We had a guest pastor speak this past Sunday – a Dr. Seymour (I hope that’s how you spell it). He is such a gifted and powerful speaker, I wish I were able to sit under his teaching more regularly. His Sunday morning sermon, however, really struck a chord with me, and it has continued to reverberate in my mind.
The text he taught from was Jeremiah 16:11-12. The Israelite were asking Jeremiah why God was calling calamity down on them and sending them into captivity. God replies, through the prophet, that “it is because your forefathers have forsaken Me…and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law.”
Now, what would your reaction be at this reply? “Why! That’s not fair! Why should I be punished for the sins of my fathers?”
The Lord continues:
“You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers…”
Here, Dr. Seymour asked us to stop reading and look up from the text for a moment. Now, what could they have done that was worse than their forefathers? After all, bowing down to idols is pretty serious stuff. It breaks the first and greatest commandment of the Law according to Jesus, that you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Well, fornication was not mentioned. Neither was offering one’s children to the fire of Balak, which the Israelites were guily of doing several times in their history. These are both possible options. Let’s read on:
“…for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubborness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me.” (emphasis added)
Wow. The children were more guilty than their fathers because they simply did not listen to God?
Now Dr. Seymour really dug deep. How do we listen to God? How does God talk to us? Well, through His Word. (I realize that many people believe that God also ‘speaks’ to them through the feelings and meditations of their hearts. While I don’t fully agree with this subjective and potentially dangerous belief, that really isn’t relevant to this post. Pretty much all Christians will concede that God’s main form of communication with His redeemed is through the books composed by the Holy Spirit through believers.) So, if God speaks to us most prevalently through His Word, how can we hear from Him if we are not immersing ourselves in the Word?
I had always heard that it was a good idea to study the Bible. Jesus probably commanded us to study His words somewhere in the NT, but this passage put my interpretation through the fire. Many times I think we Christians focus too much on the voluntary nature of seeking God in His word. We feel like if we don’t want to study the Word, then it’s not genuine and real. We feel like if we force ourselves into making a habit of studying the Word, then it will become rote and cease to mean anything. Well, hate to break it to you, but studying the Bible is not always about ‘finding meaning’. We already know the ‘meaning’ – Jesus Christ. Studying the Bible is about just that – studying. It’s about discovering the Truth. If we used this same ‘touchy-feely’ philosophy when it came to studying for school…well, who knows where we’d all be. Let’s just say our physical condition would most likely reflect the current spiritual condition of the majority of Evangelical Christians.
And according to God through Jeremiah, waiting for proper motivation to study the Word is not an option. Just as to not put forth effort to tell the truth or to remain faithful in your marriage is to sin, so to not put forth effort to hear from God is to sin.