Week Seven: Laying the Foundation – Hearing God Through Scripture
Reflect: How often do you read the bible?
“Meditating on scripture brings wisdom and insight, opening our eyes to see its meaning” – Sheridan Voysey
Learning to hear God through scripture is key to learning to hear God speak, period. Scripture is the litmus test that affirms the voice we are hearing is His.
Q: When you read the bible, why do you read (what prompts or motivates you)?
Q: What do you think is the difference between reading scripture and meditating on it?
There was a time when the primary reason I read scripture was so that I could look up verses that would support whatever point I was trying to make with someone else, because I was more interested in being heard than I was in really listening (whether it was the person speaking with me or God Himself). As I’ve said before, I knew just enough to be convinced I was right, but not enough to understand when I was wrong.
It wasn’t until I began to purpose to read scripture daily that I began to really enjoy what I was reading. I got hungry for His word, and I got curious. Curious enough to want to know what the bible was speaking to me personally, curious enough to see what it said without any preset agenda, or to want to know what happened in the next chapter, when it was written and by whom, what else was going on historically in the connected world during the time period for what I was reading, why this word was chosen and not that one, or why one translation put it one way and another totally different, and on and on.
As I read with this growing sense of curiosity, I began to see things I had never seen before. Like the fact that Jesus had a sense of humor both with His disciples as well as with the Pharisees. Also, that you can press scripture extremely hard and it never fails the scrutiny or test, which led me to believe every “jot and tittle” in the original texts had been carefully placed for a reason, which in turn made me want to know what did the original texts say? Wow, I felt like a sponge that could not absorb enough. I hope I always feel this way, because I discovered that although discipline takes us across the starting line, it is love that takes us across the finish line. I never want to lose my love and passion for Him!
I could go on, but the point is, all of that curiosity began building inside of me a much deeper desire to know God more than ever, and to read just for the pleasure of discovering Him, period. I began to want to hear Him, praying continually that He would speak to me, reveal Himself to me, open my spiritual ears to hear and my spiritual eyes to see. I asked for wisdom, knowledge, and insight with understanding, and set myself, my heart, to receive whatever He granted.
One thing that really helped me during this initial time of discovery was a book by Dallas Willard, called Hearing God. If you are interested, I would encourage you to purchase and read it. Here are a few suggestions Dallas Willard makes within that book that I was able to grasp onto and build from:
Read the passage slowly, considering the invitation that reading scripture is “encountering God Himself or hearing His voice”, and then read it again. Listen with the ear of your heart for one of the following:
- A word or phrase, a detail or a special moment of the story that shimmers or stands out to you
- Where you find yourself in the passage. Don’t choose yourself, allow the Spirit to bring it to you
Read the passage again, slowly, reflect the following:
- The word or phrase that stood out to you. Why do you think it resonated with you?
- Who or what you found yourself to be in the passage. How does it feel? What draws you? What are you feeling or thinking about God?
- Take a moment and then ask yourself, how does this connect with my life today?
Talk to the Lord about what you think the Spirit might have said or what came to you. Pray in whatever way you are led.
Do as you are led. You may wish to wait on God, to simply be with God, or ponder over your thoughts. What about God makes you want to worship Him? Sit in the companionship of God – the one who invites you to come away and be with Him.
This is just one of many exercises you can do when reading scripture. If this one does not work for you, the key is to find one that does. The quote noted at the beginning of this lesson comes from an excerpt of the “Our Daily Bread” devotionals, and is written by Sheridan Voysey. Mr. Voysey goes on to suggest another exercise you can try is to simply ponder a single parable for a week, or read a gospel in one sitting. Spend time viewing a verse from all angles. The point, he notes, is to go deep, as biblical insight comes from meditating on scripture, not just reading it.
Exercise: Take 15 minutes to practice one of these methods by reading the story of the paralytic and his four friends, from Matthew 9:1-13.
Q: What do you believe you may have heard the Lord impressing on you about this portion of scripture (What stood out to you)?
Q: What questions did you find yourself asking?
Q: Does anyone care to share within the group how this might connect with your life today?
Following is a blog I wrote about this passage as I was reading through this book. I call it “Theo’s Story”, and have it here below for your convenience. In our upcoming session we’ll spend time reviewing the highlights. As I wrote the blog, these were the kinds of thoughts I was having surrounding that portion of scripture, those that made me curious about these verses as I read through them. The blog is what I gleaned as a result. Perhaps you had a similar discovery?
“Live life without regrets” can only be done from this point forward (it can never be applied to our past), don’t you agree? I am guessing I may not be the only one who has felt like there were certain things I’ve done in life that were just downright nasty, not only to myself but to others as well; or perhaps that they were too great to be forgiven and I deserved whatever hand I had been dealt as a result.
SO… I find the story of the paralytic who was brought to Jesus by his four friends interesting. I recently read it again from Matthew 9:1-13. Accounts often highlight the faith of the 4 guys who brought their friend to Jesus, lowering him from the roof because it was the only way they could get through the crowd. For crying out loud, they broke a hole through the roof! It is truly a remarkable act of boldness!
If you’ve read that story before or heard about it, did you pay any attention to the young man of the story, the one being lowered? I admit, I hadn’t much.
“Take courage my son” Jesus said to him, “your sins are forgiven“.
Why did Jesus choose to say it that way? I’m guessing everyone in the room, including the scribes, expected Him to instead say “take up your bed and walk”. That means what Jesus said must have come as a surprise to them too. After all, the main need was physical healing, wasn’t it, or was it? Funny how we tend to assume. Of course, Jesus could have chosen to say it the way He probably had many times before. But this time was different, which creates the perfect opportunity for us to ask why.
I’m going to call this guy Theo so we can personalize him a bit. Jews in Theo’s culture appeared to regard disease as the effect of sin (see John 9:2 as an example of this). What if, in this case, they were right? What if Theo knew his illness had come about as a natural consequence of the lifestyle he had chosen to live apart from God?
The very first verse in our reading indicates this was in Jesus’ hometown. Perhaps Jesus knew of Theo and of the choices he had made. Theo could have felt ashamed, and perhaps thought his sins were too great and undeserving of healing. That may have been why the story told by Mark and Luke makes sure to mention it was his friends that brought him, and why their faith is noted as great. Were Theo’s friends standing in place for him because he had no faith of his own? Perhaps he felt he deserved to be crippled and dare not ask for mercy.
Put yourself in Theo’s place. If you were the one with the disease that had come about as a result of something you willfully chose to do, and you felt ashamed and too unworthy to approach a holy man that was familiar with you and the choices you had made (ugh, been there), what would you have wanted to hear first?
Take courage, lay aside your fears! You are forgiven!
Sin always lays heavier on the heart, body, and soul than does physical disease.
Then there are the scribes of the story, man oh man! When you read all the way to verse 13 instead of stopping at verse 8, do you get the idea that Jesus is intentionally provoking (or “poking the bear”) by choosing to verbally address the young man’s spiritual condition rather than his physical one? To me that is humorous, but there is a good reason behind it.
Verse six is the obvious clue, they needed to get a picture of His authority. The sad thing that struck me about their attitude in this portion of scripture, indeed throughout all the gospels, is that those who don’t have grace themselves, or know how to show mercy, are not happy when they see grace being extended to someone else. It is a telltale sign of the condition of the heart.
Do you need forgiveness? Take courage, lay aside your fears! No sin is too great, and He is waiting to offer it to you! God’s love is way bigger than any sin you have committed.
SONG: “You Are”