Day 54

How to Hear God

Wisdom Psalm 25:8-15
New Testament Mark 7:1-30
Old Testament Exodus 33:7-34:35

Introduction

When I saw him coming down the street, I would cross the road in order to avoid him. I had met him in my first week at university. He had a shiny, smiley face. I had also met one or two others like him who had that same look on their face. It made me very suspicious!

A few months later, I encountered Jesus and realised that these people’s faces were shining because they had been spending time with Jesus, hearing God speak. Like Moses, when he came down from the mountain after hearing God speak to him, their faces were ‘radiant’ (Exodus 34:29,35).

Jesus said that ‘people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Just as we need physical food, so we also need spiritual food. Spiritual food comes from hearing the words of God.

Wisdom

Psalm 25:8-15

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
  therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
  and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
  toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
  forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
  He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
  and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
  he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
  for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Commentary

Hear the guidance of God

When we try to force our own agenda or strive to do what we want to do, there is a sense of spiritual discomfort. Joyce Meyer uses the analogy of the discomfort that comes from wearing a pair of shoes that don’t fit.

When we are living a life of worship and obedience and following God’s way, he promises that we will be ‘at ease’ (v.13, AMP). That does not mean that life will be easy. But when we start following God’s plans for our lives, it is like finding a pair of shoes that fit comfortably.

Again and again in this psalm we are reminded of how God guides us. He ‘instructs’ (vv.8,12), he ‘guides’ (v.9a), he ‘teaches’ (v.9b), he ‘confides’ in his people (v.14).

  1. The people he guides

Amazingly, David explains that God’s goodness leads him to want to teach even sinful people; ‘therefore he instructs sinners in his ways’ (v.8). Even though David’s ‘iniquity’ is ‘great’, he knows that he can be forgiven and put right by God (v.11).

Thankfully, you do not need to be perfect in order to hear God’s guidance but you do need an attitude of humility: ‘He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way’ (v.9). ‘God-friendship is for God-worshippers; They are the ones he confides in’ (v.14, MSG).

  1. The purpose of his guidance

You can be sure that God will only ask you to do ‘what is right’ (v.9a). The test of whether the guidance comes from God is whether what you are being asked to do is ‘loving and faithful’ (v.10a). God will never ask you to do something that is unloving or unfaithful. ‘All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful’ (v.10a).

Prayer

Lord, I pray for your guidance – that you will instruct, teach and confide in me today.

New Testament

Mark 7:1-30

That Which Defiles

7The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16]

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Jesus Honors a Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Commentary

Hear the word of God

Jesus says that the word of God takes priority over all our traditions (v.8). There is nothing wrong with tradition. Traditions can be very important and valuable. However, tradition should never take precedence over the word of God. Jesus attacks the Pharisees for using tradition to avoid obeying the word of God: ‘You get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions’ (v.9, MSG).

For example, supporting elderly parents can sometimes be inconvenient. It can be tempting to find excuses why we should not need to do so. The Pharisees said it was permissible not to support your parents financially if you had given the money as a gift to God (v.11). Jesus said that in doing this they were disobeying the command to ‘Honour your father and mother’ (v.10a). ‘Thus’, he says, ‘you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down’ (v.13).

The Pharisees honoured God by what they did outwardly (vv.1–5). It is relatively easy to do the right things or even say the right things. We can obey all the rules of the community and yet our hearts can be far away from God (vv.6–8).

God is not so concerned about the outward appearance but about the heart. Jesus says, ‘For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person’ (vv.21–23). These are the things that pollute our lives and spoil our relationship with God.

Jesus says, ‘listen to me’ (v.14). This is the key to life – listening to Jesus.

Jesus goes on to draw out what is in the heart of the Syro-Phoenician woman. As John Calvin put it, Jesus intends ‘not to extinguish the woman’s faith’ by his apparent coldness ‘but rather to whet her zeal and inflame her ardour’.

Jesus came for the Jews first, then the Gentiles (vv.27–29; see Isaiah 49:6; Romans 1:16). The greatness of the woman’s faith is shown by the fact that she not only recognised who he was and his heavenly power, but, as Calvin goes on to say, she ‘pursued her course steadily through formidable opposition’. She is a great example for us of un-cynical and persevering faith.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the power of the word of God to challenge the attitudes of my heart. Cleanse my heart today, I pray, and give me a passionate, un-cynical and persevering faith.

Old Testament

Exodus 33:7-34:35

The Tent of Meeting

7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Moses and the Glory of the Lord

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

The New Stone Tablets

34The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”

4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

10 Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

17 “Do not make any idols.

18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.

“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

22 “Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.

25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.

26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

The Radiant Face of Moses

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

Commentary

Hear the plans of God

You can be a friend of God. Jesus regards those who follow him as his friends (John 15:15). Moses was God’s friend. If it was possible for Moses then, the New Testament tells us, it is possible for you now.

God revealed his plans to Moses. Moses had an extraordinary relationship with God. He would go into the Tent of Meeting to enquire of the Lord. A pillar of cloud would come down ‘while the Lord spoke with Moses’ (Exodus 33:9). ‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (v.11a). This describes the closeness of God to Moses and the immediacy of hearing his voice. Moses prayed, ‘Let me in on your plans’ (v.13, MSG).

It is clear that they were not physically face-to-face (v.20). God’s presence was so glorious and holy that no one could see him face-to-face and live. It is a metaphor denoting very close contact and communion. This is what we need daily; to hear God speak ‘face-to-face’ and grow in our friendship with him.

What Moses wanted more than anything else was the ‘Presence of God’. This is what we all need so much in our lives – his presence and his peace. The Lord promises him, ‘My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest’ (v.14). This is what God promises to you as well.

Moses says, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here’ (v.15). It was the Presence of God that distinguished the people of God from everybody else (v.16b). It is this above all else that distinguishes you from the world around you.

When Moses had spent time in the Presence of the Lord, ‘his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord’ (34:29). This is the background to Paul’s extraordinary words in 2 Corinthians 3. He says that we can enjoy something far greater than Moses experienced.

‘What was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!’ (2 Corinthians 3:10–11).

You can be even bolder than Moses, ‘who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away’ (v.13). Paul writes, ‘Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (vv.16–18).

It is an extraordinary privilege to be involved in the ministry of the Spirit. On every Alpha Weekend we watch people experiencing the presence of God and being filled with the Holy Spirit. I have often noticed the radiance on people’s faces at the end of the weekend. But this is not meant to be a one-off experience that fades like Moses’ radiance.

Through the Holy Spirit you can experience the ‘Presence of God’: ‘Our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him’ (v.18, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you promise, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’ (Exodus 33:14). Help me to hear your voice, speak to you face to face as a friend, to reflect your glory and be transformed into your likeness with ever-increasing glory.

Pippa adds

Exodus 33:7–34:35

What an extraordinary training it must have been for Joshua. He had the privilege to learn from Moses, the greatest man of God in the Old Testament. It is important to find good Christian role-models who you can learn from and they can help and encourage you on your journey of faith.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 25:10

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

John Calvin (translated by John King), Commentaries: Volume 32, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, (Edinburgh, Calvin Translation Society, 1847-1850) p.268.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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