Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 25 August 21:
Ecclesiastes 5:1 — “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”
To hear God, you must be near God. Of course, the issue of nearness to God is not about physical space but rather spiritual relationship, nearness in spirit. Jesus prayed there would be no distance between us and Him, that we would be “one” with Him, in perfect unity — “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21) And Jesus revealed that those who were one with Him would, by definition, be one with each other – “…that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11) Our closeness with God is most evident in our closeness to others in Christ, in the quality of our fellowship with other believers – “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Nearness is an issue of the heart – “…people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me….” (Isaiah 29:13) Nearness is about sincerity and faith – “…draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:22) Under the Old Covenant, there were limits to how close the sinner could get to God – the Levitical priests offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, and only the High Priest could enter the inner room and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. But now, through Jesus, “Let us… with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16). Jesus has opened up the Holy of Holies to us through His death on the cross. “Not only must we draw near to Christ, we must draw near to Him in confidence. This does not mean that we come arrogantly demanding forgiveness as a right. We draw near in confidence not because of our own ‘rights’ but because of the person and work of Christ. We are confident because God, who was not obligated to redeem us, nonetheless promises to forgive us if we submit to Christ. Drawing near in confidence means that we firmly believe God’s promise of grace in Christ.” (R.C. Sproul) “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
In Christ, we have unmerited and inalienable salvation and access to God to draw near to Him in total assurance and confidence. So, draw near to God and listen —
- Psalm 81:8 — Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
- Luke 9:35 — And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
- John 10:27 — My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
In today’s readings from 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns of false teachers – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….” Jesus says, if you know Him and His voice, you won’t be deceived by these robbers – “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” (John 10:8) The more we draw near to God and listen to Him by prayerfully studying and applying His word, the better equipped we are to spot false teachers – “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9)
Jesus also said that when we are near to Him and abide in His love, we will clearly recognize those who aren’t – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)
“…better than offering the sacrifice of fools.” Don’t be foolish. Draw near to your Good Shepherd, listen to His voice and obey. Don’t wander off and suffer needlessly –
- Matthew 9:36 — When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
- 1 Peter 2:25 — For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
- Psalm 23 — The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
- Revelation 7:17 — For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 August 21: Today, focus on drawing near to God and listening….