Reader: “Oh, that they would always have hearts like this,”
Response: “that they might fear me and obey all my commands!”
Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:22-33
“The Lord spoke these words to all of you assembled there at the foot of the mountain. He spoke with a loud voice from the heart of the fire, surrounded by clouds and deep darkness. This was all he said at that time, and he wrote his words on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
“But when you heard the voice from the heart of the darkness, while the mountain was blazing with fire, all your tribal leaders and elders came to me. They said, ‘Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice from the heart of the fire. Today we have seen that God can speak to us humans, and yet we live! But now, why should we risk death again? If the Lord our God speaks to us again, we will certainly die and be consumed by this awesome fire. Can any living thing hear the voice of the living God from the heart of the fire as we did and yet survive? Go yourself and listen to what the Lord our God says. Then come and tell us everything he tells you, and we will listen and obey.’
“The Lord heard the request you made to me. And he said, ‘I have heard what the people said to you, and they are right. Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. Go and tell them, “Return to your tents.” But you stand here with me so I can give you all my commands, decrees, and regulations. You must teach them to the people so they can obey them in the land I am giving them as their possession.’”
So Moses told the people, “You must be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail. Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
As I write this Monday morning, yesterday was a different kind of Palm Sunday. We stuck some palm branches in the yard, worshiped with our church online, and watched “The Ten Commandments” from beginning to end last night. (They don’t make movies like that anymore!) What you just read was portrayed on the screen. Just before the Scripture for today, Moses had called the people together to tell them what he had experienced on the mountain and read for them the ten commandments given to him by God. Now, the passage for today. The “ten words,” as they are known in Hebrew, are the only words ever written directly by God’s own hand. If that doesn’t elevate their significance, I don’t know what would! God appeared in a cloud, the closest thing to a physical presence. It was something the people could see. (There are several other instances of God appearing in a cloud throughout the Scriptures―E.g.Wilderness Wanderings, Temple Dedication, Transfiguration, Ascension). We see here also a reference to God as fire―the burning bush, God viewed as a consuming fire, Heb.12:29. One of the most powerful truths in Scripture occurs here. . . “God can speak to humans, and yet they live!” Buddah is silent. Mohammed is silent. Allah is silent. The pantheon of all the Eastern gods are silent. It is only the God of the Bible who speaks to people at all times and in all places. God’s speaking on the mountain was terrifying to the Israelites. Having experienced the voice of God, they were glad to be alive. What happened in hearing the voice of God that brought them to the conclusion that once was enough? They saw and heard God in a way that enabled them to get a glimpse of the God they were worshiping. The experience was so overwhelming that it brought an element of fear, awe, and reverence. They saw a trickle of God’s glory. Even the trickle was almost more than they could manage. God was showing himself that they might develop a holy fear and reverence leading to obedience and greater love. Then these beautiful words, “Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.” Why can’t we do that? We are the Israelites! It would almost seem like God is getting the world’s attention. “People, think what you are doing. You are ignoring my ways, my Son, the life you have in me. Repent.” That is the story of the Scriptures and that is the story of our world. As happened with the Israelites so often, we too have lost our awe and fear of God as a people. Let us repent of all our ways that lead us away from our Lord and learn again to walk in his path, led by his Spirit.
Music: “Sanctus and Agnus Dei” Vinnie Zarletti Institute for Worship Studies
Some of you know that I teach at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. This clip is from one of our worship services. The musicians are students. (iws.edu)
Our gracious Father in heaven, many of us have become so familiar with the faith, that we have lost our awe and fear of you. It never occurs to us to take off our shoes, frankly because we are not even aware we are on holy ground in our interaction with you. Thank you for your graciousness in not striking us down as you did Nadab and Abihu. Please forgive our arrogance and presumption in coming to you so casually and flippantly. Your words to us the “Ten Commandments” are life and health. Holy Spirit, help us, sharpen us, convict us, guide us, tenderize us, tune our ears to your voice, give to us the mind of Christ. We can’t function without you. Be the cloud that hovers over us in our walk through the desert of this world until we reach the Promised Land. This we pray through Jesus our Lord who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp2020-