32For ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? 33Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? 34Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? 35To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, while you heard his words coming out of the fire. 37And because he loved your ancestors, he chose their descendants after them. He brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, giving you their land for a possession, as it is still today. 39So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.
(I am not certain all of you will notice the change in font. I used to use Sans Serif but today I've opted for Serif. Serif is the closest to the Baskerville font among the font choices from Gmail. The Baskerville font has been tested as the best font to convey Truth. Different statements in different fonts were tested to see which "conveyed" truth the best/most, and Baskerville won out. In these devotionals I aim to convey truth.)
(For those of you who prefer the Sans Serif, please forgive me.)
(One more item before we get into the devotional: The Five Levels of Communication that I mentioned during Sunday's sermon:
Level Five: Cliche Conversation. This type of talk is very safe. "How are you?" "How's the dog?" In this type, there is no personal sharing.
Level Four: Reporting the Facts about Others. We are content to tell others what someone else has said, but we offer no personal information on these facts. Like a newscast.
Level Three: Ideas and Judgments. Real communication begins to unfold here. Risk telling someone his or her ideas and decisions.
Level Two: Feelings or Emotions. The person shares how he or she feels about facts, ideas, and judgments.
Level One: Complete Emotional and Personal Communication. All deep relationships must be based on absolute openness and honesty. Difficult, taking the risk of being being rejected.)
The Intermission is finally over ...
Please read the passage if you haven't done so. This devotional will make more sense if you read the passage first.
Moses is speaking to Israel. Moses is marveling over the fact that such glory and display of God's presence and interaction with people have never been experienced at the level Israel has experienced them in these days since the very beginning of creation. God's voice, the voice out of the fire, the formation and rescue of a nation from a mighty nation like Egypt, signs and wonders (i.e., parting of the Red Sea, the plagues of Egypt, manna), and other displays of divine power.
If we had witnessed these episodes for ourselves, all of us would have been marveling as well. Moses was correct to ask rhetorically, "Has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of?" The answer would have been a resounding, "No, nothing of the sort has happened like this before."
Well, not until something greater came along ... Jesus the Messiah and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit!
What Moses and Israel experienced in terms of YHWH's power and display was simply astounding -- certainly a high water mark in human history. But even this unusually dramatic manifestation of YHWH's presence and power pales in comparison to the new covenant realities of Jesus and the release of the Holy Spirit.
At its very best -- at the height of the parting of the Red Sea -- what was experienced by Moses and Israel was All External. The voice of YHWH was external, the fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day were external, the giving of the Law was external, and so on. Such public, external displays have a distinctive advantage over "internal" displays: they win the Academy Award for Cinematography. The scenes and events that unfold before the camera are breathtaking. And because of this overwhelming feature, it's easy for us to think mistakenly that events surrounding Moses were greater than what we are experiencing in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The voice of God is internal, the guidance of God (like fire and the pillar of cloud) is internal, and the Law is internal -- for the follower of Jesus. In matters of God, Internal is greater than External. Just as the Holy of Holies is greater than the Outer Courts of the Temple because of the Presence of God in the Holy of Holies, so the Indwelling Presence of the Spirit in the believer is greater than the outward displays of God's presence and power in the world.
For you to truly be the temple of the Holy Spirit is greater than for you to merely see the Holy Spirit in the temple.
We might not experience the external displays of God's power like Moses and Israel, nevertheless we experience something greater every day that Moses never experienced: God's Abiding Presence in Us. Of course, occasionally seeing external wonder would be wonderful too. And sometimes we get to see them. But it's really icing on the cake compared to the amazing reality of Jesus living in us through the Holy Spirit.
Let's pray: O God, we marvel at your power and presence when we read passages from the story of Israel and Moses in their journey with you. Sometimes we long for such manifestations of power and presence. And it's true that we get to glimpse something similar here and there. But help us to be reminded today that a far greater reality is given to those whose names are written in the Book of Life. We have you living inside us! We get to know your voice from the inside out. We are daily led by you. Through the Spirit we commune with you, Father, and the Son of God, Jesus. There are simply no greater gifts than these wondrous gifts. O, how we adore you and love you, Father, Son, and Spirit! In Jesus' name, amen.