One of the most remarkable stories in the Old Testament and, at the same time, one of most theologically charged, is that occasion when God ‘speaks’ to Israel from Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:5, 16 and 20:18-19, 22). This fearsomely impressive Voice set the God of Israel apart, way apart, from all the other gods of the land, those many dumb idols, unable to speak, listen or act.
One such theologically significant idea is this: that God has a voice and speaks to His creation in general and, in this case, Israel in particular, is an act of self-disclosure, or what we call ‘revelation’, a revealing that could not otherwise happen unless He chose to do so. This self-disclosure of the God Who Speaks shows He has something to say to all of us, all the time, and since it is He who speaks, every word is important, eternally so. He speaks to get our attention, invite us into a relationship with Him and elevate our creatureliness into that sublime existence defined by everlasting Life, Light and Love.
It is also a communication of intention, “I’m going to do this and that” indicating purposefulness, design and an inexorable will to accomplish all He promises. By listening to whatever His “this and that” is we take part in those eternal decrees established before the foundations of this world were ever laid. He desires that we find, fulfill, and consummate our destinies thereby accomplishing His eternally benevolent will for each of us.
Because the speaking God of Israel so frightened the people, Moses became God’s voice. Some regard him as the first of a long line of prophets sent by God to speak to Israel. Of course, the culmination of these prophetic ministries is Jesus, the Word Incarnate, God speaking to us as one of us; Hebrews 1:1-4 summarizes it well.
This fact is illustrated by an equally remarkable event paralleling the one at Sinai when Jesus was transfigured. In all the three accounts recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36) the disciples are told to “listen to him.” And in each of these accounts the verb ‘hear’ or ‘listen’ (depending on the translation) is in the present tense, imperative mood which taken together means a command to hear Him now and keep on hearing Him. And, this Voice from ‘heaven’ is the same that spoke to Israel at Sinai thus linking the testaments together into a seamless whole, only now with the full force of His thundering self-disclosure and intentionality communicated by the Incarnation of Logos.
Furthermore, the verb ἀκούετε (listen) means not just physically hearing sounds but hearing with understanding; it is the opposite of Jesus’ indictment that many, if not most of those following His ministry, had “ears but did not hear” what He was saying. Listening to the Voice is an inclination towards Him, an attentiveness to what He says, a patient anticipation that He will speak and a willingness to obey what He says. None of this is easily done these days what with the cacophony of voices demanding our attention and our own propensity to hear what we want to hear.
Thus, the question set before all of us is this: are we listening for and hearing the Voice of the God who speaks shown by our obedience or are we listening to the siren songs of the world only to end up shipwrecked on the rocks that seek our destruction?
The point, then, is this:
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME” (Heb. 3:15)
© W.G. Ryzek 2014