This past Wednesday evening actress Anne Heche stunned the American public with her shocking revelations in an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20. In that interview Heche explained that for a time in her life she believed that she was actually two people. Heche claimed that Celestia – her other personality – was from another plant and spoke a different language directly with God. In perhaps her most revealing statement about this gift Heche talked about God’s voice speaking to her about one year ago. She recounted that experience with these words, “I was told to go to a place where I would meet a spaceship. I was told in order to get on the spaceship that I would have to take a hit of Ecstasy.” (From a summary transcript posted on the website: www.abcnews.com).
While Anne Heche’s claims and experiences border on the absurd the kernel of her statement doesn’t seem to be all that uncommon. “God spoke to me.” Perhaps you’ve heard those words uttered by a friend, co-worker, an acquaintance, or maybe even a family member. I have to be honest – those words make me uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable – not because God couldn’t speak directly to us, rather those words make me uncomfortable because more often than not those words are used to justify an action or activity that would otherwise be considered questionable at best. Even worse is when that phrase is used to justify an action or a teaching that flies in the face of God’s clear words recorded on the pages of Holy Scripture.
For that reason I fear that many people today are listening for God’s voice in all the wrong places. They are the people who search for God but aren’t interested in looking in the one place that God has promised that he will be found, namely his written Word. While the fanciful tales of spaceships, speaking in unlearned languages, drug-induced visions and new, individualized revelations supposedly from God may sound tempting – God urges us not to abandon the rich treasure he has recorded for us on the pages of Holy Scripture. In the text for this morning God promises that as we delve into his Word we can’t help but Hear the Voice of the True God. Hear his voice as he I) crushes you at the foot of Mount Sinai. Hear his voice as he II) strengthens you on the heights of Mount Zion.
The writer of Hebrews originally wrote this letter to address a group of Christians who were on the brink of willingly forfeiting their Christian faith. Perhaps they were seeking a religion that offered them more earthly excitement. They liked the thought of seeing signs and wonders and other magnificent earthly manifestations of divine power. That’s what they thought the religion of their Old Testament forefathers was all about. Jesus had become boring to them. They wanted what their forefathers had – the excitement, the pomp and circumstance – especially the kind that was manifested around Mount Sinai. That was exciting, exhilarating religion – or so they thought.
It must have been exciting to hear God speak directly to his people at that earthly mountain called Sinai as he made his presence known with fire, darkness, gloom, and storm. There could be no doubt that God was present when he blasted his trumpet to summon the attention of the people. I’m sure that peoples’ adrenalin was pumping on that day. But they weren’t feeling eager anticipation. Rather they were scared stiff by what they saw and heard.
God’s voice rolled like peels of thunder from the top of Mount Sinai into the ears of his people trembling at the foot of that mountain. His voice proclaimed one command after another, stipulating all the different sacrifices that must be offered for all of the various kinds of sins they committed, and rigidly outlining specific festivals and ceremonies that must be followed or punishment would ensue. In fact, so strict was the voice of God from Mount Sinai that even ignorant, unsuspecting animals would be brought under judgment of death if they violated God’s decree not to touch this mountain. God’s voice was so awesome in its majesty and rigorous in its demands that the people were begging God to stop speaking. Even Moses was terrified by this confrontation with the decrees of God’s righteous voice that he says, “I am trembling with fear” (Hebrews 12:21).
Why is that important to remember? Because it’s a reminder that sinful human beings cannot stand in confidence before God’s might and majesty without Christian faith. Sinful human beings who seek God apart from his Word will wish for all eternity that God would stop speaking to them as they tremble in fear before his perfect justice and holy righteousness because they are under his judgment. That’s the warning God speaks to all people through the giving of his law at Mount Sinai.
Why is it important that we Christians listen to what God says from Mount Sinai? Because his voice that thundered forth from Mount Sinai crushes our sinful human tendency to become careless in our use of God’s Word and lazy in our efforts to live in line with God and his Word. The danger that faced the original audience to whom the book of Hebrews was addressed was that they would trade the everlasting treasure of Jesus for the empty shell of Jewish traditionalism. The danger that faces this congregation is one of sheer apathy and laziness. We talk a good talk about loving the purity and truth of God’s Word as it is taught and preached here – yet when God gives us opportunities to express that thankfulness in action whether that’s at a work day, or serving in positions of leadership and service, or offering our services for special projects invariably it’s a struggle to muster up even a minimal number of enthusiastic and willing volunteers. The voice of the true God still thunders forth to shake us from spiritual laziness. The voice of the true God crushes us as it exposes our sinfulness and sensitizes us to the just judgment we rightfully deserve for our lack of commitment to our God.
We tremble in fear of the voice of God as it thunders forth from the pages of Holy Writ with the same force and accuracy it had at Mount Sinai. Thankfully God has also spoken to us in a gentle voice. Hear now as the voice of the true God strengthens you on the heights of Mount Zion.
Just as surely as God assured the original audience of the book of Hebrews that they had come to a much better place than Mt. Sinai so also our God offers us that same word of strength and encouragement. God assures us that he does not leave us crushed and broken at the foot of Mount Sinai under the condemnation of his law. He has rescued us and brought us to live with him in his gracious presence high atop Mt. Zion. Our God describes this place where he dwells with his gracious presence as the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the city that he has designed and built. This is the place he brings us to through his comforting words found in the gospel recorded in the Scripture.
This mountain cannot be touched by human hands but is accessible by faith alone in Jesus alone. Our God assures us that we dwell in this heavenly city already by faith. This precious place is our promised inheritance granted to us by God because he considers us to be members of his holy church. Through his gospel he calls us his firstborn, which means we are rightful heirs to this inheritance. By the power of his gospel God dwells with us with his gracious presence and joins us with all his saints of all time together with all of his faithful angels gathered in joyful assembly to praise his name.
How is that possible? It’s made possible because here the blood of Jesus speaks on our behalf. That blood speaks not like the blood of Abel that cried out for retribution and judgment. Rather the blood of Jesus, which was also shed by murder, consoles us sinners with words of peace and reconciliation with God. Through that blood Jesus mediates a new covenant between God and us – one that depends on God’s faithfulness alone. In joyful devotion the spirits of the departed saints testify to the faithfulness of God who has made them perfect and has brought them into his presence for all eternity.
All of these blessings are made our own as the voice of the true God strengthens us with his powerful gospel from the heights of Mount Zion. That good news perks up our ears with the refreshing news that our lack of commitment has not destroyed God’s faithfulness to us. The blood of Jesus soothes our consciences with the good news that our sins of laziness and apathy have been washed away in his righteous sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. Our hearts that were stricken with fear at the foot of Mount Sinai now leap for joy as Jesus causes our hearts and our minds to soar to the top of Mount Zion as he renews our faith through the strength of his precious Word.
What a treasure God has given us in his Word! What a tremendous blessing to live this life with the confidence that heaven will be our home because God has spoken clearly to each of us through that Word. In his Word the voice of the true God calls us to rededicate our lives in service to him. Through his Word he urges us to use our gifts to glorify him and serve one another. Rejoicing in the peace of forgiveness we listen to his voice and respond to his call – not out of guilt or obligation – but because he has filled our hearts with the joy that Jesus speaks through his precious Word. May we treasure that precious voice now and always. Amen.