What Does God Say?

Throughout the Old Testament, we find cases where men inquired of the LORD. These men wanted to hear from God and know what it was He wanted them to do. Below are some examples.

Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, ‘Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?’ Then the LORD said, ‘Judah shall go up first’” Judges 20:18.

David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?’ And He said to him, ‘Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all’” 1 Samuel 30:8.

“Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Go up,’ So David said, ‘Where shall I go up?’ And He said, ‘To Hebron’” 2 Samuel 2:1.

“Then David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand’” 2 Samuel 5:19.

When these men inquired of God, trusted in His wisdom and not their own, they were successful. Men like David recognized that it was God who was in control. They believed His words to be authoritative in nature. When they listened to Him, they were blessed.

I think there is something we can learn from these examples when it comes to the authority of the scriptures.

As we think about Bible authority, we need to think about what God has to say. We need to listen to His words and not our own. God has given us His words in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, in order to hear from Him, we need to open up the Bible.

We need to have the mindset that David and others had. A mindset that says, “Lord, what is it that you want us to do?”

We need to have this attitude when it comes to worship, when it comes to marriage, and when it comes to how we live our lives, and when we do we will be blessed. It is God who gets to decide what it is that we do.

Yet sadly, it can become very easy for people to say…

I don’t think it really matters to God whether we have instrumental music or not.”

“I don’t think it really matters if we have a fellowship hall or not.”

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s a man or a woman who is doing the preaching.” 

It doesn’t really matter  if  a  person is baptized for the forgiveness of sins.”

All of these things do matter to God. Our responsibility is to listen to what it is that God has revealed in His word for us.

When You Don’t Listen to God First

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
(Genesis 16:1-2)

Abram and Sarai were promised a child. They were old. It had been 10 years. After a while a person starts to have all kinds of ideas. Maybe we can help this along. How about Hagar? Let’s try having a child through her! You might not appreciate what Sarai proposed, but try to imagine how desperate they were to have a child.

But just because we are desperate, impatient and wondering why God has not come through on His end of the deal, does not give us a green light to go outside His will. Abram and Sarai, just like so many of us, had to grow in faith and learn to wait on God.

We have to see, though, that there are consequences to not listening to God first. There are doors we open and things we set in motion that are irreversible when we listen to others first and forget to consult God.

Consider just a few consequences of Abram listening to Sarai first instead of God:

  • Think of the strain that put on Abram and Sarai’s marriage. Sarai quickly realized what she did was wrong, but there was no going back. Her husband slept with her handmaiden, and that could not be reversed. This is an example of how we can make a time of hardship into a real crisis. Yes we can appreciate that Abram and Sarai were sad, hurting and waiting for God to fulfill His promise, but what they did created a real crisis in their family.
  • Look at the strife that came between Sarai and Hagar because of this. Hagar began to despise Sarai, and then Sarai really treated Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away. God even took note of how badly Hagar was treated by Sarai.
  • What about what the problems that came in between Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants? For generations to come, these families would have problems, and all because of one weak moment in Abram and Sarai’s life. Because they did not listen to God first and wait on him, their families suffered strife for generations.

Listen to God first. Wait on Him, even when all other things are falling apart around you. Trust in His promises. Do not waver. Learn from the lessons of those like Abram and Sarai. Be cautious of letting your impatience turning an already hard situation into a very bad series of events.

Truth can be found even among a lot of error

Does a person have to be right on everything before we listen to them on anything?

Here is a thought to contemplate, and a thought to share with your sons and daughters. Truth can be found even among a lot of error. Sometimes we might be tempted to disregard somebody’s advice because we see so much wrong in his or her life. But be careful, even someone who is wrong on a whole lot can be right in something he or she tells you. Before you have a knee-jerk reaction thinking, “Who is this guy to tell me this?”, consider the statement itself. It may be true after all.

Here is a Biblical example. Job’s friends were wrong on a WHOLE LOT, even God rebuked them for being so mistaken (Job 42). I want you to notice that Eliphaz is specifically spoken to by God,

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
(Job 42:7)

Does that mean that everything Eliphaz said in the book of Job was wrong?Apparently not, because the apostle Paul quoted Eliphaz in 1 Corinthians.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,
(1 Corinthians 3:18-21. In the above section, Paul quoted Eliphaz (compare Job 5:13 & 1 Corinthians 3:19).

Does God catch the wise in their craftiness? Yes, He sure does. Eliphaz was generally right on in that matter, even if he was wrong in applying that specifically to Job. The point is for today, God condemned and rebuked Eliphaz for saying a lot of wrong things, and yet the Holy Spirit led Paul to quote Eliphaz. Paul also was inspired by God to quote the Greek poets on more than one occasion (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:33).

God may be sending you advice from an unlikely source that you are tempted to disregard. Someone doesn’t have to be right on everything before you listen to them on anything. By the way, think of the assumption we are making about ourselves if we set that kind of lofty standard.

Who Has the Prettiest Feathers?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4)

In our relationships a lot of us like to strut around and show who has the prettiest feathers. What I mean by this is:

  • When somebody tells you something you already know, how do you respond? Do you have to make sure it is known that you already know this, and that person is not giving you any new information?
  • If someone uses your idea, do you have to make sure it is widely known that it was your idea?
  • In a dispute, do you find yourself pushing your opinion, raising your voice, interrupting, and pressing your way until the other relents and gives in?
  • If someone doesn’t do things your way, and it bombs, do you have to make sure he or she knows your advice wasn’t followed?
  • When you do good things, especially for your wife around the house, do you have to make sure she knows you did it?
  • Do you have to instantly make a conversation about you when someone starts sharing things with you? In other words, that friend is sharing a trial he or she is facing, and you instantly switch or compare to what you are going through instead of really trying to understand the other person.

Aren’t those feathers pretty?

We are not roosters or peacocks…God expects us to have a spirit of humility that was shown wonderfully in the person of Jesus Christ. If anyone could have walked around and strutted, it would have been Jesus, but He counted others as more significant to Himself.

Just a reminder that it ain’t about us.

Try restraining that urge to say, “I already know that.” See how it works. Do good deeds and don’t say anything about them (see Matthew 6). If someone uses your idea, bite your tongue and say a prayer in your head of giving glory to God (hopefully it was a good idea that you shared!). Let’s not try so hard to break our elbows patting ourselves on the back!

Take a Few Minutes to Understand

I had two recent encounters with people in the retail business and both left me with the same lesson.

One is a manager of a farm store that I frequent. He has been pretty short and seemingly disinterested lately when I talk to him and ask him about various product questions. Come to find out, he recently slipped on a boat dock, hit his head on the concrete and he passed out. On top of that, he was underwater and his eleven year old daughter couldn’t move him to safety. He told me, “I don’t know why or how I woke up, but I did.” This led to a discussion about God and His relationship with Jesus, so please pray for this to lead to his coming to Jesus.

Another example was this morning as I was at the cell phone store dealing with a phone issue. We had two bad experiences at previous stores, had been on customer service for a long time last night and this morning, and I finally go to another of the store locations to get help. The young lady who helped me was very quiet as she did her job. Not very personal at all. About 10 minutes into working on a new SIM card, she said, “I’m sorry I’m quiet. My 14 year old dog is at home dying and I can’t get my mind off it.” It led to a good discussion, and I told her our family can certainly understand.

Now, the reason I bring these two examples up is because it would be easy to make a snap judgment about these two people and say they were rude, or didn’t care. We could walk away telling everyone how we received poor customer service. But what is the backstory? What’s going on in their lives? Did we take any time to think or consider what else is going on in their lives that may lead them to behave this way?

It is just another reminder for me, and I hope it helps you. Don’t be so hasty to make a judgment about someone. We certainly don’t like it when others do it about us.

But Only In Expressing His Opinion

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2).

Solomon says a lot about fools in Proverbs, of course he says a lot about wise people as well in contrast to the fool. What is a fool in the Biblical sense? You might want to search the book of Proverbs for that word and see all Solomon has to say about it. If you boil it down to the essentials, it comes down to this: a fool does not listen to anyone but himself.

The above proverb teaches us that a fool’s delight is not in understanding wisdom or receiving instruction. He only wants to tell you what he thinks.

It is just another reminder that a big part of communication is listening. A huge component of learning is listening. But if I’m always talking, and I really love the sound of my own voice, how can I learn? How can I effectively communicate when I’m the only one talking?

My daughter Lindsay calls this a “versation,” not a “con-versation.” She’s right on the money about that.

Do you notice how some folks just dominate a conversation? They just don’t know when to take a breath and let someone else say something. For some reason, they don’t recognize social cues to see that someone else is trying to talk. A person may be done listening a long time ago, but do I recognize that, or do I just keep prattling on? We may be perfectly comfortable in teacher mode, but are we just as comfortable in “student” mode? Do we assume that we have the right approach and answers to each situation and that others are indebted to hear us talk about it?

It’s not that we want to call ourselves or others fools, but it would be good to take a cue from the proverb here and recognize that maybe we talk too much and listen far too little. And when we behave that way, we lack a true heart and desire for understanding. We won’t understand other people, because we really aren’t interested in it, and we won’t understand God’s truth, because we really are only in love with our opinions.

Ask more questions to engage others in conversation.

Be willing to let someone speak freely even if he or she has a different opinion or approach than you do.

Commit to hearing someone else’s story instead of being in such a hurry to tell your own.

Devote yourself to prayer for the Lord to give you courage and understanding to close your mouth and open your ears.

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.

Becoming a Better Listener

The thought for today is…How well do you listen to your children?

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19)

Here are some basic indications of whether we need to work on our listening skills:

  1. If you are doing all the talking (i.e. lecturing), by definition you are not listening very much.
  2. When your children keep saying things like, “Dad, you’re not listening,” then you need to pay attention to this cue. They are probably right.
  3. If you keep interrupting, you are not taking time to let your son or daughter explain what’s on his or her mind.
  4. If you are thinking of what to say next, then you are really not waiting to hear their side of the story.
  5. If you assume what you heard instead of asking questions to clarify, then you become the judge without a fair trial.

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Keep in mind, dads, that our children first get an understanding of approaching the “Father in heaven” by their experience in approaching their father on earth.

  • Are you approachable?
  • Does your child feel like you are going to pounce on her verbally before she even finishes her sentence?

Today, take some time to reflect upon this. May the Lord give us the patience, humility, and approachable spirit that willingly listens to our children.