To stand before the people of God with the book of God in order to communicate the will of God is a dangerous thing. James, the half-brother of Jesus, who had become a pillar in the early church, wrote in the third chapter of his letter, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (Jas. 3:1). It’s no small thing to handle and proclaim the truth of God, seeing that those who do so will be judged with greater strictness.
Yet, at the same time, it’s no small thing for people to hear the truth of God. In Micah 6:8, the prophet said, “[God] has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah understood that when God speaks, man is under obligation to respond appropriately.
In Deuteronomy 10:12-13, after God lays down His law the second time, Moses says to the people, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?” In other words, Moses is saying, “Now that God has spoken, now that you know what He requires, you are required to respond appropriately.”
When the word of God is proclaimed, and we hear it, we become responsible and accountable. Jesus taught this same principle. He said, “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Lk. 12:47-48).
Taking in knowledge without taking action is a serious thing.
James would go on to say, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Obviously, this has massive implications for all of us.
What are we doing with what we hear and learn from the word of God?
We may sit and take notes during the sermon, but is the truth being written upon our hearts, and is it overflowing through our lives? Do we sit before the teaching of the word the same way we sit before the television or a musical performance, just to be entertained?
What happened in Ezekiel’s day is happening in our day, and tragically its become the normal church experience for many people. God said to Ezekiel, “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Eze. 33:30-32).
May God help us from falling into the deadly snare of hearing and learning but never responding.