TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 9-11
God wants you to listen to his voice. This is not a new thing. This is always what he has wanted.
Deuteronomy 9:23 says, “And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and take possession of the land that I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God and did not believe him or obey his voice.”
To listen to God’s voice is to obey him. But, to not listen to God’s, or to listen to any other voice, is to rebel against God.
Let’s look at some instances of not listening to God’s voice, how God communicates with us when we don’t listen to his voice, and listening to his voice. And, let us consider what this says about Jesus and our relationship with him.
LISTENING TO ANOTHER VOICE
Genesis 2:16 says, “And the Lord commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that eat of it you shall surely die.” The man, Adam, heard God’s voice. Notice that this was not a written command.
Adam disobeyed and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam where he erred in Genesis 3:17, which says, “And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it…'” Adam erred by listening to a voice that was not God’s. The point was not that Adam listened to his wife’s voice or a woman’s voice, as there are numerous times in scripture when a man listened to the voice of his wife or a woman and was lauded for it by God. No, the problem was Adam listened to a voice, and it could have been any voice, that was in contradiction to the voice of God.
In Genesis 15, God promises and makes a covenant with Abram that his very own son will be his heir. How did Abram receive this promise? The word of the Lord came to him. How would the word of the Lord come to you? Words come by a voice. Abram heard the voice of the Lord.
But Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not borne any children to Abram. Genesis 16:2 says, “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”
Abram had a son, Ishmael, with Sarai’s servant, Hagar. When God reiterated his promise and covenant to Abraham, Abraham pleaded with God that Ishmael might live before him. But, God said no. That was not God had spoke to Abraham. Abraham had listened to another voice besides God’s.
ISRAEL WAS TO LISTEN TO GOD’S VOICE
In Exodus 14, Israel was delivered from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. Having crossed the Red Sea, Israel entered the wilderness of Shur and found no water to drink in Exodus 15. Israel grumbled against Moses, but Moses threw a log into the bitter water and made it sweet for Israel to drink.
Exodus 15:25-26 says, “There the Lord made for them a statue and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes.” God delivered Israel from Egypt and tests them to see if they will diligently listen to his voice.
When Israel camped before the mountain in the wilderness of Sinai, God said in Exodus 19:5-6, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'” God tells Israel that they will be his inheritance, his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, but they need to obey his voice. God is, and always has been, after a people that will obey his voice.
ISRAEL REJECTS GOD’S VOICE AND GETS A WRITTEN LAW
But, when God showed up at Mt. Sinai, Exodus 19:16 says “there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.”
I believe a careful reading will show that the chapters around the giving of the law in Exodus 19-24 are not in chronological order. There is some bouncing back and forth in time. Therefore, we find Israel’s responses to God showing up on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19:16-20 in Exodus 20:18-21.
Exodus 20:18-21 says, “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you many not sin.’ The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”
God was testing Israel to see if they would listen to his voice. But, when God showed up at Mt. Sinai Israel became afraid. Israel told Moses they did not want God to speak to them directly because they thought they would die. In effect, Israel told Moses they did not want to listen God’s voice. Instead, they told Moses that he should speak to God. So, Israel chose for themselves that they would rather listen to the voice of a man instead of the voice of God.
It was after Israel rejected listening to God’s voice that Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Therefore, it was after Israel rejected listening to God’s voice that Israel was given a written law through Moses.
Listening to God’s voice requires an intimate relationship with him. This is because God wants his voice to be heard in the heart. But, notice how Israel “stood far off” when they rejected listening to God’s voice. So, Israel put themselves at a distance from God. Therefore, the consequence of rejecting the intimate relationship required to listen to God’s voice was to receive a written law on tablets of stone.
MOSES GIVES HIS LAW TWICE IN WRITING
In today’s reading, we read that Moses received the law on tablets of stone on two separate occasions.
The first is recorded in Deuteronomy 9:9-11, which says, “When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. And the Lord gave me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And at the end of the forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.”
But, when Moses came down from the mountain, he saw Israel worshiping a golden calf that Aaron had made for them. So, Moses took the two tablets of stone, threw them, and broke them.
It’s at this time that Moses received the law on tablets of stone a second time. Deuteronomy 9:25 and 10:1-5 says, “So I lay prostrate before the Lord for these forty days and forty nights…At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the Lord commanded me.”
There are two very interesting differences between these two givings of the law on tablets of stone.
First, Moses spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain with God in both cases. But, in the first instance, Moses said he neither ate bread or drank water. However, in the second instance, Moses says nothing about fasting.
Second, in the first instance, Moses carried the law down the mountain in his hands on two tablets of stone. But, in the second instance, Moses was instructed to make an ark of acacia wood and put the two tablets of stone with the law written on them inside the ark that he had made.
JESUS GIVES HIS LAW TWICE WITH HIS VOICE
Like Moses, Jesus gave his law twice. Both involved 40 day periods of time. Jesus’ first giving of his law was a sort of external giving, like Moses. But, the second giving of Jesus’ law became an internal giving, like Moses. However, while the law Moses gave was written, in both cases Jesus gave his law with his voice.
In Matthew 4, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. While in the wilderness Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. Jesus was hungry, and, clearly, he would have been thirsty too. Just after this forty days of fasting, Jesus saw the crowds and went up on a mountain. From the mountain, Jesus spoke his law with his voice from Matthew 5-7.
Notice the similarities between the first time Jesus gave his law and the first time Moses received the law:
- Moses fasted forty days and forty nights and Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights.
- Moses went up a mountain to receive the law and Jesus gave his law from a mountain.
- While Moses was on the mountain, Israel was gathered around the mountain as an assembly. Jesus went up the mountain when he saw the crowds assembling.
- Moses came down the mountain with the tablets in his hands and Jesus gave his law to all that gathered. Both were a sort of external giving of the law.
But, there were two critical differences:
- Moses’ law was written. Jesus spoke his law with his voice. Jesus did not write his law down to give to the people.
- Moses’ law was about external actions of the body while Jesus’ law dealt with the internal motives of the heart.
These two differences are so important. Any written law can only deal with external actions. Do this and don’t do that. When Israel rejected God’s voice, they were given an external law written down for them to follow.
But, Jesus comes to give a law that deals with the heart. He wants to deal with the motives of the heart that drive the external actions. A written law cannot do this. So, Jesus speaks his law because it is only the voice of God that can reach the heart.
Therefore, throughout his law Jesus says, “You have heard that it is said of old…But I say to you.” Virtually every time Jesus refers to a specific act that was forbidden from the written law – what was said of old. And, every time Jesus says something about the inward motive of the heart that produces that outward act.
But, there is a second forty day period in Jesus’ life. Acts 1:3-4 says, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'”
What was Jesus doing with the disciples during these 40 days?
One he was eating and drinking with his disciples throughout this time.
Two, Jesus was speaking his law, the truths of the kingdom of God, to his disciples. But, instead of an external giving of his law on a mountain, Jesus was speaking his law with his voice right to the heart of the disciples. Luke 24 tells us that during these 40 days Jesus was showing the disciples everywhere he could be found in the law and the prophets, the entire Old Testament. As Jesus translated the scriptures for them, their hearts burned within them.
Jesus told the disciples that when he ascended, going up the mountain to heaven, then the Holy Spirit would come down and reside in their hearts. In John 14:25-26, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Are you seeing any similarities with Moses’ second giving of the law and Jesus’ second giving of his law?
- Moses was with God 40 days and Jesus was with his disciples 40 days.
- Moses did not fast this 40 days and Jesus was eating and drinking with his disciples all throughout this 40 days.
- Moses made an ark of acacia wood to put the two tablets in when he came down the mountain. Jesus would ascend the mountain of heaven to return to the father but would send down his Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts to remind us of everything he had said.
LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF JESUS
Moses knew that another prophet would come who would not give a written law but would speak and should be listened to.
In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen.” Jesus was raised up a prophet among his brothers. In Luke 9:35, on the mount of transfiguration, “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” When that voice spoke, Moses and Elijah, who were standing next to Jesus, disappeared. Therefore, God says we should listen to the voice of Jesus and no other voice but his.
In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” If we are his sheep, then we will know his voice. And, if we know his voice, then we will follow him.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The word of Christ comes through his voice. We need to listen to him to receive wisdom in our hearts.
This is how we receive faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We need to hear the voice of Jesus to receive faith.
In Genesis 15:1, the word of the Lord came to Abram and spoke to him a promise that his very own son would be his heir. Yesterday’s post, The Word of the Lord – What, or Who, Is It?, showed that the word of the Lord is Jesus. Genesis 15:6 says, “And he [Abram] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
What did Abram believe? The voice of Jesus. Genesis 26:4-5 says, “And in your offspring [which Paul says is Jesus] all nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statues, and my laws.” Abraham obeyed not what was written but the word of the Lord, Jesus, spoken by God’s voice. These verses about Abraham believing God’s voice and being counted righteous are quoted multiple times in the New Testament.
LISTEN TO JESUS’ VOICE: THE COVENANT GOD MAKES WITH US
Exodus 31:18 says, “And he gave Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” These two tablets contained the covenant God made with Israel through Moses. Deuteronomy 4:13 says, “And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.”
Now, according to Hebrews, Jesus was a priest after a different order than Aaron. Hebrews 7:12 says, “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” A change in the law is synonymous with a change in the covenant as we can see from the previous paragraph.
Because of this change in priesthood, Hebrews 7:18 says, “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” Remember, Israel stood far off at the giving of the law/covenant through Moses. But, we draw near to God.
According to Hebrew 7:22, Jesus, as the priest of a different order, is a guarantor of a better covenant. Hebrews 8:6-7 says, “But as it is Christ, has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.”
In 2 Corinthians 3:7, Paul calls the ministry of Moses, the old ministry that Christ’s is better than, “the ministry of death, carved in letters of stone.” In the previous verse, Paul says he is a minister of the new covenant, the one Jesus is a guarantor of. This new covenant is “not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
What exactly is this new covenant?
Hebrews 8:10-12 says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In this covenant, the Holy Spirit speaks the law of God directly to our heart. This is the better hope that was introduced by Jesus. Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given us.” The Spirit is now in us crying out, “Abba! Father!”
The period of God writing to us on tablets of stone is over. Now we are listen to God’s voice speaking directly to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is what God has always desired.
“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
Isn’t it amazing that we do not have single writing from the greatest man that ever walked the earth?
All we have is his voice, which carries the “word of God [that] is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Jesus’ voice brings his word that goes right to the heart of every matter, leading us exactly in the way that we should go.