September 5, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“To Listen or Not to Listen”

Jeremiah 35:17-19 (ESV)
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.” 18 But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.”

One of the most important Hebrew words for understanding our relationship with God is the word shema, which is the command to listen or to hear.  The first few statements of the Bible remind us that all of creation came into existence as it listened to the voice of God.  By the mere breath of His word, countless millions of galaxies were formed, an endless variety of life was created, and the vastness of the universe came into existence.  All of creation heard His voice and obeyed.  Therefore, it makes sense that a people set apart for Him would be identified by those same characteristics: created by His word, always attentive and ready to listen to that same voice.  It also makes sense that the greatest failure of God’s people would be to ignore His voice and refuse to answer when He calls.

In the book of Jeremiah, we can see that the ultimate destiny of our lives is directly connected to either our fidelity to His word or our refusal to listen. There are only two paths in life: one that is lived in accordance to God’s word, or one that is lived fighting against it.   Unfortunately, the Jewish people at this time in history chose the wrong path, and they brought upon themselves the impending disasters of war and captivity.  The Rechabites, on the other hand, offer a glimmer of hope.  Though they were not racially tied to the Jewish people, they remained as a symbol of faithfulness and adherence to the things of God.  The lineage of the Rechabites can be traced back to the Kenites, the same racial identity of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses.  They are a testament to the fact that God always leaves us with living examples of those who are faithful to Him.

Jesus came to earth into a very familiar situation.  The voice of God had become nothing more than tradition and the following of man-made rules.  And so He came to us as the living Word—the very logos of God as the apostle John describes Him.  Jesus is the perfect Kenite, the perpetual example of One who hears His Father and then lives in accordance to that word.  May we learn to hear as He heard and to obey just as He obeyed.

Prayer: Father, we need to hear Your voice.  The very course of our lives is dependent on this ability to listen and to obey.  Would You give us sensitive hearts that can pick up on the still small voice of Your Spirit?  Would You provide illumination to our minds so that we can see what is in Your Word?  And would You supply the strength of will so that we might live by what we hear?  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Job 17 


Lunch Break Study

Read John 10:1-16: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.  So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the defining characteristic of sheep that belong to Jesus?
  2. How can we distinguish Jesus’ voice from the noise of this world?
  3. Where is Jesus’ voice leading us?

Notes

  1. The primary characteristic is that they hear His voice. One of the ways that ancient shepherds kept their flocks safe was to carry newborn lamb (which are very cute) and nurse them in order to build trust and love.  They would also name them like a family pet and talk or sing to them so that they would recognize the shepherd’s voice.  I have no idea how you would eat this animal after raising it like your baby, but this is something that is practiced today by Bedouin shepherds in the Middle East.  In the evenings, several flocks of sheep will come together to rest and in the morning, the sheep will follow the voice of their own specific shepherd as they hear their name.
  2. The problem in many churches is that we don’t teach the basic foundations of hearing and discerning the voice of God. The starting point of growing this part of your relationship with God is asking yourself the following questions:
    • Are the words that I am hearing scriptural? Are they consistent with biblical principles?
    • Do these words display the character of Christ?
    • Is there anything tainting my hearing, such as hidden motivations?
    • What is the visible fruit of obeying these words?
  3. Jesus desires to lead us to a life of abundance. The promise of Christ isn’t to leave you in the sheep pen but to lead you out into green pastures and by still waters.  In verse 10, He contrasts Himself from the thieves and hired hands who only look to steal and destroy the sheep, but He comes so that you may have life and have it abundantly.  The Greek word translated abundantly literally means “that which goes way beyond necessity.”  The gift of Jesus is life beyond what we could possibly imagine, and following His voice is the only way to get there.

Evening Reflection

Have you taken time today to listen for God’s voice?  Sometimes we can be like children who are too busy with their own activities even to hear their parents yelling at them.  Take time to quiet everything around you, including your phone and media, and focus on hearing with your heart.  Pray that His voice would drown out all the lies of the world and fill you with hope and peace.

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