Day 24

How to Listen to God

Wisdom Proverbs 3:1–10
New Testament Matthew 16:21–25,17:1–5
Old Testament Genesis 47:31,48:11–16

Introduction

Suppose I go to the doctor and say, ‘Doctor, I have a lot of problems: I twisted my knee... my eyes itch... my finger is swollen... I have backache...’ Then, having got through my list of complaints, I look at my watch and say, ‘Goodness me, time is getting on. I must be off.’ The doctor might say, ‘Hang on, do you not want to hear what I have to say?’

If we only speak to God and never take time to listen, we make the same mistake. We do all the talking and we don’t actually listen to him. But our relationship with God is meant to be a two-way conversation. When I’m praying, I find it helpful to write down thoughts that come into my mind that may come from the Spirit of God.

In a media-saturated age we have many voices that come to us on TV, radio, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email and text message. We have the voices of family, friends and colleagues. And sometimes we have the voice of Satan tempting us to disbelieve God’s word and to doubt that God has our best interests at heart.

How do you hear the voice of God in the midst of the noise and distractions of life?

Wisdom

Proverbs 3:1–10

  3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
   but keep my commands in your heart...

  3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you...

  4 Then you will win favour and a good name
   in the sight of God and other people.

  5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
  6 in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight.

  7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
   fear the Lord and shun evil.
  8 This will bring health to your body
   and nourishment to your bones.

  9 Honour the Lord with your wealth,
   with the firstfruits of all your crops;
  10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
   and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Commentary

Listen to God’s voice in the Scriptures

The main way in which God speaks to us is through what he has already spoken in the Scriptures – his ‘teaching’ and ‘commands’ (v.1). As you read the Bible, pray that God will speak to you and that you will hear his voice.

‘Don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track’ (vv.5–6, MSG).

Learning verses in the Bible is one of the ways you can write God’s word on the ‘tablet of your heart’ (v.3). Pippa and I learnt these verses on our honeymoon and we have tried to live by them.

  1. Be guided by ‘Love and Loyalty’

    These should be our guiding principles in every decision we take. ‘Love and Loyalty’ (v.3, MSG) should be deeply embedded in our hearts. Loyalty means, for example, speaking about others as if they were present. We establish trust in those who are present by our loyalty to those who are not present. If you live like this, God promises you a good reputation ‘in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people’ (v.4, MSG).

  2. Run to God! Run from evil!

    We are to trust in God rather than becoming arrogant and thinking that we are clever. Fear of God, in the sense of healthy respect for him, should lead us to ‘Run to God! Run from evil!’ (v.7, MSG). God promises that ‘this will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones’ (v.8). In other words, there is a connection between the spiritual and the physical.

  3. Become a generous giver

    It really matters what you do with your money. Give God ‘the first and the best’ (v.9, MSG) (that is, the first part of your income not the last). I have found this to be an extraordinary principle; that if you get your giving right, you discover the truth of the promise that God will supply all your needs: ‘your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine’ (v.10).

Prayer

Lord, help me not just to read your words, but to learn them, live by them and to bring honour to your name.

New Testament

Matthew 16:21–25,17:1–5

16
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples... that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 5… a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

Commentary

Listen to God through the words of Jesus

The words of Jesus are the words of God. God says, ‘Listen to him’ (17:5). When you read Jesus’ words and take them to heart, you are listening to God.

Jesus warns his disciples to expect attack. We are never going to avoid criticism (16:21). Twice in this passage Jesus talks to his disciples about the suffering he is going to experience – explaining to them about the cross and resurrection (16:21; 17:9–12).

However, rather than listening to Jesus, Peter argues with him (16:22). Jesus’ rebuke to Peter is of profound importance. In every key decision we take, we must ask ourselves whether we have in mind the concerns of God or human concerns (v.23). What Jesus is saying to Peter is the heart of his mission and it has huge implications for all of his followers (vv.24–28).

We are not to seek a life of comfort and security. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’ (vv.24–26, MSG).

Following Jesus involves denying yourself, taking up your cross and following him (v.24). This is the way to find life in all its fullness.

Wealth, in one sense, is utterly pointless. Purpose in life is far more important than property or possessions. All the money in the world, all the success in the world, all the fame in the world, all the power in the world is nothing if you lose your soul (v.26) and miss out on what life is all about.

On the other hand, if you follow Jesus and surrender your life to him, you find the very purpose of life. The words of Jesus are extraordinarily powerful. There has never been a time when it is more important to ‘listen to him’ than now!

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain. Jesus’ appearance changed right before their eyes. ‘Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realised that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him’ (17:1–3, MSG). They heard God say, ‘This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him’ (v.5, MSG).

As Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus, so you too can live a life ‘talking with Jesus’. Your experience may not be as visual or auditory as that of the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, but you too can know the presence of Jesus in your life. Through reading his words and meditating on them, you can experience a conversation with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

You can, in a sense, look into his face, which shines ‘like the sun’ (v.2). You can fall down in worship (v.6). It can feel as if Jesus is actually touching you and saying to you ‘do not be afraid’ (v.7). And there are times when you may look up and see ‘no one except Jesus’ (v.8).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that when I lose my life for you, I find it. Help me to listen to your voice and to follow you, daily.

Old Testament

Genesis 47:31,48:11–16

47
31 ... Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

48
11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
‘May the God before whom my fathers
   Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
   all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
   – may he bless these boys.’

Commentary

Listen to God throughout your life

As Jacob came to the end of his life and looked back at all God’s blessings (in spite of all the trials and difficulties), he ‘worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff’ (47:31). He recognised that God had led him throughout his life. It is an evocative picture of a person who has lived a life in close relationship with God, listening to him and his wisdom. He recalled how God spoke to him and gave him a vision for his life (48:3–4). He is able to say ‘God… has been my shepherd all my life’ (v.15).

Jacob also recognised that God had led his son Joseph in an extraordinary way. Because Joseph had learned to listen to God, he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and, as a result, he saw great blessing. Not only did he save the lives of God’s people, he also saved the lives of all Egypt (47:25). As Jacob’s life draws to a close he blesses Joseph’s sons, expressing his trust in God’s promises and blessings for the future.

When the writer of Hebrews comments on Jacob’s life of faith, he focuses on this incident: ‘By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff’ (Hebrews 11:21). As he came to the end of his life, Jacob’s trust in God did not peter out. He ended with a flourish of faith.

Remain faithful in worship and listen to God throughout your life. Trust God to lead and guide the next generation – that they too will listen to the voice of the Shepherd (see John 10:3–4).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you promise to lead me and speak to me. Help me to listen to you daily and throughout my life.

Pippa adds

In Proverbs 3:5, it says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart… In all your ways submit to him.’ ‘All your heart… all your ways’ – that means wholehearted, total commitment to God. Are there things you are worried about in your life at the moment: successes, worries, fears that you might need to re-commit to God, to make sure they are, and remain, ‘totally’ committed to God?

Verse of the Day

Proverbs 3:5

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart’

Thought for the Day

Loyalty means speaking about others as if they were present. We establish trust in those who are present by our loyalty to those who are not present.

Action for the Day

STOP. Listen to God.
reader

App

Download the Bible in One Year app for iOS or Android devices and read along each day.

reader

Email

Sign up now to receive Bible in One Year in your inbox each morning. You’ll get one email each day.

reader

Website

Start reading today’s devotion right here on the BiOY website.

Read now
reader

Book

The Bible in One Year Commentary is available as a book.

References

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

Bible in One Year

  • HOST'S INTRO
  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS
  • HOST'S OUTRO

Change Language

Bible in One Year is available in the following languages:

This website stores data such as cookies to enable necessary site functionality and analytics. Find out more