Reading the book of Jeremiah reveals that God’s people could have someone bring them God’s Word, accurately and faithfully, and yet the whole nation reject that word.
“This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this girdle, which is good for nothing.” Jeremiah 13:10
“As for the word you spoke to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you!” Jeremiah 44:16
Jeremiah’s own home town, Anathoth, the city of priests, conspired against him.
The Word of the Lord was clearly presented but the hearts of the people were closed to that word. They did not like it or want it.
Centuries later the Apostle Paul talked of how people would have ‘itching ears’ keen to hear something other than God’s Word spoken to them.
“Time will come when people will not tolerate sound teaching, but with itching ears will gather around them teachers to suit their own desires. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2Timothy 4:3,4
Refusal to hear God’s Word is not an Old Testament problem, but an abiding issue, even among those who see themselves as Christian worshippers of God.
I recall several conversations where church people were determined to believe what they wanted to believe and hear only what they want to hear. In counselling situations it is common to find people who have set ideas they will not give up. Whatever is presented to them is rejected.
The Bible talks of such people as having a stiff neck, hardened heart, ears that do not hear, eyes that do not see, a hard heart of unbelief, and so on.
The challenge for all of us is to have a tender heart that hears and responds to what God is saying to us.
However our traditional ideas and beliefs block our heart to new things. Also fear of a negative message can make us cling dearly to ideas that make us feel comfortable.
Some people resist the idea of hell because they are terrified of ever going there. Some similarly resist ideas of judgment, satan, demons, falling from grace, or anything to do with pain, discomfort or challenge, because of fear.
God’s Word covers all the various problems that might cause us to resist Bible truths, but we have to receive the word in order to receive the fulness of God’s protection and blessing, and freedom from fear.
Cultural ideas also cause us to filter out certain things in the Bible instead of seeing them for what they are. Bible truths such as covenant are not part of modern western culture so we fail to comprehend their significance in the Bible. Our sensibilities are shocked at such things as a man with multiple wives, yet in various cultures in the world it is acceptable even today. What happens when such a family comes to Christ? Can we find God’s perspective in God’s Word or will we simply react based on our cultural values? I have been challenged in my global travels when confronted with this very issue.
Hearing God’s Word means we have to have ears to hear, not just a pre-determined set of cultural or theological values we subscribe to.
Can God be worshipped in a church with stained-glass windows? Can God be worshipped in a barn? Does worship now mean ‘music’ or are there other ways to worship God? Does the ‘unity of the faith’ mean we all must believe exactly the same doctrine on every point?
What about believing there is power in physical objects? Western Christians scoff at the idea, so they filter out any reflection on Elisha’s bones causing a dead man to come back to life (2Kings 13:21) or cloths which touched Apostle Paul taking healing virtue (Acts 19:2).
What about defining morality? If our societies make legal what was previously unlawful does that change the meaning in God’s Word?
I don’t raise these questions to confuse or alarm you, but to prompt you to consider your challenge to ‘Hear the Word of the Lord’.
Scholars apply the maxim, “Let Scripture interpret Scripture” to remind us we are to hear the word of the Lord and not impose our cultural or preferred ideas into it.
Martin Luther, back in 1517, brought about a revolution by paying attention to the Word of God and being prepared to reject things that were not supported by scripture or which contradicted it. He particularly saw the reality of us being saved by grace, not by works or payment of money. That truth was clearly in the Word of God all along, but traditional ideas were so strongly imposed on people that it took quite a lot of courage to challenge them. That challenge also created an enormous storm of strife and a revolution in the Christian world.
I don’t suggest that you are deluded, or that your leaders are beguiling you with their favoured teachings. I simply want you to be one of those who has open ears and who will hear when God speaks to you and will see what God is saying, even if what you see confronts some of your fears or your favoured ideas.
The just live by faith, and that faith is based on God’s Word. So I call on each of you to ‘Hear the Word of the Lord’.