Oh that [my people] had such a heart in them that they would fear me and keep my commandments always, that it might be well with them and their children forever. (Deut. 5:29)
In this portion of Scripture, Moses is recounting to the Israelites the time when God spoke to them at Mount Horeb. The mountain burned with fire, the ground trembled, and the people shook with fear. They told Moses
We have seen that God speaks with man and yet he lives. Now why should we die? If we see this fire and hear this voice any longer we shall die.
The people then said to Moses, you go and hear the word of God, then tell it to us and we will do it.
Even though God said they had spoken wisely, He laments over them saying, “Oh that they had such a heart in them…” Even though everything seemed to be settled on an even keel, God’s lament should give us pause. By chapter 8 of Deuteronomy, the Israelites can no longer maintain their insulation from the voice of God. An intervening religion handed down by Moses will not suffice.
[God] humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (Deut 8:3)
How are we to hear this life-giving word proceeding out of the mouth of God without encountering the life-threatening terrors of Mount Horeb? Again God intervenes. In chapter 18 of Deuteronomy God speaks of a prophet He will raise up, into whose mouth He will place His words. This prophet will speak all the words of God, like Moses did, to the people. Whoever neglects to hear this prophet will not have life, will be cut off from the people of God, and will have to answer to God for spurning so great a salvation.
In these passages, God has done three things:
- He has set the stage. We were created to live in a dialogic relationship with our Creator. But when we give heed to the voice of the serpent who tells us that God is superfluous, that if we follow his advice we, ourselves, will be God; when we give heed to that voice we lose the image of God, we lose the breath that made us living beings, and we lose our dialogic relationship with God. In this condition, to be brought face to face with the living God is to be brought face to face with our deadness where we were meant to be alive.
- He has pointed out the source of life. Feeding on every word proceeding from the mouth of God is the only thing that brings life. It was so in the beginning and is so in the restoration.
- He has established a passage between death and life that is available to all. Yet it is a narrow path and a strait or strict gate; “few there be that find it.” There is only one prophet raised up and chosen by God to be his mouthpiece, not many. On the mount of transfiguration, God identified His choice saying, “This is my chosen one, hear him.”
As long as we do not have to hear the word of God, we can pretend that we are alive, that we are indeed Gods. But the moment we hear the Word of God, something must die. If we would know life, we must be willing to die to all we have “gained” by giving heed to the voice of Satan. We can then give heed to the voice of this prophet like Moses that God has chosen to be The Word of God. This prophet like Moses said, “The hour is come and now is that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who will hear shall live.” (John 5:25) Jesus, the Word of God, the chosen one, has enlightened every human that comes into the world, yet we “esteemed him not.” We have slighted the work of his light within us, calling it too little and too insignificant to bring us salvation. But to as many as receive the working of His light within, even to those who believe on His name, The Word of God, to them He gives the power to become children of God, i.e. born in His image and by His will. Thus, something comes to life—the heart that is willing to hear and obey the voice of God. This is the heart within us that God is looking for, that He is working to grow within us. It only grows in the “soil” of walking in a dialogic relationship with our Creator.
Isaiah 54 speaks of the people who are taught by the Lord, “and none shall make them afraid.” Not the fear of death, not the terror that stalks by night, not the manufacturer of weapons against them. “For I myself have created the smith who blows on the coals to fashion the weapons,” says the Lord. Isaiah 55 asks, “Do you hunger and thirst for this?” “Come, You that have no money, buy and eat. Delight yourself in abundance of listening, and you shall live.” Isaiah calls us to enter into and to live in the fire and the voice the Israelites could not abide at Mount Horeb.
George Fox stated:
That which could not abide in the patience, nor endure the fire, in the light I found to be the groans of the flesh, that could not give up to the will of God; which had so veiled me, that I could not be patient in all trials, troubles, anguishes, and perplexities ; could not give up self to die by the cross, the power of God, that the living and quickened might follow him, and that that which would cloud and veil from the presence of Christ, that which the sword of the spirit cuts down, and which must die, might not he kept alive.” (Works of Fox, Vol I, p.76)
To the “living and quickened” the unendurable fire and word of Mount Horeb are life and light. They are our protection and our sustenance. We can’t live without the presence of the speaking God.