“We will do all the words that YHWH has spoken.” Exodus 24:3
Has Spoken – How is it possible for the people of Israel to say that they will do all the words God has spoken? God provided a lot of instructions. In the Bible, there are pages and pages of God’s words about how to live. Since these ancient people didn’t have books or concordances or lexicons, how did they know all the things that God told them? The answer is simple: They memorized what God said. The implications are worth considering.
First, memorization guarantees faithful transmission. I am quite sure that there are many things you memorized as a child that you can still recall today, without error. Think about the times tables. You have no problem recalling what 7 times 8 is, and you do it every time without error. You and I are far more capable of memorization than we think we are. The fact that the Israelites memorized vast portions of Scripture proves the point. We are lazy because we rely on mechanical aids (called written words) rather than incorporating the spoken words of God into our memories.
Second, memorization produces a uniform message. The Hebrew disciple of Jesus’ day knew exactly the same words as the Israelites learned at Sinai. There was no dispute over translation because the memorized words were passed from one generation to the next. This is all the more obvious in Hebrew because written Hebrew contains only consonants. All the vowels (and therefore the oral transmission) must be added from memory. There aren’t dozens of different translations of the text. There is one memorized body of God’s words.
Third, the one memorized body of God’s words produces a single foundation for the culture. Of course, there are debates about the application of God’s word, but there is still only one basis for the culture – what God said, committed to memory as the infallible guide for thought and action. When Hebrew uses the word dabar here, the imagery is revealing. The consonants D-B-R paint a picture of exactly how speaking works. The picture is “pathway for the son.” Do you see what this means? Speaking is the way that a parent provides a path for the son. It is the transmission of life guidance from the father to the son. The fundamental and essential element of communication is relationship.
In our Greek-based world, communication is about information, not relationship. Consequently, we think we have “spoken” when we transfer information. Therefore, writing is communication. So is information transfer at a distance (like radio and television and e-mail). In the Greek world, whenever information is passed from one person to another, communication occurs. That model is the basis of most evangelism and many sermons. But it isn’t Hebrew! In order for me to do all the words that God has spoken, I must first be in a personal relationship with Him, as a son to a father. In the dynamic of that relationship, I actually hear what is said. Unless the personal relationship exists, no communication really occurs. With the personal relationship in place, every word spoken by the father becomes life in the son.
Has God spoken to you or did you just gather information? Have you communicated God’s words to your children or did you just give them information?
Topical Index: Education