Heeding God’s Voice

March 3, 2024

No Extra Words

This verse introduces the promise of blessings and rewards to the nation of Israel should they follow God’s covenant of law. 

We have mentioned many times that the Bible contains no extra words. Every phrase, every word, matters. A good rule of thumb for reading the Bible carefully is this: If you could omit a word or phrase from the text without losing any of the apparent meaning of the verse, the words that seem to be extra must be carefully studied. This makes sense. If every word in the Bible is necessary, it follows that those words or phrases that seem at first glance to be unnecessary must be studied. The fact that a word appears to add nothing significant to the text must make us question why it was included. 

Heed the voice?

The verse above is a prime example of this phenomenon. The intent of the verse is simple enough to understand. If we are obedient to God and perform all the commandments, God will bless us with great status among the nations. The problem with this understanding of the verse is that it leaves us with words that appear unnecessary. The verse could just as easily have been written as follows:

It shall be if you shall take care to perform all the commandments the Lord your God has commanded you, He will place you uppermost above all the nations of the earth.

Same idea, right? In this paraphrase of our verse, I omitted two phrases. Here’s the actual verse:

It shall be if you shall heed the voice of the Lord your God to take care to perform all His commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will place you uppermost above all the nations of the earth.

What does it mean to “heed the voice of the Lord your God”? How is this any different from the obedience demonstrated by taking care to perform all God’s commandments? Furthermore, what is added to the message of this verse by the words, “that I am commanding you today”? Does this verse refer only to commandments given on that specific day? 

Fulfilling the Spirit of the Law

Based on these questions, I would like to suggest that this verse describes an attitude towards obedience to God’s law, in addition to the fulfillment of the commandments themselves.

To listen to God’s voice means something much more than mere performance of the commandments. Imagine an instruction given to you by a person of authority. It could be a parent, a boss, or a military officer. Besides the content of the instruction or command, there is also the “voice” of the command. The tone of voice with which the command is spoken tells us a great deal about the intent of the command. When we listen to the voice, we get a sense of the urgency and meaning of the command. The better we understand the commander, the more we are able to carry out the full intent of the command, even if the circumstances change and we need to innovate. In short, the “voice” of the command reveals the intent of the commander beyond the mere content of the commandment. 

It’s not enough for us to simply obey God’s command. This verse teaches us that we must go beyond mere fulfillment of the details of the command in question. We must fulfill God’s commandments while also listening to his “voice.” What did God intend for us to accomplish with these commands? What is the purpose of the command? How can I fulfill God’s will in the best possible way so that my actions have the maximum effect? Are there things that I should be doing that add to God’s goals for the world that may not have been explicitly stated as part of the commandments?

This is what it means to listen to God’s voice when fulfilling His commandments.

Perhaps this is also what is meant by the words “that I am commanding you today.” As we stated, the vast majority of the commandments were not commanded on that day. I’d like to suggest that this phrase too, describes the attitude that we are meant to bring to our obedience. 

Imagine that God commanded you to do a specific act today. Imagine your excitement and the sense of urgency you would feel. The Bible is telling us that if we are truly listening to the “voice” of God, we will feel a sense of importance and urgency in the way that we serve Him, as though we were commanded to fulfill the commandments today.

When the Bible says we must heed the “voice” of God, we are told that we must probe the meaning of the commandments and endeavor to fulfill the spirit and letter of God’s law in the best possible way.

Israeli soldiers are risking their lives to protect us all from Islamic terrorism. But they need our help. Sign up for Israel365 Action to receive updates on how YOU can help fight Hamas and its supporters in the United States and around the world. 

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email

Recent Posts
Is the Sweetness Worth the Sting?
The Mountain of the Height of Israel
A Nation Born in One Day

Related Articles

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email