Day 54

How to Hear God

Wisdom Psalm 25:8–14
New Testament Mark 7:5–29
Old Testament Exodus 33:11–15, 34:29–35

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 25:8–14

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.

12 He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him...

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 7:5–29

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!

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 18 “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.”

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...

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. 25 ... 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.”

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 33:11–15, 34:29–35

33
11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

12 Moses said to the Lord, ' ...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.

34
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.

34 And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant.

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’

Thought for the Day

When we start following God’s plans for our lives, it is like finding a pair of shoes that fit comfortably. – Joyce Meyer
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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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