What Will You Do With the Word You Hear?
"And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' Then Samuel answered, 'Speak, Lord for Your servant is listening'." (1 Sam. 3:10- Amplified Bible) It's one thing to "hear" and then it's another thing to "hear". You may have "heard" something someone said, but you haven't really "heard" what they said until you have responded to it. The Hebrew word in this verse means- to hear intelligently, give attention, be obedient.
Whenever God is ready to do a thing He always makes His plans known so that someone will join with Him in His plan. He did this with Abraham concerning Sodom and Gormorrah; He did this with Daniel when He was ready to fulfill the word He had spoken to Jeremiah concerning bringing Israel out of Babylonian captivity; He did it with Nehemiah when He was ready to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem; He did it with Samuel when He was about to judge Eli's house; He came to Mary when He was ready to bring the Messiah into the world to redeem mankind from their sins; He also does this as He is ready to bring in the harvest- this is why Jesus said for us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into the harvest field. The Bible says that, "we are laborers together with God." (1 Cor. 3:9) So, God and man have a part together in God's plans. God doesn't need us in order to fulfill His plan, but He chooses to fulfill His plans through us, in most cases.
The thing that has been a concern of my heart is- are we responding (or how are we responding) to those things that God is speaking to us? Are we "hearing" but not "hearing"? "Because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." (Matt. 13:13b)
There are four ways that God speaks to us: through the prophetic, through the preached word, by reading the scriptures, and by His Spirit (as a small still voice, or perhaps even audibly). Whatever avenue God speaks to you through, you then have a choice about what you are going to do with the word that you have heard. You can either accept it, obey it, follow it, reject it, disobey it, or just ignore it altogether. When we choose to "hear" the word that God is saying to us, there will come rewards and blessings. If we choose "not to hear" it, there will be consequences. "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God." (Deut. 28:1,2) "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee." (Deut. 28:15) (Take some time to read the whole chapter to find out what blessings and curses He is talking about.)
God speaks through the prophetic/prophets. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets." (Hebrews 1:1) "That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior." (2 Peter 3:2) "But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (1 Cor. 14:3) Let's take a moment to look at some of the rewards of obeying the word of the Lord spoken through the prophets of old. "Now Naaman, a captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper." (2 Kings 5:1) A maid of Naaman's wife had told him about a prophet (Elisha) in Israel who could heal him. "So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, 'Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean'. Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." (vv. 9,10,14) Naaman obeyed what the Lord had spoken to him through Elisha and was healed of leprosy. But Naaman almost missed it. He let pride come in because Elisha didn't come out to meet him personally, so he was ready to go back to Syria. A servant encouraged Naaman to obey so that he would be healed. (That's what I am trying to do in this letter- I'm just a servant who wants to encourage you not to miss the wonderful plan God has for your life by "hearing/obeying" His word to you.) It's God's word that these men are speaking. Now, let's look at some consequences for disobeying the prophets. In First Samuel 15, Saul disobeys the word of the Lord spoken through the prophet Samuel by keeping some of the possessions from battle rather than destroying them as the Lord had said. As a result, "And Samuel said unto Saul, 'For thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel'." (1 Sam. 15:26b) When we disobey the prophetic word (if it truly is a word from the Lord), we aren't disobeying a man, we are disobeying God.
God speaks to us through the preached word. Why do you go to church? Among the several reasons why we go, is- to hear the word of the Lord. What do you do with the sermon that you hear on Sunday morning? Do you go home thinking that it was good; do you critic it; do you forget what was said before you get to the parking lot; or do you ask God to help you apply it to your life so that you may glorify Him? "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." (Eph. 4:11) God has chosen these "gifts" to preach the word to the church "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (Eph. 4:12-14) Jesus taught a parable that gave a very good example of the rewards and consequences of hearing and doing the word. It's the parable of the wise and foolish builders. "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." (Matt. 7:24) Notice that Jesus didn't only say, "Those that hear my words will be like a wise man whose house is built on a rock". He went on to say, "And does them." There's no reward for just hearing them. The reward only comes when you do what you have heard- when you respond to it and obey it. "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." (Romans 2:13) The man who obeys and puts into practice the word that he has heard will reap the reward of having a sure foundation to stand upon when trouble and the storms of life come his way. He'll stand firm and not suffer loss. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." (verse 25) On the other hand, there is a consequence for not obeying what you have heard. "And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." (verse 26) You'll not be able to stand when storms come; they'll bring destruction into your life.
God also speaks to us through the written word- the Bible. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be prefect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:16,17) Let me read this out of the Amplified Bible- "Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action), so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work." God gave us His word for a reason, among which are some of the above. If you are going to be complete and thoroughly furnished to do God's work, you are going to have to obey His word. It wasn't given to us just so we would have something to do in our spare time- like read. It's not a trophy that we can display by saying that we have read it through so many times. It's not something that we have just so we can be identified as a Christian because we carry a Bible under our arm. Just reading it isn't enough. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22) James is saying that you are deceiving yourself if you think just reading the word is enough. (Smelling a fresh baked apple pie is not the same as tasting it.) "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." (Joshua 1:8) God wants His word to become a part of you; not just something you read, not just something that you memorize; but part of you, your very life. Then you will receive the reward of a prosperous way and good success. It's no coincidence that the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalms 119) is a Psalm of the Word. Every verse talks about the word. (Evidently, God puts a big emphasis on His word.) Notice from that chapter the importance of being a doer of the word. Hiding the word in your heart will preserve you from sin. (verse 11) It's your comfort in affliction. (v. 50) It gives you understanding. (v. 99) It's a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path and lightens up the dark places. (Vv. 105, 103) It gives great peace to those who love it. (v. 165) When you read the word, obedience to it is not an option. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
God will speak directly to us- as I said earlier, either audibly or by His Spirit. God still speaks to His people. He spoke with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; He spoke with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the list goes on. If God ever spoke to His people, He still does because He does not change. "To day if ye will hear his voice..." (Heb. 4:7b) "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly..." (1 Tim. 4:1a) When God speaks to you, you can't just "take it" or "leave it"; it's much too serious; there's a reason why He is speaking to you. Consider Noah. What would have happened if Noah hadn't responded to what God had told him? Wonder if Israel would have come out of captivity if Daniel hadn't responded to the word he read? Wonder if the walls would have been rebuilt if Nehemiah hadn't responded in obedience to the word the Lord spoke to him? What about Mary? What would have happened if she had not paid much attention to the angel's proclamation? Perhaps in all the cases above things would have turned out differently had they not responded to the word of Lord and did what He told them to do.
Let me give you a final example. I call it the story of the young prophet and the old prophet. (It's found in 1 Kings 13) The Lord sent a prophet to Jerobaom to speak against the altar that he had built to worship golden calves upon. The Lord was so much with the prophet that everything he said to Jeroboam happened right before his eyes- the altar was split in two and the ashes poured out just like the prophet had said. When Jeroboam tried to take hold of this prophet, his hand withered. He then asked the man of God to pray for him; he did and his hand was restored. Upon this, Jeroboam asked the prophet to go home with him and have something to eat and he would give him a reward. "But the man of God said to the king, 'Even if you gave me half of everything you own, I would not go with you. I would not eat any food or drink and water in this place. For the Lord gave me this command: 'You must not eat any food or drink any water while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came'. So he left Bethel and went home another way. As it happened, there was an old prophet living in Bethel, and his sons came home and told him what the man of God had done in Bethel that day. They also told him what he had said to the king. The old prophet asked them, 'Which way did he go?'. The old prophet saddled up his donkey and rode to find the man of God. When he found him he asked him to come home with him and eat some food. When the young prophet told him that he could not and told him what the Lord had said, the old prophet answered, 'I am a prophet, too, just as you are, And an angel gave me this message from the Lord, 'Bring him home with you, and give him food to eat and water to drink'. But the old man was lying to him. So they went back together, and the man of God ate some food and drank some water at the prophet's home. While they were eating the word of the Lord came to the old man to speak to the man of God, 'You have defied the Lord's message and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you, because of this your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors.' (In other words, he would die.) When the young prophet left the old prophet's house to continue on his travels, a lion came out and killed him and his body laid by the road. There are very valuable lessons for us in this story. 1) Even if a prophet or an angel tells you something contrary to what the Lord Himself has told you, don't believe it- obey the voice of the Lord and not man. 2) The young prophet partially obeyed the Lord, he didn't go to the king's house and eat but he did go to the old prophet's house and ate- unless you obey all the word that the Lord has spoken to you, you haven't obeyed it at all (partial obedience is still disobedience.) 3) There are rewards to obedience and consequences to disobedience.
When the word of God comes your way, regardless of the avenue God sends it through, what are you going to do with it? Obey it, disobey it, regard it or disregard it? There will be consequences if you don't take your response to it seriously, but then there are wonderful rewards if you do.