When the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy regarding this young evangelist’s ministry, Paul was specific that Timothy should do several things. He told Timothy, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching […] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4.13, 16).
Listening to the Word of God
In as much as we are accustomed to read the Bible to ourselves, there is much emphasis in Scripture about public settings where the Bible is read aloud. Moses read the Law to all of Israel (Exod. 24.3). Ezra read the Law to all of Israel (Nehemiah 8:1-8). Josiah’s reformation was predicated upon the public reading of the Law (2 Kings 22-23). And the Jerusalem church acknowledged that “Moses” (= the Law) was proclaimed since time immemorial (Acts 15.21).
Sometimes a difference is made between “listening” and “hearing”, and one might even suggest that a person can “listen” but never quite listen to the message of a conversation. Likewise, a person can “hear” someone speaking to them and be found in the same predicament – they did not really hear the content of the message.
Jesus faced a similar problem. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus would often say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11.14; cf. Mark 4.9 and Luke 8.8, Mark 4. 23, Luke 14.35). Such admonitions stem from an old plea from God through the prophet Moses in Deuteronomy 29.2-4:
And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
Moses’ words echo throughout the entire biblical tradition, for both testaments embrace the notion of using our ears and eyes to hear and see with spiritual clarity.
How can we incorporate the listening of Scripture into our routine? Fortunately, technology is our ally; really, it is more – it is our servant ready to perform for our Spiritual needs. There are Bibles on tape, cd, mp3, DVD, online, podcast, and whatever else the future provides as the new tech savvy way to provide audio content.
Some audio Bibles are available free online, some are relatively inexpensive to acquire, and others are accentuated with marketing strategies using popular actors, singers, or other types of celebrity voices in dramatized versions of the audio Bible.
There are so many types of Bible in multiple versions that finding the one that we like the most should be our biggest problem, not the listening of the Bible. The problem is not access, it is habit – it is the failure to make it a routine to listen to the Bible.
(1) Purchase an audio Bible
That is pretty basic. Go to an online store or a local bookstore – Christian or otherwise – and bring home an audio Bible that you can use in the car, on your iPod or mp3 player, one that you can play on your desktop or laptop. The point is: take the first step into a larger world.
(2) Make a time slot
You are going to set aside to listen to the Bible. Select maybe a half an hour every other night dedicated to listening to a book or several books of the Bible (especially those small ones!). We find time to watch our favorite TV show so we can know how the story unfolds, we ought to develop the same fervor to hear the Word (“what can we learn from God’s care of Esther?”).
(3) The iPod should be God’s pod
Surely, we can make room for God in our iPod or mp3 player. GB should not only stand for gigabyte, but also for God’s bite. Any portable media player can be a source of spiritual enrichment. For example, at the doctor’s office while you are “waiting for those results”, at the Department of Motor Vehicles when you need the patience of Job, or just when you are experiencing a time of deep emotional turmoil. Why turn to The Killers, Kanye West, or Ke$ha, when we can turn to our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
(4) Make driving time spiritual time
In Acts 8.26-40, we find the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is a story of providence and salvation, but what appeals to our study from this narrative is that the eunuch was leaving Jerusalem in commute over 1,000 miles to Gaza in his chariot. The text reads that he “was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah” (Acts 8.28). We can turn off our typical (habitual?) morning wake-up show for some Scripture time.
We have brethren creating websites and networks to provide audio content and spiritual equipment in podcasts and sermons, and we would do well to expand our listening library to include these to our audio library. Again, these suggestions are just to get your creative juices flowing. Find time (however brief) to include God and His word in your everyday lifestyle – it will literally change your world.
- The last sure place in the New Testament where such an appeal is made to ears that hear is in Romans 11.8 in a quotation of Isaiah 29.10 and coupled with the oldest biblical reference in Deuteronomy 29.4.
- It is worth noting that such references are mostly found in the prophetic admonitions where spiritual sensitivity is valued at a high premium: Isaiah (30.21), Jeremiah (25.4), Ezekiel (3.10, 12.2, 40.4, 44.5), and Zechariah (7.11).
- Bible.org offers a free Bible podcast of their New English Translation of the Holy Bible on iTunes. I have enjoyed the translation in hard copy form, and am really enjoying it in audio format. But, there are many other translations available.