5. We Must Hear Worthily
It is carelessly assumed by most persons that when a preacher pronounces a message of truth and his words fall upon the ears of his listeners there has been a bona fide act of hearing on their part. They are assumed to have been instructed because they have listened to the Word of God. But it does not follow.
If we would be truly instructed we must be worthy to hear; or more accurately, we must hear in a worthy manner. In listening to a sermon, reading a good book or even reading the Bible itself, much may be lost to us because we are not worthy to hear the truth. That is, we have not met the moral terms required to hear the truth rightly.
The text, "So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void" (isa. 55:11), does not give support to the notion that God's truth is effective wherever and whenever it is preached. The lament of the Old Testament prophets was that they cried aloud to Israel and their words were not regarded. "Because I have called, and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but you have set at nothing all my counsel, and would none of my reproof" (Prov. 1:24, 25). Our Lord's parable of the sower and the seed is another proof that it is possible to hear truth without profit. Paul turned from the Jews with the quotation. "Hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand" (Acts 28:28), and began his ministry to the Gentiles.
Before there can be true inward understanding of divine truth there must be a moral preparation. Our Lord made this plain in several passages in the Gospels. "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank you, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them to babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight" (Mat 11:25, 26). The Gospel according to John is filled with the teaching that there must be a spiritual readying within the soul before there can be a real understanding of God's truth. This is summed up in John 7:17. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." And Paul said plainly, "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
When considering a pastor the average church asks In effect, "Is this man worthy to speak to us?" I suppose such a question is valid, but there is another one more in keeping with the circumstances; it is, "Are we worthy to hear this man?" An attitude of humility on the part of the hearers would secure lot them a great deal more light from whatever sized candle the Lord might be pleased to send them.
When a man or woman becomes worthy to hear, God sometimes talks to them through very unworthy media. Peter, as an example, was brought to repentance by the crowing of a rooster. Of course the rooster was innocent of the part he was playing, but Peter's Lord had set things up for him so that the rooster's crow could break the heart of His back- slidden apostle and send him out in a flood of penitential tears. Augustine was brought to repentance by seeing a friend killed by lightning. Nicholas Hermann was converted through seeing a tree stripped of its leaves in winter. Spurgeon became a Christian after hearing a humble Methodist class leader exhort a congregation. Moody was led into a dear anointing of the Spirit through the testimony of a simple-hearted elderly lady of his acquaintance.
All these examples teach the same thing. God will speak to the hearts of those who prepare themselves to hear; and conversely, those who do not so prepare themselves will hear nothing even though the Word of God is falling upon their outer ears every Sunday. Good hearers are as important as good preachers. We need more of both.
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.