Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bill Cosby's Noah & The Parable of the Sower - Hearing from God

Today is day four of our "Read the Bible Through in a Year" journey.   The scripture today is Gen 9-11; Mark 4. 

Tomorrow's scripture is Gen 12-15; Mark 5; Psalm 148.

On the lighter side, I want to share with you a short video about Noah, from Mr. Bill Cosby.

In this video, Bill Cosby interprets Noah as having a tough time understanding God's spoken Word.  With a cynical look, he keeps saying, "Right!"  We think it's funny, but Cosby has hit on a truth here.  Noah had the advantage of hearing directly from God--something that not everyone experiences.  Bible scholars argue about why God seemed to speak more directly and more often in biblical times.  Personally, I don't think that God speaks any less directly or less often today.  The problem is that today we have more to distract us from His voice.  Constantly bombarded with information from the internet, billboards, radio, TV, and everything else, we're on overload!  We don't take the time to seek God out the way we should.  Consequently, when we do hear God speaking, we often have a difficult time understanding, or believing what God says.  Like Cosby's Noah, we look at God and say, "Right!"

In Mark 4:1-20 (ESV), Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, and explains why we have such a tough time hearing from God in a meaningful way:

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

When you find yourself reading God's Word but not understanding it, ask yourself, "Is my heart hard?  Am I letting Satan snatch away the Word that is planted in me?  Am I too shallow to absorb what God is giving me?  Am I letting distractions choke the life out of God's Word?"  Then ask God to make you fertile soil to receive His truth.

Sometimes, no matter how much you try to understand something in the Bible, it just escapes you.  You're not alone.  All believers have gone through this at one time or another.  Jesus' audience was frustrated with him because He spoke in parables and didn't come out and say what was on his mind, openly.  The reason He did this was so that the ones who were ready to receive it would understand, and the ones whose hearts were shallow, distracted, or hard wouldn't understand.  All they would hear was a good story.

I'm often amazed at the response I get from sermons, that indicate whether a person has been really listening, or whether a person has only heard a snippet on the surface.  This past Sunday, for example, I wanted to say, like Jesus, "Those who have ears to hear, let them hear."  Everybody has ears--but not everybody has ears to hear.  Sunday's sermon was one that stepped on a lot of toes.  I was amazed when some people who should have been limping away (metaphorically, of course) came up to me and said, "Yeah--you tell 'em, preacher!  They really needed to hear that!"  The question is, but did YOU hear that?

Similarly, when my wife went to Sunday school, she came back talking about how the lesson was one that should have cut people's conscience to the quick, but people in the class applied the message to what "today's society" needs to learn, rather than what I need to learn in my own life.
We need to wipe the impish grins off our faces when we read the Bible or hear a sermon or participate in a Sunday school class.  We need to quit elbowing the person next to us, or assuming the message is for them and not us.  We need to let God make our hearts into fertile ground so that when we do hear from Him, His Word grows to fruition.  When God speaks, we need to say, Right--not in a cynical way, but in a way that means, Yes, Lord!  I will do as You say!

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