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For the week of May 18, 2013 / 9 Sivan 5773
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 4:21 - 7:89
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 13:2-25


The Voice

And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him. (Bemidbar / Numbers 7:89; ESV)

Did you know that Moses heard voices? Well, a voice actually. Or I should probably say The Voice. Judaism is founded on the claim that the creator God revealed himself by speaking to people, especially Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. It's not as if they were tuned in to the spiritual world. The Torah doesn't teach that God's voice emanates from behind the veil of the material world and some people possess a special ability to pick up the sound of his voice. Rather it was God who initiated communication with them.

We read in this week's portion that Moses heard God clearly speak on a regular basis as he entered the special tent which contained the sacred chest called the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrew: aron' habberit'). Some people attempt to extract the moral elements of Torah, while rejecting any notion that God can or does speak. But it isn't intellectually honest to attempt to honor the Torah as a great moral work while rejecting its own assertion to be divinely inspired. Either we accept it as a whole, including that it is a record of God's communication or reject it as a dishonest fabrication.

But what about other religions and their sacred documents? Don't most of them also claim that God or gods inspired them? Sure they do. And like the Torah it is dishonoring to other religions to reduce their sacred writings to collections of wise sayings. Either God inspired these writings or he did not. If he did, then we are well advised to listen. If he did not, then we should completely reject the claims of those religions.

As a student of the Bible (both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Covenant Writings), I have good reason to believe that it is the only authorized, inspired revelation of the one true God. This is not the time or place to explain my reasons for that. What I am trying to get at is at its core, the Bible is a record of people hearing the voice of God.

According to the Bible knowing God is more than adhering to a set of principles. It includes an essential personal and relational component mainly expressed through intimate communication with God, both speaking to him and hearing him. In the Hebrew Scriptures we read of individuals who possessed various levels of intimacy with God with Moses being the one who heard him the most in terms of quantity and clarity.

The prophet Joel anticipated a time when all God's people would experience a greatly increased level of communication with God:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 3:1-2; [English 2:28-29; ESV]).

The festival of Shavuot (English: Weeks or Pentecost) begins this week (evening of May 14, 2013). God chose the observance of this festival, fifty days after Yeshua's death, to fulfill Joel's prophesy (see Acts 2). Yeshua's perfect sacrifice satisfied God's requirements and opened up the way for this new level of communication between him and us.

As we receive the gift of God's Spirit, we shouldn't be surprised when we begin to sense communicative nudges from him. Will we hear The Voice like Moses did? Perhaps. God speaks in so many ways. But speak he will.

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