrelated to the Egyptians, and they were meant to restrain the Israelites, and were His requirements for them. Whether one observed the Sabbath, whether one respected one’s parents, whether one worshiped idols, and so forth, these were the principles by which one was judged sinful or righteous. Whether one was struck by Jehovah’s fire, or stoned to death, or received Jehovah’s blessing, was determined according to whether one obeyed these commandments. Those who did not observe the Sabbath were stoned to death. Those priests who did not observe the Sabbath were smitten by Jehovah’s fire. Those who did not respect their parents were also stoned to death. This was all commended by Jehovah. Jehovah established His commandments and laws so that as He led their lives, the people would listen to and obey His word and not rebel against Him. He used these laws to control the newborn human race, to lay the foundation for His work to come. And so, because of the work that Jehovah did, the first age was called the Age of Law. Though Jehovah spoke much and did much work, He only guided them positively, teaching these ignorant people how to be human, how to live, how to understand Jehovah’s way. For the most part the work He did was intended to allow the people to observe His way and follow His law. The work was done on people who were shallowly corrupted; it was not concerned with the transformation of disposition or the growth in life. He was only concerned with using laws to restrict and control the people. For the Israelites at that time, Jehovah was merely a God in the temple, a God in the heavens. He was a pillar of cloud, a pillar of flame. All Jehovah required them to do was obey what people today know as His laws and commandments—one could even say rules—because Jehovah’s work was not meant to change them, but to give them more things that man ought to have, to tell them from His own mouth, because after man was created, man knew nothing about what he ought to possess. And so Jehovah gave them the things they ought to possess for their lives on earth, made the people that He had led surpass their ancestors, Adam and Eve, because what Jehovah gave them surpassed what He had given Adam and Eve in the beginning. Regardless, the work Jehovah did in Israel was only to guide humanity and make humanity recognize their Creator. He did not conquer them or change them, merely guided them. This is the sum of Jehovah’s work in the Age of Law. It is the background, the true story, the essence of His work in the whole land of Israel, and the beginning of His six thousand years of work—to control mankind by Jehovah’s hand. Out of this came more work in His six-thousand-year management plan.
from “The Work in the Age of Law” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
After the creation of mankind in the beginning, it was the Israelites who served as the basis of work, and the whole of Israel was the base of Jehovah’s work on earth. The work of Jehovah was to directly lead and shepherd man through setting forth the laws so that man could live a normal life and worship Jehovah in a normal manner on earth. God in the Age of Law was One who could neither be seen nor touched by man. He was merely leading men first corrupted by Satan, and He was there to instruct and shepherd these men, so the words He spoke were only of statutes, ordinances, and common knowledge of living life as a man, and not at all of truths that supply the life of man. The Israelites under His leadership were not those deeply corrupted by Satan. His work of law was only the very first stage in the work of salvation, the very beginning of the work of salvation, and had practically nothing to do with the changes in the life disposition of man.
from “The Difference Between the Ministry of the Incarnate God and the Duty of Man” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
“Jehovah” is the name that I took during My work in Israel, and it means the God of the Israelites (God’s chosen people) who can take pity on man, curse man, and guide the life of man. It means the God who possesses great power and is full of wisdom. … That is to say, only Jehovah is the God of the chosen people of Israel, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of Moses, and the God of all the people of Israel. And so in the current age, all the Israelites apart from the tribe of Judah worship Jehovah. They make sacrifices to Him on the altar, and serve Him wearing priests’ robes in the temple. What they hope for is the reappearance of Jehovah. … The name Jehovah is a particular name for the people of Israel who lived under the law. In each age and each stage of work, My name is not baseless, but holds representative significance: Each name represents one age. “Jehovah” represents the Age of Law, and is the honorific for the God worshiped by the people of Israel.
from “The Savior Has Already Returned Upon a ‘White Cloud’” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
During the Age of Law, the work of guiding mankind was done under the name of Jehovah, and the first stage of work was carried out on earth. The work of this stage was to build the temple and the altar, and to use the law to guide the people of Israel and work among them. By guiding the people of Israel, He established a base for His work on earth. From this base, He expanded His work beyond Israel, which is to say that, starting from Israel, He extended His work outward, so that later generations gradually came to know that Jehovah was God, and that Jehovah had created the heavens and earth and all things, had made all creatures. He spread His work through the people of Israel. The land of Israel was the first holy place of Jehovah’s work on earth, and God’s earliest work on earth was throughout the land of Israel. That was the work of the Age of Law.
from “The Vision of God’s Work (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
During God’s six-thousand-year management plan, very little of God’s direct speech has been recorded in the Bible, and that which has been recorded is very simple. So let us start at the beginning. God created man and since then has ever led the life of mankind. Whether in giving mankind blessings, giving them the laws and His commandments, or stipulating the various rules for life, do you know what God’s intended aim is in doing these things? Firstly, can you say for sure all that God does is for the good of mankind? (Yes, we can.) You may think that this sentence is relatively broad and hollow, but specifically speaking, everything God does is to lead and guide man toward living a normal life. Whether it is so man keeps His rules or keeps His laws, God’s aim is for man not to worship Satan, not to be harmed by Satan; this is most fundamental, and this is what was done in the very beginning. At the very beginning, when man did not understand God’s will He took some simple laws and rules and made provisions that covered every conceivable aspect. These provisions are very simple, yet within them they contain God’s will.
from “God Himself, the Unique IV” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Earliest mankind knew nothing, and so God had to begin teaching man from the most superficial and basic principles for survival and regulations necessary for living, imbuing these things in the heart of man bit by bit, and giving man a gradual understanding of God, a gradual appreciation and understanding of God’s leadership, and a basic concept of the relationship between man and God, through these regulations, and through these rules, which were of words. After achieving this effect, only then was God able to, little by little, do the work that He would do later, and thus these regulations and the work done by God during the Age of Law are the bedrock of His work of saving mankind, and the first stage of work in God’s management plan.
from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh