In the book of Deuteronomy, in the passage where Moses promises the people a prophet greater than he (Deut. 18:15ff), there is a very interesting aside that the Lord makes. The people had been afraid at Horeb, when the Lord spoke to them directly, when they heard the voice and saw the great fire. First, the Lord approves the reaction (Deut. 18:17). He says that they are right to ask for this, and so He promises them a prophet like Moses, only greater. He then says that they were to make a point of listening to Him. Why might they not?
Well, because He did not come to them with a terrible voice and a great fire. When that happened, the people knew that they should listen, but because of the numinous terror, they couldn’t. But then, when the word of the Lord comes in a form that they could hear, they will be tempted to think that they don’t have to, because of the absence of numinous terror. But that is what they asked for, and God approved the request. You want a prophet to speak to you? That is good — that is what you shall have. But you must listen to Him.
And when He came, what did they demand? A sign from the sky. They had prophetic signs enough — He healed the sick and cast out demons — but they wanted more. They wanted a sign that would make them all say, “we cannot bear it . . . give us a prophet instead.”