Wednesday, December 3, 2014

HEARING WITH UNDERSTANDING


In a Bible study group we have been looking at the “Parable of the Sower,” from the book of Mark. In this parable Jesus explained the effect of God’s message to mankind and likened it to seed sown on different types of soil. I think we all understand the concept of the benefits of sowing seed on good ground. This brings to mind the thought that when a person makes a decision for Christ and their life has been rocky with difficult ground their heart may be much the same and they will need a lot of support as they learn from God’s Holy Spirit.  I think the biggest impact for my learning was the discussion regarding those who will not listen and/or turn from God despite having heard the message.

As I read scripture, I find myself pondering the fact that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day should have understood his teachings. They claimed to be experts and certainly devoted themselves to study of scripture. Yet, the day came when they stood before the Lord and had trouble understanding his words; and many refused to understand; they turned away. Apparently it was as if they were blind or asleep. We know this was prophesied: We read about it in the book of Isaiah and Jesus referred to that very text. Jesus also explained the heartbreaking result of a stubborn and willful heart. Let’s just look at the definition of ‘willful.” It is “having or showing a stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants regardless of the consequences or effects.” This is obviously not a good state to be in and it seems so sad to think this was the condition of several of the religious leaders. 

We read in the Gospel of Mark Jesus’ words regarding his teaching (in particular here, The Parable of the Sower). “And he said to them, he that has ears to hear, let him hear!” How beautiful those words are! God wants us to have understanding! The only thing that would prevent us from hearing without understanding is the condition we intentionally or unintentionally put ourselves in. And yet, we see God’s patience with us at every turn. It is as if he is saying “Okay, let’s try this again. .” I think we have all run across a scripture or a message successive times, and realized there is something of importance there for our life which God wants to make us aware of.

I watch a television show called “Precepts for Life” taught by Kay Arthur. She is an amazing teacher of the gospel. She once talked about a man who served in ministry under a strict, burdensome teaching. He had been taught that he had to work excessively hard in order to maintain God’s favor. He continued on with his ministry, but without a sense of joy he had hoped to experience. One day as he read scripture he came across Paul’s description of righteousness as a gift. Now, this young man had read this scripture many times before, but this was the first time he read it with understanding. The Holy Spirit had been able to bring the understanding to him and it changed his life. 

Again, we can feel greatly encouraged, because we know of God’s love and mercy for everyone. We can pray for our own understanding and pray for others. Let’s go to the Book of Psalms: “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper”(Psalm 1). Very powerful is the word of God! Of course, this psalm (in its entirety which I did not copy here) describes two paths. The way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly. And in this fallen world it may look as though the way of the ungodly is flourishing, but ultimately that way will perish. But certainly, even those who have chosen that way can turn and come into agreement with the one true God and receive salvation. 

God’s Holy Spirit has been able to reach the understanding of so many people! Even a young man who is the son of a leader of the terrorist group Hammas. This young man has become a Christian and has a tremendous testimony. 

And so, we look for our answers where we can find them. When Mary went to the empty tomb she was asked by an angel “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” I think we can look at our lives and apply that very question. We do not need to look to the world for our answers. The spirit of the world does not hold meaningful answers for us as Christians. Our life is in Christ. 

Let’s go back to Psalms (33) and give praise to the God of creation: Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous; for praise is fitting for the upright.” And jumping down a few verses: “Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let your mercy O Lord be upon us, according as we hope in you..

Amen



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