“The Desire of All Nations”

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” —Haggai 2:6,7

THE inauguration of the Law Covenant on Mount Sinai with its detailed moral, social, and ceremonial codes, and the circumstances surrounding that occasion, constituted one of the most notable events in the history of the people of Israel—and, indeed, in the history and destiny of the entire world of mankind. By obedience to the terms of that covenant the Israelites hoped to gain life.

In the third month after God delivered his people from their long period of bondage in the land of Egypt and started them on their difficult journey to the promised land of Canaan, they came to the wilderness of Sinai. God’s overruling providences had already blessed these descendants of Abraham in a remarkable way for more than four hundred years, but now he desired to manifest his special love and care for his chosen people by entering into covenant relationship with them.

Calling Moses up into Mount Sinai, God instructed him to hallow the people and have them ready on the third day, when he would appear on the mountain in a thick cloud in the presence of all the people. They were cautioned not to go up into the mountain, or even so much as to touch it, on pain of death.

“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount; and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount, and Moses went up.”—Exod. 19:16-20

There, on Mount Sinai, with Moses standing between the Lord and the people, Jehovah God made a solemn covenant with Israel, the terms of which were epitomized in the Ten Commandments. In recounting this occurrence, Moses said to the people, “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.” (Deut. 5:22) If they would obey the terms of that covenant, they would gain that greatly desired but elusive blessing, everlasting life!

“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” “Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.” “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.”—Exod. 20:18,19; Deut. 5:27; Exod. 24:3

Jehovah God was not unmindful of the fears and hopes that filled the hearts of his frail, human creation during this spectacular encounter. When he heard them voice their desire to keep the covenant, and thus gain life, he said, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever! Go say to them, … Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.” (Deut. 5:29-33) With what joy, and resolution to do God’s will, these people must have seized on this new hope of life, guaranteed to them, if they kept his commandments, by none other than the great God of the universe!

Moses now spent some time in the mountain communing with God, and receiving his instructions for leading the people. But even before he came down from the mountain with the two tables of stone containing the law of God, they had broken the first of his commandments.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” (Exod. 32:7,8) When Moses came down from the mountain “he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.”—Exod. 32:19

This was but the first of a long series of violations of various features of the Law Covenant that God made with Israel, and they failed to gain life by obedience to its terms. Indeed, of the original multitude that were delivered from Egypt, all of whom had so eagerly embraced the terms of the covenant, only two—Joshua and Caleb—succeeded in entering into the promised land. All the rest perished by the way.

Jehovah God, of course, was not caught unaware by this development. Indeed, from the very first days of the covenant, foreknowing their inability to keep it perfectly and thus gain life, he had instructed their priesthood through Moses in the manner whereby they could keep covenant relationship with him, in spite of violating the terms of the covenant. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, they were to sacrifice a bullock and a goat in a particular, prescribed manner, as an offering for the sins of the people, and thus God would continue to deal with them as his people. But the Israelites continued to go down into death, and to sleep with their fathers.

Does this mean that the Law Covenant was a failure? By no means! Indeed, when our spiritual eyes are opened to the beauties and blessings of God’s wonderful plan of salvation for all mankind, we find in the circumstances surrounding the inauguration of that covenant, and in his dealings with his people Israel under it, a wonderful manifestation of God’s foreknowledge, justice, wisdom, and love.

In his letter to those Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Redeemer, the Apostle Paul recounts the frightening events that occurred on Mount Sinai shortly before the institution of the Law Covenant, and which the Israelites so eagerly embraced in the hope of gaining life. Now, although they were following in Jesus’ steps, some Christian Jews apparently found it difficult to cast off the teachings and requirements of the Law Covenant, so Paul spends much time explaining that which should have been apparent to any Jew in Jesus’ day—that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. Those animal sacrifices, which were repeated year by year, Paul explains, were merely patterns of the better sacrifices that would truly atone for sin, even the offering of the body of Christ once for all time.

Moses, he shows, was the mediator of a covenant that promised life, yet through the imperfections of the flesh none were able to meet its terms and gain life. But Jesus, Paul indicates, is to be the Mediator of a better covenant, the New Covenant, which will be established on better promises, and is made sure by better sacrifices. This New Covenant that God promised so long ago through the Prophet Jeremiah will truly bring life to Israel, and to the whole world of mankind.

To all who accept Jesus as their Redeemer and their hope of life, the Law is dead. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4) It was the perfect man Jesus who fulfilled the Law, “and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”—Col. 2:14

That old Law dispensation, inaugurated so long before on Mount Sinai, and which failed to give life, is dead, Paul argues. Its purpose was to prove that animal sacrifices could never atone for sin. It demonstrated that the only sacrifice acceptable to Justice would be a perfect, corresponding price for the perfect man Adam, whose disobedience of God’s injunctions had plunged the entire human race into death in the first place. It pointed to the perfect man Jesus, who alone was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, as that ransom sacrifice. Jesus provided a “better sacrifice” than that of the blood of bulls and goats—a sacrifice that, through the operation of the promised New Covenant during the thousand-year kingdom reign of Jesus and his glorified followers, will open the way to life, not only to Jews, but to the whole world of mankind. The better Mediator of that New Covenant will supervise the writing of the law of God, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the hearts.

This present Gospel Age, beginning with Jesus’ ministry, is the time for the selection and proving of those who shall compose the spiritual priesthood in the spiritual phase of that approaching, glorious kingdom for the blessing of all the resurrected peoples of the earth. It is toward this, the ultimate consummation of God’s wise and loving and life-restoring plan for the blessing of his fallen human creation, Paul says, that all the footstep followers of Jesus, Jew and Gentile, are approaching with joyous anticipation.

“For you have not approached to a [literal] mountain, touched and scorched with fire, and to a thick cloud, and to darkness, and to tempest, and to a sound of a trumpet, and to a voice of commands, the hearers of which entreated that not another word should be added to them; (for they could not endure the injunction, If even a beast should touch the mountain it shall be stoned; and so terrible was the scene, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and tremble.)

“But you have approached to [spiritual] Zion, a mountain and city of the living God—the heavenly Jerusalem; and to myriads of angels, a full assembly; and to a congregation of firstborns, having been enrolled in the heavens; and to a Judge who is God of all; and to spirits of the righteous made perfect; and to a Mediator of a new covenant—Jesus; and to a blood of sprinkling speaking something better than Abel.”—Heb. 12:18-24, Diaglott

Don’t look backward to the Law, Paul urged the Jewish brethren. The Law, with its fleshly mediator and priesthood and animal sacrifices that failed to give life, merely pointed to a higher and far more glorious spiritual arrangement with a better Mediator and a spiritual priesthood, and which is guaranteed to give life to the world because of the better sacrifice provided by Jesus.

As the Law Covenant was typical of the New Covenant in its other features, so also was it typical of the New Covenant in the circumstances surrounding its inauguration. And thereby we are informed that the inauguration of the New Covenant, with its promised blessings for all the families of the earth, is near. For the conditions accompanying the institution of the Law Covenant pictured events that are occurring with greater and greater frequency all about us in the world today, and which therefore foretell that the time for the institution of the New Covenant is at hand.

We recall that prior to announcing the terms and conditions of the Law Covenant, Jehovah God descended on Mount Sinai in a thick cloud and in fire in the presence of the people, and the whole mountain shook violently. When Moses spoke to God, the Lord answered by a voice that put fear into the hearts of the people—so much so, that they “intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.”—Heb. 12:19

In the Scriptures, fire is a symbol of destruction; clouds picture trouble, confusion, and fear; mountains signify kingdoms; thunders and lightnings represent the angry voice of Jehovah God; and the shaking of the mountain indicates the removal of kingdoms. All these symbols are used in the many prophecies that describe the Day of the Lord [Jehovah], or Time of Trouble, with which Jesus said this present Gospel Age would end. (Matt. 24:3,21) They picture the coming destruction by Jehovah God in his wrath of the godless kingdoms that control the social, economic, and ecclesiastical arrangements of this present evil world, in preparation for the establishment in the earth of the millennial reign of Christ and his church for the blessing of all the families of the earth.

One of these prophecies is that given to us by the Apostle Peter. He writes, “The day of the Lord [Jehovah] will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. … Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:10,13

The psalmist wrote, “The Lord [Jehovah] reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord [Jehovah], at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.”—Ps. 97:1-5

The Prophet Zephaniah said, “The great day of the Lord [Jehovah] is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord; the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord.”—Zeph. 1:14-17

The Prophet Isaiah describes in graphic language this same time of trouble in which the unjust social and false ecclesiastical elements of this world shall be destroyed. He says, “The foundations of the earth [society] do shake. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.”—Isa. 24:18-21

There can be little doubt that the world is even now experiencing the beginnings of the destructive process that characterizes the Day of Jehovah, and which will shortly lead to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. For one thing, we have Jesus’ statement that the end of the Gospel Age would he signified by a time of trouble, or the Day of the Lord. (Matt. 24:3,21) And the Prophet Jeremiah tells us that the Jews would be regathered to their homeland during this same Day of Jehovah, or Time of Trouble. (Jer. 30:3,5-7) Since we have seen the return of the Jews to the land in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, we know, by putting these two scriptures together, that we must, indeed, be in the Time of Trouble that Jesus said would mark the end of the age.

We also have the evidence of our own eyes and minds. Wherever one turns in this world there is trouble. Emerging nations all over this planet are in a chronic state of unrest. Vital natural resources are becoming less abundant, causing contention and competition among nations for the shrinking supply. Industrial and agricultural pollution affect the world’s rivers, lakes, water supplies, and the atmosphere. Inflation in numerous countries makes the lot of the poor well-nigh unbearable. As more food, clothing, housing and other human needs increase to care for expanding populations, tensions arise between nations. Once prosperous countries, including even the United States of America, are finding it impossible to supply the needs of their people, build up mighty war machines, and balance their budgets all at the same time, threatening eventual international financial disaster. Immorality, corruption, and terrorism are rampant, and on the increase.

The Middle East, which is indicated in the Scriptures as the locale of a final, terrible conflict in the last days of this age, is presently in turmoil, with much of the world’s needed energy supply in jeopardy. And never for a single day is the world unmindful of the threat of a nuclear holocaust. In corroboration of the testimony of Jesus and the prophets, each new day brings fresh evidence via the media that the boasted civilization of this world is being shaken to its very core, and that the earth, society, is indeed reeling “to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage.”—Isa. 24:18-20

But those whose eyes the Lord has opened, and whose hearts he has strengthened, “will not … fear, though the earth [society] be removed, and though the mountains [kingdoms] be carried into the midst of the sea [lawless masses],” for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in [the time of] trouble.” (Ps. 46:1,2) And for the world of mankind there is a glorious hope, for Jesus said when these things begin to come to pass “The kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Luke 21:28-31

The Apostle Paul tells us that at the inauguration of the Law Covenant on Mount Sinai, God’s voice “then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth [society] only, but also heaven [ecclesiastical powers]. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.”

What a glorious promise is this! Not only will the evils and injustices of the social order be removed, once and for all; but the false, God-dishonoring doctrines of the ecclesiastical heavens will also forever be done away! All these “shakeable” elements will be destroyed, and only the “unshakeable” things—truth, justice, love—will remain.—Heb. 12:26,27

And so, although we are living in dark and troublous days, we rejoice to know that their very intensity and complexity proclaims the early establishment of Christ’s kingdom, and the inauguration of the New Covenant for the blessing of the risen world of mankind. For this wonderful time the whole world, unwittingly, “groaneth and travaileth together until now.”

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts: Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land,” writes the Prophet Haggai. “And the desire of all nations shall come.” (Hag. 2:6,7) In that day, the Lord has promised, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts: and will be their God, and they shall [once more] be my people, … for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:33,34) In that day, whosoever will, may take of the water of life freely.—Rev. 22:17

And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:7) Then shall the righteous, the glorified church, shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The risen church, the faithful footstep followers of Jesus in this Gospel Age, unknown to the world today, will be so filled with the glory of God that from her, as the sun of righteousness, shall proceed the light of the glory of God which shall heal and bless and restore the world of mankind.

It is no wonder that the apostle brought his discussion to a close with the prayer and admonition, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”—Heb. 12:28,29

Dawn Bible Students Association
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