“Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou (Moses) near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.”
Thus was the stubborn posture of the hearts of the children of Israel toward the Word of God when it came to them in power and great glory.
The hearts of men are often blind to the mercy that has already been shown to them unmerited; therefore grace remains a stranger to them, and they to it. Despite all the clear proof that God has not already struck them down in wrath, the ungrateful question of the accuser ever stirs within their souls, “Has God indeed said?” And by their love of that lawless question, however secret it may be, all of their ways are made crooked, and they always miss God. For notice that outwardly they still claim that they will perform the commandment of God; but only, they say, if another should “Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee.”
Now, although it pleased God in His sovereign plan that, for our learning, Moses should stand as a kind of mediator on behalf of the children of Israel, prefiguring for us the humbling of His Word in a Man on our behalf; still, His jealousy remained provoked in that ancient day toward those who so rejected His Word as it had appeared to them. For God will not be mocked; and His way will stand, though men inventively seek any other door than what He graciously provides. He is dissatisfied with such a generation, and laments their hardness of heart.
And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye (Israel) spake unto me (Moses); and the Lord said unto me, “I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
“…they have well said all that they have spoken.”
The Lord who searches the thoughts and intentions is not taken aback by the self-deceit which pervades the hardened heart of merely religious men. Their most pious response is still dependant upon another man knowing God for them; and this He sees as no different, if not even more despicable, than those who shake their fists at Him unabashedly.
“O that there were such an heart in them…”
The hearts which tend by God’s grace towards true obedience are marked by a desire to know God’s voice for themselves. But those which tend away from desiring a personal knowing of God’s voice; who tend to desire the voice of other men; and perhaps even mock that God would so speak to them, except through a man – these reveal that they are full of much disobedience already.
“…that they would fear Me…”
The wisdom of God is obtained through the fear of Him: those who fear Him seek His counsel diligently for themselves, and leave it not in the hands of another.
“…and keep all My commandments always…”
The scriptures loudly attest to us that true obedience is that which is born of a heart that has been made humble and contrite before the living God. When God appears to such persons, they bow in faith saying, “Thy will be done, and first in me!” – and they go forth, though they may not see how it is possible. For they trust that He who gives the commandment will grant within them its Breath unto Life. But the passing of one’s own responsibility onto another is the way of the dead.
“…that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
We bring ruin upon not only ourselves, but in many ways our children also, when we willingly give place to any other Mediator than Christ Jesus. Let us not render ourselves as another lesson of failure for a generation yet future; and if we do, may our own children quickly overcome our lawless and faithless spirit, however it might sting our wicked pride.
As Moses said to Israel earlier in the same discourse, recounting God’s marvelous deeds among them:
“Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.” Also the Lord was angry with me (Moses) for your sakes, saying, “Thou also shalt not go in thither. But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.”