Friday, December 6, 2013
Humble yourselves, take time to listen
FOR PEOPLE who are so driven by time and routine is is an amazing thing that the Israelites should have left their homes, come and lived primitively and spent all day, every day in a crowd listening to the word being read.
Yet many of us leave comfortable homes to go camping on a New Wine week and spend most of the day, and most of the days hearing the word in one form or another. Whether what we do around reading the word is at all similar to the Levites “making it clear and giving the meaning” (Neh. 8:8) is an interesting question.
They might have been doing a bit more than simply reading. How long would it take to read the 187 chapters from the start of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy? In the region of 40 hours I would suggest (a dramatic reading of Mark’s gospel takes about an hour and a half, for comparison). So seven full-on days’ worth would give enough time to do it twice – or do it with breaks and asides and some teaching thrown in.
That is still some soaking in the word. A lot of time, shoulder to shoulder. Even hardened train commuters would find that tough.
What happens when we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, and for that matter, under the word? Grace flows. In the NIV’s words for Proverbs 3:34, which Nehemiah and Ezra would have known off by heart, “God mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble.” Uncomfortable and rough clothing, standing in line, a lengthy hearing of the word recited – that is a voluntary humbling action, a stance that God, our covenant God, is bound to honour.
Little surprise, then, that it led to a national repentance, a kind of spiritual realignment for the nation as a whole, and a change of lifestyle. It was a change from “we do it our way” with Ammonite or Philistine women, children growing up in a mixed-faith culture and speaking different languages, and corruption everywhere you looked, to finding the God of Torah and Covenant, almost rediscovering their roots. And it came from hearing afresh the guidance and the Lord of the Scriptures.
So here’s the questions for us.
- How might we humble ourselves?
- How might we hear afresh?
How ready are we to hear, and change?
On a smaller scale, that is a day by day, week by week question. The danger is that we will carry on being driven by time and routine – and miss what God, for us our Father, who we are privileged to know personally and walk with in our lives… miss what He is saying to us.