Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:4-9

4 And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens.

5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.

6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,

7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.

8 And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.

9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

Pharaoh’s second response was much more vicious than the first. In verse 4 he shows great indignation, essentially questioning what right Moses and Aaron had to even be here and he attempted to emphatically put them back in their place as mere slaves: “get you unto your burdens!”

But Pharaoh didn’t stop there. He called them idle, accusing them of having an excess of time since they were requesting to use that time to make sacrifices to their God. Thus, he took their labor of making bricks and significantly increased its difficulty. Straw was an essential ingredient for creating bricks, serving as the lattice that held the clay together, enabling it to hold it’s shape as it dried into a brick. Making bricks without straw simply wasn’t an option, so the Israelites would have to take the time to get it themselves.

Pharaoh’s words in verse 9 seem to be directed more to the general Israelite populace than to Moses and Aaron: “let them not regard vain words.” Clearly, he is trying to get the slaves to renounce Moses and Aaron as their representatives. He wants the Israelites themselves to censure the voices that would seek their freedom. If the Pharaoh had been able to get what he wanted from the people, it would have shown that they were absolutely demoralized, biting the very hand that offered them freedom, and thus becoming their own chains. And is this indeed how the Israelites responded? We will soon find out.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:7-10

7 And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:

8 Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord’s house silver or gold?

9 With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen.

10 And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.

I find it very interesting that Jacob’s sons are so confident in declaring their innocence. Yes, they know that they have done no wrong, but they also didn’t put the money into their sacks the first time they came to Egypt, yet there it was even so. I would think an abundance of caution, and suspicion of treachery would be warranted, but apparently it doesn’t cross their minds that they might be walking into a trap.

For if it did cross their minds, why on earth would they stake their very lives on the matter? Their own suggestion is that if one of them has committed the crime then that brother should be killed, and all the others will be made into slaves!

The steward cools down their fervor somewhat. They won’t all be punished if only one of them has committed the crime, and the thief won’t be killed, but he will have to become Joseph’s slave. Given that they are willing to the higher punishment, the brothers are agreeable to this lesser one as well. And so, they willingly commit themselves to their own ruin.

Spiritual Analysis- Genesis 19:27-29

27 And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord:

28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.

29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.

When Abraham beseeched the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, much of his concern may have been based on the fact that Lot lived there. Yes, he pleaded for the lives of any righteous unknowns, but also for the one righteous that he already knew personally.

But in our record never shows Abraham speaking specifically for Lot. Abraham set the terms for preserving the cities at ten righteous, God had agreed to that plan, and the cities were accordingly destroyed. But even though Lot was not explicitly spoken of, God did not forget about him. God did not need Abraham to ask Him to do something good in Lot’s case. God cared for Abraham and He cared for Lot, and He would take care of them, even when He had not been requested to do so.

We think of God as not being aware of our desires because they so often go unmet. The things we explicitly ask for are usually not answered, at least not in the way we envisioned. That was how things were for Abraham, too. Abraham asked for Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared, and that was not what happened, but God still took care of Abraham even so.

When we stop gauging God’s care for us by whether we receive what we want for ourselves, then we can start to appreciate that we are already receiving what He wants for us instead. He may not care for us how we want, but He does care for us how we need, and He does so more than we give Him credit for.

Spiritual Analysis- Genesis 19:26

26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

The moment where Lot’s wife looks back to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and is turned to a pillar of salt is extremely abrupt and confusing. This one, fifteen-word sentence is crammed between two completely different paragraphs, dropping a shocking detail with absolutely no context! Clearly there is more to this story, but all that survives for us today is an extreme abbreviation.

Of course, we do know that the Lord’s instruction to them was “escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain.” Lot’s wife was clearly disobeying the middle instruction there, to not look back, but it seems likely that it was more than just that. The Lord was not just saying “don’t look over your shoulder,” he was saying “don’t hesitate, don’t falter, don’t contemplate returning.” And so when this verse says she “looked back” it may not mean that she was just curious to see the destruction of the city, but that she was affixing herself to return to it.

This interpretation is supported by the words of Jesus in Luke 17:26-33. Here Jesus refers to both the flood in Noah’s time and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he stresses that when the moment of reckoning comes, one must run to safety without trying to return to their house for their belongings. And in that context he tells his listeners “remember Lot’s wife.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 4:13-15

13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

Cain’s proclamation of woe speaks to a very basic fear that lurks in all of us: the fear of ostracization, of being outcast from society, of being marked, of being known first and foremost as “the person that did that terrible thing,” of watching society happily continue along its way while we stand on the outside looking in.

I can only imagine how crushing a condemnation one must feel when sentenced to jail. I would expect that “unfit for society” and “a danger to others” are hard labels to take out of the mind, even after being released back into the wider world. Even after one is “reintegrated” do they actually feel so?

To be sure, our crimes against our fellowmen drive a very real rift between us, and murder is the most separating crime of all. Sooner or later, though, all of us would become ostracized from one another if not for grace and healing.

The Need for Law- Summary

When one wishes to have the gospel in their lives, but not its laws, it is often due to an image of an exacting and punishing taskmaster God versus that of a loving and forgiving father. There is no question that the law of Moses given in the Old Testament was strict and severe, and yet we say that it was given by the same God who stated “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” One tries to resolve these two images, and finds themselves asking so does God hate the sinner? Or does He love His wayward child?
In the process of this study I have come to the conclusion that this is a false dilemma. Strict commandments do not preclude the caring compassion of a father, and the giving of commandments is a greater act of love than sweeping misdeeds under the rug. There is probably more to be explored on the matter, but for the topic of this study it is enough to know that the laws of God are given as an act of kindness.
Having a proper understanding of these laws puts to rest so many of the fears related to them. Our concerns stem more from misinterpretation than disagreement. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental principles of law, and how they truly are designed for our benefit.

Law is Inevitable

Societies have experimented with anarchy from time to time, and always to disastrous effect. Notably, anarchy does not survive. There never has been a successful and lasting nation that was not structured on some sort of government or law. Even on the most basic level, it is in our nature to band together under clans and tribes, to submit to a set of rules, and to function as a society.
Even more than this, though, we belong to a world of order and rigidity. Physical laws govern every material interaction of our lives, and provide us a sense of dependability. Were it not for the presence of natural law, all would be chaos, and life would be impossible. Our very existence depends on there being a set of universal rules.
And there is still more. For we are not only material bodies, but also composed of an immortal spirit. These spirits are the creation of God, and therefore inherently bound to the laws of heaven. That is their natural place to dwell, and so must adhere to its commandments or else divorce themselves from it.
Thus it is necessary for us, first and foremost, to recognize the parts that we are made of, and from the recognition of our nature, then accept the laws that inevitably apply to us. To live without law would be to stop being what we fundamentally are.
John 3:5-6- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Mark 12:14, 17- And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Laws Inherently Divide

Inherent in law is the division between those that adhere to its commandments, and those that defy them. To be a law, there must be two states of recompense defined and exacted: reward for those that obey the law, and penalty for those that do not. If these qualities are absent, then there are not any laws, only a list of suggestions.
Thus the laws of our government have punishments defined for those that break them, and securities promised to those that follow. Those that respect the laws of physics will enjoy a life far freer from pain than those that pay them no mind. And so, too, our spirits suffer or thrive dependent on our adherence to divine law.
Our problem, of course, is that we are all doomed to fall on the wrong side of natural and divine law. If we possessed a never-ending source of power we could stave off entropy, and maintain our body’s vitality forever. But we do not. And if we had perfect self control we could resist every temptation, and maintain our spirit’s purity forever. But we do not. Instead we are all bound for the grave and bound for hell. The temporary benefits of predictability and structure that these laws give us in mortal life, come at the cost of eternal woe afterwards.
2 Nephi 2:5- And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
2 Nephi 2:13- And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

The Law of Christ Spares Us

However, if the terms of these first laws have been satisfied, then a new law can be erected in their place. Thus, to our fallen state came Jesus Christ, sent to atone for our sins, sent to die the death of our mortality, who then turned and offered us resurrection and forgiveness instead. He did so, under the domain of a new law, his law.
But as we have already noted, for this to be a law it must have terms and commandments, which provide reward for their fulfillment, and punishment for their transgression. The rewards for Christ’s law are resurrection and forgiveness, the punishment is simply to default back to the hell required by our inability to perfectly follow divine law.
But this new law could only be beneficial to us if we are aware of it, and knew how to make use of it. And thus the gospel was written out and given to us in the form of scripture. Thus our conscience was instilled in our hearts. Thus teachers and guides were inspired to direct and educate us. All of these were provided for the express purpose of teaching us us the terms and conditions of this new law. In these sources we find every stipulation laid out in exhaustive detail. We learn over and over again that the law of Christ requires us to have faith in him, to repent of our sins, to enter into a covenant by baptism, and ever recommit to following him when we fall short of his example.
If we do these few things, then the saving of our souls is sure.
Luke 4:18- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
Isaiah 51:4-5- Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

Romans 8:2- For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Justice and Mercy- Galatians 3:7, 2 Nephi 2:7, Alma 42:22

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.


Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth
Because of our imperfections, each of us must face the punishment which justice demands for breaking God’s laws. At least so it would be if God had not already foreseen this dilemma and provided an escape from it. His plan was always to introduce a Savior that could intercede between us and the law, pay the penalty of our sins, and thus grant us mercy instead.
As Christ was able to perfectly fulfill the demands of God’s law, he was able to author for us a new law to follow, one that each of us is actually capable of fulfilling. This law is the law of repentance.
Christ’s mercy is freely available, but only to those that subscribe to this new law. To those that do, they do not only receive the reward tied to that law (forgiveness), they also receive the reward of God’s higher law of perfection as well (salvation).
Whereas before we could only ever see the curse of the law and never the blessing, now we have the opportunity to enjoy only the benefits of justice and never the penalties.

Justice and Mercy- Galatians 3:11, Romans 3:23, 2 Nephi 2:5

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.


But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off
I mentioned yesterday that the gospel is given as God’s highest law, one for which the promised blessing is salvation, the greatest of all His gifts. But given the facts that this law demands perfection and that we are all incapable of perfection, the only logical conclusion is that one would be better off avoiding this gift entirely! Who cares what the reward is if you have a 0% chance of obtaining it? Better that you don’t make any promises to God and therefore never break them. Right?
But even those that reject this higher law still are culpable for their inability to keep even the basic law of their own conscience, a law which is inescapable. As the above scriptures make abundantly clear: if salvation is the reward for obeying the laws, then damnation must be the punishment for breaking them. And we have all broken them, and so we are all damned.

Now obviously I am pausing for dramatic effect. You know and I know that this isn’t the end of the story. Each of these doom-and-gloom verses are immediately followed by declarations of hope. Tomorrow we’ll examine how mercy enters the scene, and does so in a way that still preserves the sanctity of justice. Before we do that, though, I think it is worthwhile to pause and consider the sober realities of what life without a Savior would be like.