My cousins and I had some very interesting things to say to one another while growing up. At times we would advise one another about how to endure the challenges that we face in life. One of those challenges (at least in our young minds) was getting scolded by parents or elderly. I remember that we would advise one another, to just pretend like we hear the words when we are being scolded, and to simply let the words pass into one ear and out the other. In other words “do not let what you hear sink into your mind.” Looking back in time we sure thought we knew it all. We now know that we do not profit from such advice. It should never be the case, that when we hear the word of God, that we are just letting it pass through into one ear and out the other. We must heed his instructions, and let them sink into our hearts to change us. Notice this warning: “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).
Hearing the Word of God is vital for our souls. His Word is the power that changes us for better and it saves us (Romans. 1:16; James 1:21). His Word, when heeded, produces faith (Romans. 10:17). And if we want to please God, we must have the type of faith that comes through the hearing of the Word (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible in many passages encourages its audience to have good hearing. For example, we find in the book of Revelation the phrase “He that has an ear, let him hear”, seven times. The prophets of old encouraged the people to hear what God had to say.
There are times when I hear God’s Word, that at first, I do not allow it to change me. Does this happen you? This is a struggle for me, and I imagine many go through the same thing. It normally happens when I am too prideful and what is said from God’s Word hurts my pride. This happens because I am not hearing the word of God the way I should hear it. So we ask the question, How should we hear the Word of God? I want to answer this question from Nehemiah chapter eight. I hope you have your Bible open as we answer this question.
In the book of Nehemiah, the people of Israel are in the mindset of restoration. Nehemiah had the task of rebuilding the city wall which we read in chapter six of the book that it was completed in 52 days (Neh. 6:15). With the mindset to restore, the challenges that the people of Israel faced, did not stop them from finishing the wall. In chapter eight the restoration continues. I simply want to highlight some passages and make three points from our text to answer the question.
First Point: We must hear with a desire to understand (v.1-2).
“And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.” (Nehemiah 8:1,2)
Like the Israelites of Nehemiah’s day, we should have the desire to hear God’s Word with a desire to understand. To hear with understanding is to have a receptive attitude for the Word of God (James. 1:21). The text says “and all who could understand” is a clear reference to the ability to comprehend. But I want us to take into the consideration everything that has happened in the book of Nehemiah up to this point. The people have been putting words into action. This reference is not just about comprehending the word of God, but also behind it, is the desire to do what it says. Notice also that the people demanded to hear the word of God. The modern version of this would be the church telling the preacher, “we want to hear the Bible.”
Second Point: We must hear, with the utmost respect for God (v. 5-6).
“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:5–6)
Sometimes the supremacy and sovereignty of God escapes our minds and causes us to have an attitude of irreverence towards His Holy Word. We need to be reminded, that the Bible is not a man-made book, but it is God’s book (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Ruler of all has graciously given to us guidance through his written Word, this is one of man’s greatest blessing (read Psalms 19). Notice that when Ezra read God’s Word, the people stood in respect for God. This is not a ceremonial practice, rather it is a reverential response because their hearts were reminded that what is being read, are the words of the Almighty God. Does this mean we disrespect God when we sit down in service while His Word is being preached or read? No, not at all. But when we fall asleep during the sermon, or not give the proper attention to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, we indeed show disrespect. We need to be like the people of Nehemiah’s day and listen attentively to God’s Word (Neh. 8:3). How should we hear God’s Word? We need to hear it knowing that this is the word of the Supreme Ruler and it deserves our full attention and respect.
Third Point: We must hear with the intention to obey (V. 13-18).
Notice what happened when the law was read and the people paid attention:
“On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.And they found it written in the Law that the Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.” (Nehemiah 8:13–18)
They found a commandment of God and realize they have not done this, so they immediately took action and obeyed what the Word of God said. Such should be our attitude when we hear (read or study) the Word of God. We are not just hearing sermons (read or study the Word) for the sake of accumulating Bible knowledge, but also to apply that knowledge. James wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). I cannot help but think about the conclusion of the sermon on the mountain. Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever recorded and at the end, he calls the hearers (and readers) to action by the use of this parable:
““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” (Matthew 7:24–27)
As hearers (readers of the Word) we want to be the wise man in the parable. How should we hear the word of God? We must hear with a desire to understand, we must hear with respect for God, and we must hear with the readiness to do what is there for us to do. I hope this serves as a hearing aid for you, as it has for me. May we all have open hearts that when we hear the word of God, we let it sink into our hearts to change us. To God be the glory.