Something about The Ten Commandments shows why God does not show Himself
By Don Ruhl
People challenge us who believe in God: “If there is a God, where is He?” “I will believe when I see God!”
We believe there is a God, although we have never seen Him. However, overwhelming evidence persuades us that God exists.
What if God granted the challenge of unbelievers?
I want to show you something concerning The Ten Commandments that explains why God does not show Himself, for it would not be what unbelievers hope.
Let us go through Deuteronomy 5 and see what we discover.
Deuteronomy 5.1 – The Judgments for Israel
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them” (Deu 5.1).
Hearing leads to learning; learning leads to obedience. They heard the word of God. We hear the word of God. Therefore, we also listen to learn and to obey.
Deuteronomy 5.2–5 – The Covenant with Israel
The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said…” (Deu 5.2–5).
The Lord made a covenant with Israel in Horeb, which is Mt. Sinai. What was the covenant the Lord made with Israel in Horeb? Moses will declare it shortly in the text.
The Lord made the covenant with that generation that came out of Egypt, not with any previous generation of Israel, and not with any other people of the world.
Verses 4 and 5 help answer my question from the beginning of this article. What image do you have of God speaking on Mt. Sinai? Does the image only include Moses? In verse 4, Moses reminded the people that the Lord spoke with them face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire.
Then in verse 5, Moses reminded them that he had to stand between the Lord and the people, declaring the word of the Lord, because they were afraid of the fire. The ferocity of the fire exceeded anything they had seen. They did not go up the mountain, because they feared the sight and the sound, and the Lord forbid it.
Deuteronomy 5.6–21 – The Covenant
“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image…
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet…”
The covenant with Israel was The Ten Commandments. First, the Lord declared who He was. He was their God. He was the One who them delivered from the land of Egypt. He delivered them from bondage. Why did He have to remind them of these things? He knew the human propensity to forget our benefactors.
Therefore, the first commandment, verse 7, made sense. They were to have no other gods before Him. Shall the God of all creation share His glory with a stick, or a rock?
The second commandment, verses 8–10, also made sense. They were not even to make images of gods or of Jehovah God. Any image would lead to idolatry or a perverted view of Him.
The third commandment, verse 11, also made sense. They were not to take the name of the Lord in vain. How could any child of God then and now, do such a thing?
The fourth commandment, verses 12–15, made just as much sense. The Sabbath reminded them of who created all things and how long He took to do it. Verse 14 reminded Israel that the seventh day was the Sabbath of the Lord. Therefore, it was not merely a day of rest, but a time of worship, a time to remember God and His blessings.
Verse 15 also reminded Israel that they were slaves in Egypt, but the Lord delivered them in a magnificent way. He wanted a day set aside for them to remember their deliverance. This cannot be said of any other nation. Have we not been delivered from something worse than Egyptian slavery? We have been delivered from sin and its eternal punishment in hell. Therefore, we remember the Lord weekly with the Lord’s Supper not with the Sabbath, for it was by His body and by His blood that we have at least two things, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26.26–28). “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 22.14–20).
The two things we remember are:
- The covenant Jesus made with us, and
- The forgiveness of our sins.
Remember The Ten Commandments, hence Sabbath-keeping, was the covenant that the Lord made with Israel, commemorating their deliverance from Egypt, as also was the Passover, and Jesus said the Passover was fulfilled in His Supper.
Again, the next commandment, the fifth one, verse 16, made sense. The Lord used their parents to bring each Israelite into the world. Has that truth ceased? “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Eph 6.1–3).
The next five commandments, verses 17–21, likewise made sense. He did not want them to harm anyone. The Lord did not harm the Israelites, but He did something wonderful to bless them. Therefore, they were to bless others. Is that not what The Golden Rule teaches, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law [where The Ten Commandments are found] and the Prophets” (Matt 7.12).
Is that not also the Gospels and the Epistles? Is that not another way of saying love your neighbor? Paul argued that it was and still is, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13.8–10).
Paul quoted from the last half of The Ten Commandments, arguing that those commandments promote love, then and now.
Deuteronomy 5.22 – The Lord Spoke to Israel
“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Deu 5.22).
Picture what Moses said, that the Lord spoke these words to Israel, in the mountain from the middle of the fire, from the middle of the cloud, from the middle of the thick darkness, and with a loud voice. Just before the Lord spoke The Ten Commandments, Exodus 19 says, “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice” (Exo 19.16–19).
Would those who deny God’s existence want that experience? What do people think it would be like to see God? The old man upstairs? An old grandpa? Santa Claus? He is the power that created the universe!
Deuteronomy 5.23–27 – Israel Did Not Want to See God
“So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. And you said: ‘Surely the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? You go near and hear all that the Lord our God may say, and tell us all that the Lord our God says to you, and we will hear and do it’” (Deu 5.23–27).
Now, we can answer our question. Seeing the fire, the cloud, the darkness, and hearing God’s voice, frightened the people, and they did not want to experience it again. They acknowledged that they survived it, but they feared that they would not survive it next time.
Therefore, they wanted Moses to have the experience, because he did not have a problem with it, but spoke comfortably with God, although that was not necessarily true, “And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling’” (Heb 12.18–21).
See what happens when God does show Himself! Also, Ezekiel fell on his face (Eze 1). Daniel fell on his face and faltered during the experience (Dan 10). John fell at the Lord’s feet as dead (Rev 1).
Atheists speak of the power of their god, the Big Bang, but the power of such a thing would not even be as a fire cracker to our God!
Deuteronomy 5.28–33 – God Agreed with Israel
“Then the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess’ Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess”(Deu 5.28–33).
The Lord respected Israel’s wish. Then at verse 29, the Lord wished that Israel had a heart to continue to fear Him, for then they would always keep all His commandments, and the Lord would bless them for it by making it well with them and their children.
Here is the point: Not seeing God now is a blessing, for we would not like it, even as Israel did not like it, and we would not be able to endure the sight.
Remember Daniel 10. An unbeliever says, “Well, let me try it.” Daniel was a holy believer who did not challenge God. What would happen to an unholy, unbeliever? Also, this passage identifies the problem. Humanity does want to obey God. Therefore, they claim He does not exist.
We cannot see God now, but that does not mean it will always be that way, for the time approaches quickly when we shall each see God, even see His face, yet, the Bible speaks of seeing the face of God in one of two ways: As a condemning Judge or as an accepting Friend.
Can I give you some advice? Do everything within your power and according to His instruction to make sure that He becomes your accepting Friend, because you do not want to meet Him as a condemning Judge.
There is a God in heaven and right now He waits to see what you will do. Will you believe that Jesus is His Son? Will you follow up that belief with a changed life? Will you start life over by being baptized?
- Sermon: How to Be Fearless, Deuteronomy 31 – 34 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)
- Sermon: The Covenant with God, Deuteronomy 27 – 30 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)