THE GRACE OF PROFITABLE HEARING
Hearing” is the common theme in today’s Old and New Testament readings.
As Moses summons the people of Israel to recount their privileges and responsibilities in their covenant relationship with God, he repeatedly calls them to “Hear!”
Jesus, during his second Galilean ministry, speaks in parables. Luke reports,
“As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8 (NASB)
It is a special gift to be given ears to hear with understanding. It is also a gift to hunger for truth, recognize the truth when you hear it, and to be able to live accordingly.
The Hebrew word used for ‘hear’ is SHEMA. This also is the name for the Hebrew prayer repeated daily by practicing Jews. The prayer is the Hebrew text from Deuteronomy 6:4 and is a reminder of the special summons given to Israel to receive God’s self-revelation through His Word.
4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4).
Hear, O Israel- it is a call to worship.
Notice how Moses often calls Israel to hear.
1 Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. (Deuteronomy 5:1; NASB).
He then repeats the Ten Commandments.
Hear, O Israel– It is a call to obey.
He then tells them WHY they should hear.
Hear O Israel- It is a call to experience what God has promised.
3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you–‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Deuteronomy 6:3 (NKJV)
He reminds them that it is a miraculous privilege of grace to hear the Word of God.
33 “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Deuteronomy 4:33 (NASB)
We are tested on what we hear.
36 “Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire” Deuteronomy 4:36 (NASB).
In Deuteronomy Chapter 9, he reminds them that it is a call to go outside their comfort zone. Their problems outsize them, but God outsizes their problems.
1 Hear, O Israel: thou art to pass over the Jordan this day, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fortified up to heaven.
Deuteronomy 9:1 (ASV)
Moses reminds them that their future victory is not due to the size of their army or because of any righteousness of their own. It is all of grace.
God was bringing judgment upon the Canaanites for their wickedness. Moses reminds the Israelites that it is only because of God’s mercy that they were not consumed for their stubbornness.
Moses then recounts their history of faithlessness in the many times during which they provoked the Lord to anger. We learn of Moses’ two periods of being on Sinai for forty days and nights. He was on the mount for the first giving of the law, written by the finger of God on the two tablets he had chiseled out of stone. This first giving of the law brought condemnation to the law-breakers who were worshiping the golden calf at the base of the mountain. Moses shattered this first set of stone tablets in the sight of all the people. The law was given that we might all see that we are lawbreakers and in need of a new covenant if we are to be justified as righteous before God.
Moses then intercedes. Through the intercession of Another a second covenant is made (Moses is a type of the Greater Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ). Tablets are chiseled out of stone and once again the same words, The Ten Commandments, are written upon them by the finger of God. This time the stone tablets are hidden away inside the ark. (Deut 10:5). This law is not broken before the eyes of the people. Instead, this revelation of righteousness is kept intact. We don’t look to “keeping the law” as our means of justification and acceptance before God. We look to Christ (the ark).
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4; NASB).
Moses asks the Israelites to HEAR! They are to remember that they are loved and chosen by God. They are to be tender-hearted rather than stubborn! (Deut 10:15-16)
The Lord is a God of justice and compassion.
17 “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21 He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
Deuteronomy 10:17-22 (NASB)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Luke 8:4-21
This is the third and final encounter with the Parable of the Soils as we read through the New Testament. Otherwise known as the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, this parable describes how the kingdom begins with the preaching of God’s Word.
The lesson of this parable is that not all who hear the Word of God truly will receive it as such (the wayside hearers). The devil who blinds the minds of those who believe not snatches the gospel seed away. Some will embrace the Word only for a quick fix for a felt need. They receive the Word with joy embracing the prospect of sensing His presence, experiencing miracles, with hope for personal comforts and blessings (the shallow hearer). In the times of testing, when their feelings are challenged, and when persecution, affliction, or hardships are experienced, they fall away. Some receive the Word but do not make sufficient room for it (the choked hearers), allowing competing interests, cares, riches, and pleasures of this life to choke it to the degree it never fulfills its true purpose of growing up to the fullness of the stature of Christ and bringing forth fruit.
Many of Jesus’ contemporaries talked about the kingdom of God. They looked for the Messiah and the establishment of God’s rule among His people. But when the King came, they rejected Him as not fitting the bill (the wayside hearer). These were the Pharisees and scribes, who by this point in Jesus’ ministry had rejected Him. The devil took away the seed. They were already looking for ways they could get rid of Him.
Some received Jesus because of His miracles and blessings. He could feed them. But when His popularity began to wane, as He spoke about His indispensability as the One who would feed them salvation through the offering of His body and blood, they followed Him no more. Suffering, persecution, hardship, and the prospect of identifying with Someone who insisted that we must be Losers- those who lose their life in Him in order to find it- was too much for them. These were the shallow hearers.
There were those who heard the word but did not make sufficient room in their hearts for it. Jesus spoke of counting the cost. The deceitfulness of material prosperity is that riches promise what they cannot deliver. When we seek earthly pleasures and become preoccupied with the cares of this age, the work of the Word to reproduce Christ in the heart is aborted. The rich young ruler returns home sorrowing.
Some people think they are Christ-followers and kids of the kingdom, but they fail to repent of their own plans of salvation. The true kingdom of God starts with the Word sown in the heart. It is sown for the purpose of reproducing Christ in such a way that hearers grow to become fruitful followers of Christ and authentic children of the kingdom. This is the goal of Christian discipleship.
Jesus explains the purpose of the parables. To some, they will clarify the truth of the kingdom. To others they will conceal the truth of the kingdom (Luke 8:10), thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:
9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
The prophecy Jesus refers to from Isaiah has to do with Israel not receiving the Word given. On Jesus’ first campaign in Galilee, He made known His identity as Messiah (Luke 4:16-21). The religious leaders quickly rejected Jesus and would soon attribute His miracles to Beelzebub thus sealing their rejection of Him as Messiah. From that point on they would seek ways to deliver Jesus to death.
THE TRUTH WILL NOT BE HIDDEN FOR LONG
16 “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 17 “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:16-17).
The light was not meant to be covered with a bushel basket. It was not meant to be put under a bed. That’s a good way to set the bed on fire. But this is what the enemies of the gospel were doing (and do today). They take the truth of the Word and hide it from people. Or they foolishly put it in the wrong place, to their own destruction.
But there is a day of full vindication coming for the Word of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not meant to be kept a secret. One day everyone will know God’s Word is true. As C.S. Lewis said, “Eternity will make believers out of everyone.” “Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). The gospel is not meant to be “the Secret” to which only a few have access (as taught by Gnostics, New Thought practitioners, and other religious gurus). God used the rejection of the religious leaders for His sovereign purpose. They did what God had planned (Acts 4:28). So, seeing, they saw not, and hearing, they heard not.
Jesus speaks of a Day of Reckoning. We all must give an answer to God for what we did with His Word.
18 “So take care how you listen; for whoever has (a capacity to receive as a child of God), to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” Luke 8:18 (NASB)
Let us not only receive the Word of God with a tenderized heart, but let us exercise our capacity to practice it. By God’s grace, we will persevere, grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ with other believers and bring forth fruit. Yes, to him or her to whom has been given a capacity to receive more shall be given!
He that has an ear, let him hear!
READING FROM PSALMS- PSALM 69:19-36
There are seven quotations from Psalm 69 in the New Testament referring to the Messiah.
Psalm 69:4 What I did not steal, I then have to restore.
The Psalmist may view it as a complaint. The Savior views it as the logical necessity of love.
This verse gives us a clue to the purpose of Christ’s suffering on the cross– satisfying the demands of God’s justice on behalf of the guilty. He restores what was stolen. He who knew no sin, willingly identified with the sinner, took the punishment for his sin and made righteous restitution. His sacrificial substitutionary death satisfied the requirement for the guilt offerings (Leviticus 5.1-6:7). He restored all that Adam lost in the Fall, and more! Adam’s original state was one of innocence. Christ restores us to a state of ‘righteousness’!
2 Corinthians 5:21 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The Psalmist expresses his anger against the wrongs he suffered and asks God to bring retribution upon his enemies.
Anger is an emotional response to a perceived injustice. The New Testament gives us the instruction.
Eph 4:26 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
We do not perceive accurately. We do not know what is in our hearts and the hearts of others. But God does. His anger is righteous.
Romans 12:19-20 (NASB) 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”
God will bring retribution. He will repay. If Christ’s payment on the cross is ultimately despised, then divine retribution will be faced in the end. The value of His payment for sin is effective only for those who believe.
Romans 3:21-22 (NASB) 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.
The Psalmist anticipates God’s retribution upon the guilty at the final Judgment referred to in the Book of Revelation.
Psalm 69:28 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.
Revelation 3:5 5 ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
Revelation 20:15 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:25-27 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
When we read the Psalmist’s ill wishes upon others, we might wonder at his anger. G. Campbell Morgan writes,
“His concern was not personal but relative. He feared lest other believing and loyal souls should be deflected from faith and dishonored because of what they saw of his sufferings. Thus, his chief concern was the honor of his God. Let these maledictions be carefully considered in the light of this fact, and it will be seen that their inspiration was that of a consuming passion for the vindication of the righteousness of God, as victorious over all those who rebelled against His government and so insulted His holiness.”
Proverbs 12:2-3 (NASB) 2 A good man will obtain favor from the LORD, but He will condemn a man who devises evil. 3 A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.
The New Living Translation puts it well: “Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.”
Canada is the world’s second-largest country. It has a wide diversity of mountains, prairie grasslands and forests, but much is sparsely populated wilderness and arctic tundra.
Answer to Prayer
The strong legacy of parliamentary democracy has been influenced and shaped by the Christian faith across all major parties. The proportion of elected members of parliament who are committed Christians is much higher than the average population.
Challenge for Prayer
The influence of Christianity has seen a long, sustained decline in Canadian society, not just in numbers but also in public presence. This is ostensibly for two main reasons:
a) Increased and deliberate pluralization and secularization. The non-religious population has made the greatest gains in recent years, but other religions are also growing rapidly through immigration and high birthrates. As with several other Western nations, biblical Christianity faces significant antipathy from the media and popular culture.
b) A failure of relevance, morals, and theological and spiritual dynamism in the Church. Protestants and Anglicans together numbered 45% in 1950, but are now only 11%. In each denomination, the degree of theological liberalization – especially in the mainline United Church and in Anglicanism – has generally coincided with the rate of decline. On the positive side, this fading of Christendom has trimmed the “deadwood” from churches, but it still reflects a sad decline in the influence of the gospel in Canada. Pray for a much-needed revival, starting in the Church and radiating outward.
More information is available as we pray for Canada (p. 193-197)
PRAYER: Lord, You have given us ears. Let us hear in such a way that we receive Your Word as it truly is, the Word of Life, the Word of Truth, the Word of God. Thank You for the process of renewing our minds. Empower our obedience so we will be doers, and not hearers only. We want to be rooted and grounded in Christ. You have made Him to be for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and redemption. May Your Holy Spirit bring forth the fruit of His indwelling for Your glory and the good of others. In Jesus’ Name.
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742