“Two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” – Exodus 31:18
The conception of God as being “without body, parts, or passions” makes Him utterly unknowable. Such expressions as “life force” and “God is spirit” lead to depersonalization and render the concept of God nebulous, indefinite, and without practical meaning.
This attitude is adopted as a result of the thought that to give form and substance to God is to make Him like ourselves, which would be to degrade Him, but this thought is itself without foundation. It is true that God as He is in Himself – the Absolute, the Infinite, and the Eternal – is beyond our comprehension. The finite mind can never compass the Infinite. So it is written, “No man hath seen God at any time,” “There shall no man see me and live,” and in the writings “The Divine is above all thought and is entirely incomprehensible to angels.” But God is nevertheless a Person. We should not think of the physical body as the thing that makes a man. The body is but the expression in matter of the powers and faculties of the soul, which is the man. And we are not left in darkness as to the Person of God, for God has accommodated the revelation of Himself to our need, and gives the assurance “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Through His Word the Lord makes Himself known as the Almighty, the Creator, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, and also as a God of mercy and lovingkindness, the Father and Savior of mankind. All our faculties are from Him. We are created in His image and likeness. And in the incarnation He revealed Himself to us in His Divine Human. All life is from Him, and if we think of Him as possessing all faculties in infinite degree and perfection, as the Divine and perfect Man, our thoughts are directed to a real and substantial being. So we read in the writings, “Unless God is approached in thought as a Man every idea of God perishes.”
And this concept brings us into direct relationship to Him. All true human characteristics that we have are from Him. Throughout the Scriptures He is pictured as a Man. He has eyes, ears, hands, feet. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry,” “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And when He was on earth in a physical body, He said, “No man cometh unto the Father except by me.” But to understand the Scriptures we need to look further than to physical parts or bodily organs. There is a meaning within these terms; they are but signs and symbols. We need to look beyond the outward phenomena to the deeper content of the words employed.
What then is meant when it is said that the tables of testimony were tables of stone written with the finger of God?
The full weight and force of the body can be most effectively exerted through the shoulder. On the shoulder the heaviest burdens can be borne. So we say, “Put your shoulder to the wheel,” and speak of “shouldering” another’s burdens. We read likewise, “The government shall be upon his shoulder,” and in the parable of the lost sheep, when the shepherd finds it, “he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing,” A dark passage in Zephaniah reads, “Then will I turn to the people a pure language (Hebrew “lip”), that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent (Hebrew “shoulder”),” which means that when there is unity of thought, confessing the Lord, there will also be unity of effort to achieve His purposes. And in Zechariah 7:9-11, “Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother… But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.” Here the pulling away of the shoulder depicts the stubborn will refusing to give help or cooperate for the common good.
A more intimately helpful power is represented by the arm. We stretch out the arm to prevent someone from falling. “We take into our arms” is an expression of sympathy. So we read that “the arm of the Lord was revealed” and the people of Israel were brought out of Egypt with a strong hand and a “stretched out arm.” And when the human race was sinking into complete alienation from God, “He saw… and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him.” So it is said of the innocent in danger, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.” And to teach us that He is ever near and ready to help He says, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
For specific tasks we use the hands. When we speak of lending a hand, or of someone’s hand being against us, we know what we mean. The hand symbolizes power applied to particular tasks. The Lord’s “hand is not shortened that it cannot save,” and however wayward we may be, “his hand is stretched out still.” The enemy can never pluck “out of his hand” those who look to Him, for His care is constant. As we read in symbol language statements of the Lord’s nearness to us as expressed in these terms, we are enabled to realize more deeply His love for us and His desire to be personally with us as a friend.
But there is a still closer relationship which is represented by the fingers. The hand can grasp and mold and shape in a large way, but for detail and delicacy of movement and guidance we must use the fingers. They are instruments of precision in the application and control of bodily power, as in the case of the jeweler, the potter, the sculptor, the artist, the musician, and the surgeon. Skilled fingers are needed for many tasks. Often it takes long hours over many years to train them for their task.
The fingers therefore recall the last and most exquisite adaptation of power to use for particular ends. Technically they signify “power in ultimates,” power in its most sensitive form, power accommodated to the minutest needs.
The finger of God! The power of the Divine brought to the very limits of the needs of man, the Divine love in its infinite wisdom in least things as in greatest, seeking to save!
When by Divine power the magicians in Egypt were foiled, they confessed, “This is the finger of God.” When the Psalmist looked up into the heavens and thought not merely of earthly stars but of the heavenly mansions and of all the means to bring us thither, he says, “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers,” and he asks, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” And of the judgment on Babylon Daniel writes: “In the same hour came forth the finger of a man’s hand, and wrote… upon… the wall of the king’s palace.” By the finger of God the Lord cast out devils, and by the finger of God were written the two tables of testimony in which are given the fundamental laws of all happiness both here and above.
“Tables of stone written with the finger of God!” Why of stone? Stones are enduring. They symbolize the hard, unchanging facts of life. And such are the laws of God. They can never with safety be ignored. “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” He who attempts to evade the commandments is as foolish as he who runs his head into a stone wall. We recognize all this in the physical realm. We speak of the laws of nature and know that they cannot be violated without paying.
So it is in the moral realm. Transgress Divine law and you cannot evade the consequences. Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. In a very real sense “the soul that sinneth it shall die,” for a sinful life is a living death.
These Divine laws on the tables of testimony are the simplification and summarization of the essential laws that conduce to our happiness and well-being. They are the last and outmost expression of the Divine love and wisdom, the ultimate and intimate expression of the Divine care over us, the Divine testimony, tables of stone written with the finger of God.
The commandments are introduced by the words, “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
It is not the keeping of the commandments that makes difficulties, but not keeping them. It has always been so. So the Lord through Moses declares, “O that there were such a 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 for ever!”