"Listening to and hearing God’s Word…” (Hebrews 12: 18-29)
Thank you to all those who joined our Marathon Read this week!
This week 1 SPONSORED BIBLE READING (for Open Doors); 6 DAYS & 18 HOURS; 5 PROPHETS; 197 CHAPTERS; 6 COUNTRIES prayed-for; more than a few hard-to-pronounce-ancient-names (!); a DOZEN or so PARTICIPANTS; some tears & eye-strain; & at least 2/3 QUESTIONS:
“WHY do this? Why read the Bible publically?” It’s a good thing to do, and God commands us to do so – “devote yourself to the public reading of scripture…”
The main answer: The people for whom we were praying and the cause for which we were raising awareness and funds (PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS) – simply could not (cannot) do this. Own a Bible or read one out loud? You could end up imprisoned and/or dead!
Why would oppressive (persecuting) people ban the owning or reading of God’s Word? A big question – but it did occur to me as we read through the prophets – that the OT was Jesus’ own Bible. He quoted from it, relied on it; he taught from it. We should.
It also occurred to me as we read about Assyrians and Babylonians that kingdoms come and kingdoms go; that here we are, millennia later, part of/speaking of, God’s kingdom which is eternal, ultimately powerful over all earthly empires which turn to dust and rust.
When all else in heaven and earth is no more, there is a “kingdom that will outlast the years”; “THE Voice that will span the years, speaking life, stirring hope – bringing peace to us – a Voice that sounds until he appears – for He lives…”
So, “HOW is any of this relevant to us?”
The enemy does not want to hear this truth. The enemy does not want to hear that God, the LORD, is judge. The enemy does not want others to hear this either. Even God’s people (down through the ages) don’t want to hear that there will be consequences for their actions. God will eventually catch up with you! Pauper or prince – a day will come…
We heard (time and again) how God’s people were stubborn, rebellious and hard-of-hearing. “I called you, but you did not answer; I spoke but you did not hear – and you chose evil…” (Isa 65:12).
God’s people are often handicapped – because they are hard-of-hearing!
He sent his Word through his messengers – because he had compassion on his people – he called he stretched out his hand but they refused and (very few) paid attention (Prov 1:24); they were a people who gave God – not their faces but their backs; though I taught them, they would not listen and receive instruction (Jer 32:33).
Is any of that relevant; is any of this about us? Of course it is!
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
The experience (of approaching God) was one of overwhelming terror – but it was God’s Word that made them tremble. It is often God’s Word that is too hard for us!
The people did not want to hear. “Moses, you go and speak to God; you go listen to Him – for us!”
The people had impressive and substantial proof, not only of God’s existence, but of His majesty, power, and holiness.
In spite of their immediate impact on the Israelites, these awesome manifestations/miracles of God’s power and holiness did not produce hearing faith or obedience.
They still murmured and grumbled and rebelled against God. While they were still at the base of Mount Sinai and Moses was still on the mountain, they had Aaron fashion a golden calf, which they worshipped just like the surrounding nations.
Is any of that relevant; is any of this about us? Of course it is! The W2H thinks it is:
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
You see, God still speaks to us. But do we want to hear what He says? Ministers don’t have a “hotline” to God. They probably just read more of God’s Word where God’s Voice is heard.
God’s people are often handicapped – because they have selective hearing. They don’t want to hear the hard-bits! He may speak to us about our lives and our attitudes; he may be calling us to make changes. It might shake us up! He may need to warn us.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and discharge all the duties of your ministry. (1 Timothy 3)
Jesus said, “My SHEEP hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Someone suggested (rightly) that our lives are (sometimes) too loud for us to hear the Shepherd speaking. Because He often speaks in that ‘still, small voice’ (in the silence that Elijah knew); because there is that quiet, inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, according to Calvin, we are unable to hear the Master’s Voice over the competing voices around us.
Jesus spoke of the world (it cares) crowding out and choking the Word that He wants us to hear. It’s still the case…
Perhaps it’s because God wants his people to listen that most of what He says and does comes in the less-than-spectacular. So closeness is needed – to hear. Times of quiet are needed.
But lest we should become too fearful, be encouraged in the hearing of these words and what they mean:
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
We have access to God through Jesus and His blood, no matter whom we are or where we are. We have a Mediator, a GHP! We can stand before God with confidence and assurance – He made new life possible through His Cross; and He has made a future heaven; for me, He took the fear and shaking away…
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
We should never regard our God with sheer sentimentality or easy familiarity – he is still holy and always the JUDGE – make no mistake! But what makes us thankful, worshipful, what should fill us with awe and wonder and reverence is the fact that there are now no limits to the closeness we can have with God. It is our choice if we turn away; it is our choice if we listen and hear.
One day, when everything is shaken up; when the earth and the heavens are folded up like a sheet up, one thing will remain firm – the new (everlasting) Covenant (Relationship) with God.
For those that trust God-in-Jesus-Christ – they need not be in craven fear about God’s wrath or judgment by fire. It will be the fire of God’s love warming our hearts and all that will be destroyed is the dross of our lives!
In the meantime let us worship God. To worship is to encounter God, to hear God's voice, to be transformed.
True worship does not leave us as we are, at ease with illusions of our own power and significance. Rather, it makes us aware of the impermanence of all human lives and their temporary kingdoms as we bow in awe before the permanence, might, and splendour of our God who is still a consuming fire.
In the meantime, hear the unchangeable Word of the Lord
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.