All Present to Hear All That is Commanded
One of the first lessons we teach our children is how to listen. In most cases, they have no problem learning to talk, but learning to listen is not so easy. We must teach them to stop other activities and concentrate on the things being said, particularly by those in authority. It is only after one has heard that he can properly react to the message. Yet, learning to listen to parents, teachers, and others in authority is not the ultimate point of preparing our children to hear. The ultimate aim of such training is preparation to listen with true respect and reverence to the instruction of God. Anytime we prepare to engage in the study of the Bible, it would be good for us to examine ourselves about our readiness to hear God's will proclaimed.
Cornelius' example in Acts 10:33 is an example of preparation to hear God's Word. After relating the things that led up to his sending for Peter, Cornelius said, “So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all things commanded you of God.” We find three essential qualities that must be a part of every prepared hearer. First, they were all present. One cannot hear all that is said if one is not present when the speaking begins. Absence or tardiness makes proper hearing impossible. Let's all determine (commit) to be on time or early and set our minds to HEAR. Second, they assembled with the knowledge they were in the presence of God to hear. If our focus is on other people or things, they cannot be adequately focused on what God has to say. We must always remember that we come into the presence of God when we listen to His Word or come into the assembly of the saints. We should be moved by that recognition: I am in God's presence. Third, they were ready to hear all things commanded by God. One is not properly prepared to hear if he only wants to hear parts of the truth, rather than the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20-27). Nor can one listen if he comes to be entertained by stories, jokes, or other crowd gathering techniques of human design. We should come to hear the whole counsel of truth, including reproofs, rebukes, and exhortations of the Scriptures.
Priority of Listening
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does no produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19,20). Here God indicates listening comes first to all who aim for the righteousness of God. Our priorities must place God above our own desires and pursuits. If not, we will hear speech that pursues our own selfish ends through self-justification, gossip, slander, or other base means. Such “listening” will not benefit to the cause of God, but will end is wrath and detriment to God's cause.
When we truly seek the righteousness of God, we properly value the need to listen to God's word and humbly seek its instruction. Our life will be evidence of the attitude of Psa.1:2 “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates both day and night”. Solomon mentioned this priority of hearing in Eccl.5:1 “be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools”. Does this lower the value of sacrifice? Of course not, it simply confirms the priority of hearing God's will FIRST to properly sacrifice. All proper obedience is directed in God's word: therefore we must prioritize hearing.
I have to note the difference in being “swift to hear” and the time given to hearing to be swift. Too many in our day want “sound bites”. How can anyone hope to spend eternity in reverent praise to God and yet complain if the teaching goes longer than thirty or forty minutes?
Purity & Meekness in Listening
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). If our lives are contaminated with such, we cannot receive the Word as we ought. Christ himself declared that such cannot coexist, but must be purged from our lives (Rom.12:1,2; Col.3:5-10)
Meekness is essential for all who desire God's word to have a lasting impact upon their lives. Meekness simply means to allow God to rule over and reshape our will. As in I Sam. 3, “Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth”.
James goes a step further. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas 1:22). God expects us to not only hear, but to put His instructions into action. Hearing God is NOT just intellect exercise. Proper hearing will change our lives. Non-active hearing is useless to God: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror, for the sees himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (Jas.1:23, 24) Why look in a mirror if we don't intend to correct whatever is amiss? That makes looking in the mirror useless.
James continues to show us how we should react to God's message. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this on will be blessed in what he does” (Jas.1:25). We must remember and continue in God's word.
If we are prepared to hear God, we will not reject any instruction found in His word. We will purge our lives of evil and be true hearers. As we learn to listen, and take heed how we hear God's will, we will be more like Him. Brethren, think on these things.