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Deuteronomy 4:11-12
“And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.”

Mesmeric. That’s the word that comes to mind when reading Moses’ poetic reminiscence of that enigmatic Exodus 20:21 theophany where the people all hurled themselves away from Sinai as he “walked into the deep darkness where God was.” Perhaps linguists and scholars who lack the flare for allegory would claim that Moses isn’t being Shakespearian at all with his description, but rather he’s just telling it how it is—how he remembers it, that is—or that he’s merely relaying the facts in black and white terms, but that misses the point by a wide spectrum. Think of it, friend: while God literally spoke through a cloud of fire and sweltering darkness, fire and darkness are themselves coverings for His face, right? They aren’t Him. Even when He thunders to His people through natural phenomena and overwhelms their five senses with clouds and flames and darkness, these literal elements of theophany are still figurative.

“You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.” Oh, how we yearn to hear the voice of God above all else! To feel Him whisper to us amidst our suffering, and comfort us in our affliction, and encourage us in our depression. We must hear Him speak to us day by day! The life of faith is meaningless without His voice whispering in our hearts! And it’s often through times of trouble and sorrow and trial, times we could describe as fire and clouds and darkness, where we hear His voice most assuredly.

Ah, but hearing God’s voice will never be enough, will it?! Oh no—faith’s final prize is to behold His glory! We aren’t content to come before the Father as cherubim with covered eyes. No! The saint was created to see! To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD in His splendor! To see the fire not in a bush or on a mountainside but in His eyes! But till then, we cling to the words—to His voice—which is no bland thing.