This text in Deuteronomy chapter 5 and verse 27 is a quote from the people of Israel, recording the request they made to Moses. The occasion was the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, after they had left Egypt.
GOD descended in power and glory on the mountain so that it shook violently and burned with fire! He then pronounced the Ten Words, or Ten Commandments from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice, and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone, and gave them to Moses. When the people heard GOD’s voice, the leaders came to Moses and said,
Surely the LORD our GOD has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that GOD speaks with man, yet he still lives. Now therefore, why should we die, for this great fire will consume us? If we hear the voice of the LORD our GOD anymore, then we shall die!.
Following this declaration, came their request to Moses to be, in effect, the mediator between them and GOD. Moses recorded the response of their GOD to this request in the following words:
Then the LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.’
In effect, GOD approved of their request for a mediator between Him and them. He declared them to be in the right for asking such a thing. The reason we mention this is because of the claim so many are making, that we do not need a mediator between us and GOD. But if our ancestors saw their need, and since GOD approved of their request, it is idle and foolish to assert otherwise. To this day there is no evidence that GOD has changed His mind on the matter. We needed a mediator then, and we need one today. That is the first point. When we continue reading this fifth Chapter of Deuteronomy, however, we find that while GOD approved of their request, He certainly disapproved of the reason for the request. In verse 29, He says,
O that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me, and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever.
GOD obviously looked beyond the promising exterior, and saw that their heart was not in the matter. They did not want to be committed beyond the outward show. They had other interests that might suffer if they took the absolute claims of GOD seriously.
There are two words for ‘fear’. The first which has an element of terror in it, was what made them draw back when GOD spoke to them from the mountain. The second, which means ‘reverence toward GOD’ was absent from their heart when they made that request to Moses. Even to this day, it is true to say that men have a certain fear of GOD that is slavish and servile, if they believe in Him at all. Very few have a real love for Him that produces an attitude of reverence and respect. Most men resent His claims over them, because those claims are absolute!
As a famous expositor once said, This is the very essence of the Biblical message; that man and woman placed by GOD in a state of paradise and perfection, felt that even paradise was an insult to them, because there was subjection to GOD. It was that original act of rebellion that led to all their other troubles. That is the story of the Bible. We may add to that, it is the story even of our own people. It is so easy to mask our indifference to GOD with a show of piety, as in the case we are looking at. But GOD is not taken in for a moment, as we have seen.
Thirdly, the amazing thing is that GOD acceded to their request, although He by no means, condoned their false motives. This is because, simply put, they had mistakenly arrived at a central truth, where GOD’s dealings with mankind are concerned, and that is: We all need an Appointed Mediator, through whom we can approach GOD, and through whom GOD can approach us.
Moses was the first of them, and following them came the priests of Israel, headed up by Aaron, the High Priest. It was the priest who mediated between Israel and their GOD. Before the death of Moses, however, GOD foretold of a new order, in this same Book, in Chapter 18, verses 15 and 16:
The LORD your GOD will raise up for you a Prophet like Me, from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your GOD, in Horeb, in the day of the assembly saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my GOD; nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die!
Moses foretold of another, like himself, who would do what he had done. A second Prophet who would teach them the ways of GOD and bring them into a new Covenant with GOD. This coming Prophet was the Messiah, as our oldest writers agree, and as is repeatedly mentioned in the Books of the Prophets. Someone might ask, What would happen if we ignored this Prophet? To which GOD Himself gives the answer in verse 19:
And it shall be that whosoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My Name, I will require it of him.
When the people despised Moses and his words, GOD sent swift retribution upon them. As in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the earth split open under them and swallowed them up alive. We get an idea from this, what kind of judgment awaits those who disobey the Messiah. Because to disobey Him, is to disobey GOD.
The people had wanted a mediator that was like themselves, because they were afraid of GOD. Now, that He accedes to their request, and sends us a Messiah who appears as one of us, of whom we need not be afraid, we have no excuse for not listening! Our problem has always been, a secret reluctance to listen to GOD. He now tears the mask off, and calls our bluff.
Before we close, we need to ask the all-important question: Who is this Prophet of whom Moses spoke? Has He come already, or is He yet to come? The answer to this question is found at large in the Tanakh. Like Moses, He is a great teacher, and a great intercessor. Moses not only taught his people; he prayed for them when GOD’s judgment was going to fall on them for their sin.
Messiah, our Teacher, is described in the vision of Micah, the prophet, where people go to learn the ways of GOD from him. Micah, Chapter 4, verse 2:
He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. Messiah, our Intercessor, is described in the vision of Isaiah, the prophet, where He prays and offers His life for His people. Isaiah 53, verse 12:
He poured out His soul unto death; and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
Are we prepared to hear what GOD has to say to us, and to do it? Or will GOD see in our hearts, that which caused His lament when He spoke to Moses? YESHUA of Nazareth is that Prophet like Moses. Take Him as your Messiah, and you will never hear those words spoken of you. Shalom.