#12 Hearing the Word

Good morning, brothers and sisters, may the grace and peace of our Lord be with you!

Hear, O Israel

I am a preacher of God’s word, and also a hearer of God’s word.  Preaching the Word is my calling, and hearing the Word is my necessity.  Every time I hear a sermon which speaks to my heart, I am full of gratitude to the preacher.  Sometimes after a busy day, even on days when I had just finished preaching, my heart would long to find a place where I could listen to the word being preached.  For many years, I would have the radio stations in my home and car set to a preaching channel.  Many times, I would stay in my car even after I arrived home, so that I could finish listening to a sermon.  God’s word captivates me.

The Bible emphasizes the importance of “hearing”.  The Old Testament has the Shema which commands God’s people to “hear”.  Jesus said “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Paul said “faith comes from hearing”.  James said “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak”.

Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them,… Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Dt 6:3-5)
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mk 4:23-25)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:17)
 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:19-21)

Hearing the Word is vital to a person’s spiritual life.  Perhaps there is a person who knows how to hear the Word, but is spiritually stagnant for some reason; but it is impossible to find a person who does not hear the Word and yet is able to grow spiritually.  God’s word is our food, and we must eat it in order to grow.  The way to eat this food, according to God’s design, is to hear His word.

Hearing the Word as a Gathered Assembly

The most important hearing of God’s word occurs during the worship service, when brothers and sisters are assembled together.  Only when we have learned how to hear God’s word in a worship setting will we be able to hear His word anytime and anywhere.  If you don’t know how to hear God’s word during worship, then you won’t be able to hear God’s word elsewhere.  God’s word is not preached to individuals, but to groups of people.  Whether it was Moses announcing the Ten Commandments, or the prophets proclaiming God’s message, or Jesus teaching his disciples, or the apostles exhorting the churches, all of these were done in a public setting to a gathered assembly of people.  During worship, brothers and sisters actively listen as their act of worship to God, and as God’s word sinks into their hearts, their hearts are joined together in koinonia.  A church that hears God’s word will flourish, as seen in the book of Acts, which describes the early church’s expansion most often with the phrase “the word of God increased and multiplied”.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:20)
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)

Hearing God’s word is a feast for the spirit, and a blessing from heaven.  If you want to keep your mind free from clutter, and your spirit strong and fit, then you must learn to hear God’s word.  Someone who knows how to hear God’s word will know the truth and will experience true freedom (Jn 8:32).  He will not be bound by darkened thoughts; he will not linger long on the wrong path; he will have wisdom to always align and correct himself according to God’s word; he will watch over his own heart with diligence, and from it will flow the springs of life (Prov 4:23).

Rightly Handle the Word of Truth

A person who knows how to hear God’s word has a discerning heart.  He will know whether he is listening to God’s word, theological doctrines, religious clichés, inspirational self-help advices, or complete nonsense.  The basis for discernment comes from the storage of God’s word in our hearts.  If we have God’s word, we will have discernment; without God’s word there is no discernment.  A preacher has a sacred duty—Jesus has tasked his servant to give food at the proper time (Matt 24:45), to use God’s word as food to feed the household.  A faithful servant must “rightly handle the word of truth” and “devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. … Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teachingPersist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:13, 16)
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:2)

A preacher is God’s worker, his duty is to preach God’s word.  A servant who is faithful to God’s word is a blessing to the entire church; if he is careless with God’s word, then the church will suffer loss.  The church must honor the preacher and allow him to do his work, which is “to devote himself to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), and not have him taking care of odds and ends.  On a separate note, be careful not to elevate any one preacher above God’s word.  Some people have a biased preference for a certain speaker, and accepts whatever he says as truth, even when it goes against what the Bible says.  We should be like the Bereans, receiving the word eagerly while examining the Scriptures at the same time.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Hearing God’s Word must be Combined with Faith

Hearing God’s word is an act of faith.  Without faith, we are merely listening to a speech.  With faith, we are listening to God’s word.  Without faith, we are listening to man speaking.  With faith, we are listening to God speaking.  The same message produces different results when it lands on different ears.

For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Heb 4:2)

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus used four different types of soil to describe the conditions of a hearer’s heart.  The seed represents the word (Mk 4:14).  When people receive the word with different hearts, there are different results.  The only one that bore good fruit was the heart that was “honest and good”.

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Lk 8:15)

Dear brothers and sisters, being able to hear God’s word is God’s blessing to us.  When we listen to God’s word, we are having fellowship (koinonia) with God, and fellowship with one another.  Scattered individuals are not united, and there is no koinonia among them.  If a place has God’s word and the Holy Spirit, then those who are gathered there can be united as one.  May God bless you, that you may be a person who hears His word.  May God bless our church, that we may be a church that hears His word.