Good morning and welcome to Friday’s podcast. Here we are at the end of the week and here we are at the end of the book of Acts. We’ve skipped a few chapters to make it this far. I do hope you haven’t taken any short cuts this week!
Today’s reading is from Acts 28:23-30. The new format of the podcasts means that if you listen to the very end, after the song of worship, you can hear the whole reading in full. Sometimes you can even hear it twice in a single podcast!
“ ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
In this passage that Paul quotes to the Jews, he is quoting from Isaiah the prophet, applying ancient words of warning and rebuke to his current audience. You’re deaf… you’re blind… Just like Isaiah said you would be! Strong words!
But let’s think for a moment who it is that he is addressing… These are the Jews… these people are descended from the faithful remnant that returned to Israel after the exile. These are the people, many of whom has become super religious, attempting to keep God’s ways to the letter. These are the people who have seen the miracles, they are the ones who received God’s direct revelation, who wrote them down, who are guardians of God’s message… his very words. These are people with a heritage, these are God’s chosen…
So: what went wrong??
When did they stop listening? When did they stop looking? When did they become blind and deaf… And what can we learn for our own discipleship journey?
How can we hear something but not understand what is being said? Especially when there are so many commentaries, apps and resources that explain Jesus’ meaning. Is it simply the matter of comprehension, is it that the Jews are just a bit thick or that they are hard of hearing? Or is there more to it?
Jesus said in Luke 18:28 “Blessed [rather] are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” The Jewish people and the Israelite nation before them, had great history with God but the moment they stopped hearing was the moment that they stopped doing. It was the moment that they stopped putting what they heard into practice.
As a husband I am often accused of having selective hearing but my wife and children can be just the same. Ask the kids to do something and often they don’t hear me; whisper that mum has bought cake home and they hear every word. We as Christians can have the same problem with our ears when it comes to hearing God. We hear the message that God loves us and lavishes his grace upon us but when asked to do something we can suddenly become very deaf.
It’s a different problem with our eyes. When did the Israelites stop seeing? They stopped seeing God the moment they started looking at themselves, their strength, their resources, their power, their abilities, their military might. They stopped seeing God at work because they were looking at their own abilities, strengths and limitations. They even claimed credit for what God had done among them. As Christians we never do that do we? They saw trouble, they got afraid, they saw riches and took when God said no, they were told to wait for Gods timing but saw an opportunity and walked right into a trap. They thought they saw what to do and asked God to bless their plans… they missed seeing God’s plans, his promises delivered on.
If we want to hear God we have to put what he says into practice. If we want to see God we have to stop looking to ourselves and learn to rely on him, to trust what he says, and to rest in his promises.
If you don’t know what God is saying to you today, you don’t know where to begin, here is your starter for 10. Hear Jesus when he says, “love one another.” Hear God speak through Paul when he writes in Romans, “practice hospitality.” Go on… I dare you!
Father, thank you that you are to be trusted. Help us to hear your voice today and put it into practice. Help us to be hearers and doers of the word. When times are tough I ask that you would help us to rely on your ability to bring us through the problem rather than our own. When times are good, I pray that we would stand aside and give you all the credit. Amen.
READING: ACTS 28:23-30
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
‘“Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
‘Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.