I am endlessly fascinated with the Israelites.
I know the stories — especially the big ones: Passover, Red Sea, 10 Commandments, lots and lots of disobedience and captivity… But there’s something about the details that bring new light with nearly every read.
In Deuteronomy 5, Moses repeats the 10 Commandments in the hearing of all of Israel. Fun fact: all of the commandments are the exact same wording as Exodus 20, except for the fourth, fifth, and tenth commandments. Still haven’t figured out a deeper meaning why, but there’s a little trivia for you.
Before we get to the recitation of the commandments, though, Moses recounts the context in which God gave them the commandments:
- v. 2-3 These commandments were given to you, not your parents. Literally you who are alive right now and listening to me.
- v. 4 God spoke to you face to face out of the midst of fire
- v. 5 I, Moses, stood between God and you to tell you what God said. Because you were afraid.
It’s that last point that catches my attention. They were afraid. It happens in Exodus 20, right after the Ten Commandments but before the rest of the laws and instructions:
“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flames of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain spoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:18-21, ESV)
God acquiesced to their request: He spoke through Moses and Moses, in turn, faithfully shared all that God has spoken to the Israelites.
I still wonder though: what did the Israelites miss out on by letting their fear get the better of them? The nation did not get the full experience God wanted to give them of Himself because they were afraid.
I wonder if I do the same?
Has God asked me to do something that scares me, and in saying no, I lose a miraculous experience with Him? One that would keep me more aware of HIs presence, His power, His love, His trustworthiness?
God didn’t express any anger at the Israelites for backing out, and He certainly still loves us when we are afraid. But we still miss out. I wonder if they had drawn into that intimate experience with God — would they have been less likely to sin and fall into pagan worship? At least this generation?
I don’t know. But I know that for me, I want to never fear the instructions of God. That when He instructs me clearly, I would press forward and close in faith, no matter what.
Another side to this is the role of Moses: sometimes we also have someone go between us and God, and we have them declare to us the word of the Lord. But one of the lessons of Christian history is that not everyone is as trustworthy in that role as Moses was, nor as in tune with God. Thus, we need to ensure we have our own experience.
Pastors, elders, friends, and family all have their place. But even with the large amount of formal Christian-Bible-study-etc training I have received in my life, none of it compares with the knowledge I’ve gained by simply knowing God for myself. Nothing can replace it. It’s the safest way and it’s the most rewarding.
May we never fear our Lord’s instructions, and we come to know Him and follow Him as we study the pages of Scripture and seek Him in prayer for ourselves.