What a sense of awe and wonder Moses must have felt, there in the silence of the wilderness, when God spoke to him from the burning bush! Can we even imagine the awful terror with which the Israelites waited to hear God speak from Mount Sinai–the mountain quaking, its form hidden by smoke, the air charged with lightning on a day as black as night? What awesome joy surged through Peter, James, and John on the mount of the Transfiguration as God spoke from heaven and Jesus shone with the brilliance of his divine glory. Do we wish we could have been there when these encounters took place, or are we glad that we were not?
The first sentence in the Book of Hebrews reminds us that throughout the biblical story, God has spoken repeatedly (Heb. 1:1). No surprise there, when we recall that God made us for relationship with himself; speaking is the nourishment of relationship. (The word translated “spoke” and “spoken” in this verse regularly refers to ordinary conversation or informal talking.) Then comes the blockbuster: in these last days God has spoken again–this time to us. And while God sometimes speaks through a vision or a donkey, through a storm or a soft breeze or by words through the sky, this time he has spoken by a son (Heb. 1:1).
God’s message to us through his son involves words, to be sure, but the content of the message is a simple recitation of the deeds performed by the son on our behalf. Jesus “partook of flesh and blood”–shared our human nature–“that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). He “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). And “when he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3), “for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
It is a dangerous business to hear from God, even when the message is “good news” (Heb. 4:2), As “the apostle” of our profession (Heb. 3:1), Jesus brings us God’s message with all the authority of God himself. We dare not refuse “him who is speaking” and “who warns from heaven” (Heb. 12:25), for “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). Instead we must “pay the closer attention” to “what we have heard” from God through his son (Heb. 2:3). How important it is when we “hear his voice” that we receive his message with faith and not reject it with a hardened heart (Heb. 3:7-9, 15; 4:7). God has spoken to us; the question now is “How will we hear?”