TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 40-43
“And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord. And they arrive at Tahpanhes.” – Jeremiah 43:7
The phrase “the voice of the Lord” showed up quite in today’s reading.
In Hebrew, the voice of the Lord is qol Yahweh. The phrase qol Yahweh is found 47 times in the Old Testament.
The first time we read of “the voice of the Lord” is in Exodus 15:26. God says he wants Israel to diligently listen to the voice of the Lord.
But, in Deuteronomy 5, Israel fears hearing the voice of the Lord directly, thinking they will die. So, they tell Moses to go near to God and hear what God has to say. Therefore, Moses should go near to God and hear what God says. Then, Israel we will hear what Moses says and do it.
This is very important and foundational point in the Bible.
God wanted a people that would listen to his voice.
Israel didn’t want to hear God’s voice directly. Instead, they wanted Moses to hear God’s voice. Then, Moses could speak to them and later generations could read what Moses wrote.
Of the 47 times “the voice of the Lord” is found in the Old Testament, 19 of the times refer to Israel not obeying the voice of the Lord. Interestingly, the number 19 symbolizes faith and hearing in the Bible (see here). In this particular case then, the 19 times that Israel did not obey the voice of the Lord in the Old Testament symbolizes their refusal to hear God’s voice and their consequent lack of faith.
In the book of Jeremiah, “the voice of the Lord” is used 11 times. Over and over, Israel asked Jeremiah to bring a word from the Lord, saying they would obey it. Then, when Jeremiah brought that word, Israel refused to obey. The number 11 symbolizes chaos, rebellion, and disorder in the Bible. So, Israel’s refusal to obey God’s voice ultimately led them into exile and out of God’s presence.
In today’s reading, Israel ended up going to Egypt even though the voice of the Lord told them not. Israel ended up in Tahpanhes, which means “head of the age” or “beginning of earth as we know it.”
Who does the Bible say is the god of this age?
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” When we refuse to listen to God’s voice, our minds are blinded and we are deceived by Satan. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says this happens because the veil over the Old Testament has not been removed and we still read it literally instead of listening to the Spirit, who is God’s voice speaking directly into our hearts.
What was the beginning of the earth as we know it?
Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” The earth was disorderly and empty. Darkness was over it. Israel going to Tahpanhes is a picture of our lives as being without form and void, shrouded in darkness, when we do not listen to God’s voice.
And then Jesus shows up.
Luke 9:35-36 says, “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”
Why was Jesus found alone?
Because even though Peter, James, and John originally saw Moses and Elijah next to Jesus, Moses and Elijah disappeared. In other words, God said you are to listen to my voice. My voice is Jesus. So, I will make Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. Jesus eclipses them both. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). And, Jesus shines so brightly, that you cannot even see Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets anymore.
In Matthew 5, Jesus repeatedly says, “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you.”
How did Israel hear that it was said?
They didn’t hear it first hand from God. Remember, back in Deuteronomy they refused to hear God’s voice. So, Moses heard from God and wrote it down. The law was written in tablets of stone. So, when Jesus says, “You have heard it was said,” he is referring to the scriptures that were written down. This is how Israel heard what Moses said.
Again, this was how Israel heard what Moses said.
But, here’s Jesus, God in the flesh. And, he says, “But, I say to you.” Jesus is God speaking to directly to us. Jesus is God’s voice that we are to listen to. This is what God always wanted – a people that would listen to his voice. Not a people that reads dead letters in a book that are covered by a veil.
Interestingly, there were many that refused to listen to Jesus, the voice of the Lord, and preferred reading what Moses wrote in a book. They still wanted to read the tablets of stone. That’s still the case today.
How do we hear God’s voice today?
Not through the Bible.
We hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit.
Instead of reading what was written on tablets of stone, God writes on the tablets of hearts through the Spirit, the voice of Jesus that is ever present with us.
Jesus through the Holy Spirit is the living and active word. This is the voice of God in us that we are to obey. This is the voice that brings alive the written word. Indeed, without this voice within us, the written word is unintelligible. Without this voice, the written word is dead letters and a ministry of death and condemnation.
Scripture can only be understood through the voice of the Lord in our hearts. We hear God’s voice and he interprets scripture for us (Luke 24). It doesn’t work the other way around. We don’t read scripture for it to interpret God’s voice for us.
This is why the Holy Spirit is needed to be our teacher. And, we have no teacher except Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Finally, recall that the voice of the Lord was used in reference to disobedience 19 times. And, that the number 19 symbolizes faith and hearing.
Therefore, Romans 10:16-17 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The word of Christ is living voice, the Holy Spirit speaking in our hearts. It is to be heard because someone is preaching, speaking, the gospel, the god news.
Let us listen to Jesus, the voice of the Lord. It is he we are to obey. Not the words of a book.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”