“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 33: AUGUST 24
LUKE 9 – 24:53
“Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.” Jesus says this in response to a woman’s comment about how blessed his mother must be, to have him as a son. Note that Jesus doesn’t only say that those who hear God’s Word are blessed, but those who hear and keep it. The keeping is as important as the hearing, maybe even more important.
- Lots of people sit in pews on Sunday, hearing God’s Word, and then walk out of the building and live their lives like unbelievers. Yes, Mary was blessed to have Jesus as a son, but we’re all the more blessed, according to Jesus, if we both hear the Word and keep it. Jesus’ job was preaching and teaching the Word, as is ours when God gives us the signal. But it’s not our job to force people to keep God’s Word. That’s up to them, whether or not they want to keep it. Your job is (or will be) to preach and teach the Word, and theirs will be to keep it. And we are also held to the same standard, whether we’re already teaching the Word or still just learning it. It’s not enough just to hear it and teach it: You have to keep it.
- I mentioned, when introducing this Bible read-through nearly 40 days ago, that we’re going to need to feed on God’s Word, if we’re going to make it through what’s coming in the very near future. And if you’ve been paying attention to the news of the world over the past few days, you know what I’m talking about. The walls are closing in. The read-through is intended to get you immersed in the Word, like when you take a running leap off a dock and jump into a lake any old way, without worrying about your diving form. You can work on that later. All that matters right now is that you’re immersed in God’s Word and that it’s feeding you. And you need to stay immersed for the rest of your days, or you won’t make it home.
- Jesus says we have to both hear (or read) God’s Word and keep it. It’s a two-step process. But we can’t keep what we don’t hear. That’s one of the reasons why so many Christians have gone so far astray – they simply haven’t heard or read. They hear only what the worldly church wants them to hear, which usually concerns the importance of giving money to the church. No matter how compelling a sermon is, at some point it turns into a plea for donations. That’s how you know you’re in a worldly church.
- As Jesus said: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. God doesn’t require you to pay any money to hear his Word or to learn what you need to learn to survive your tests and temptations. If you feel compelled to give money for hearing God’s Word, you are dealing with a false prophet. Jesus said there would be a lot of those at the end of the times of the gentiles, and so there are, just as there were a lot of false prophets at the end of the times of the Israelites that marked Jesus’ first coming. More than anything else, false prophets are the sign of the end of an age and of a falling away. False prophets can only thrive where people don’t know and don’t keep God’s Word.
- Regardless of the time of the age, God’s Word stays the same. His directives stay the same. The Commandments don’t change. Treating others as we want to be treated doesn’t change. Loving our enemies doesn’t change. We see this exemplified in how Jesus handled his betrayal, arrest, torture, and execution. He didn’t waver from keeping God’s Word. He didn’t break the Commandments. He continued to treat others as he would want to be treated. And he even showed love and forgiveness towards those who were torturing and executing him. Nothing changed in how he kept God’s Word.
- Jesus is our example. We are his followers, which means we’re to live our lives as he lived his, and to respond to situations as he responded. That’s what it means to be his follower. But Jesus could not have done what he did in the face of such brutality if it weren’t for God guiding and strengthening him. He could not have done it on his own.
- We also will not be able to keep God’s Word without God’s help. The members of the early church who lived their lives on the run were supernaturally protected by God because they not only heard the Word, they kept it, whether it was convenient for them or not, and whether they felt like keeping it or not. They were under God’s protection because they chose his way; God will not protect those who choose against his way, even if they persist in calling themselves his children.
- The three Gospels that we’ve already read (Matthew, Mark and Luke) give similar retellings of the final hours of Jesus’ life on Earth in human form (that is, in an imperfect mortal body, such as the one we’re in now). He shares the Passover meal with his closest followers, instituting a new way to keep it in memory of him. Then he goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. When he is fully strengthened and resolved (by God’s help, not that of his followers), he embraces his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, calmly goes with the soldiers arresting him, and submits to imprisonment. The next we see him, he is being tortured and then brought before Pontius Pilate and Herod, where he basically just repeats back to them what they say to him, but otherwise remains silent. He mounts no defence. After his sentencing, he is taken to be crucified.
- In none of this does he struggle against his accusers or torturers. In none of this does he curse them or taunt them. Knowing it’s his time and also his job, he submits to their abuse and then actually prays for them. This is Jesus modeling to us, his followers, that we’re to keep the Commandments, treat others as we want to be treated, and love our enemies, regardless of the circumstances. At no time did he try to escape. At no time did he lash out or struggle. At no time did he curse. By God’s strength and guidance, he endured in the same way he had endured for all of his time on Earth. Nothing changed in his response to the world.
- As I mentioned yesterday, I hate reading about Jesus being tortured. Maybe part of my hating to read about it is knowing that, as his follower and given the times, I will likely suffer the same or similar end as Jesus. All his followers will. Note that Jesus didn’t want to be tortured. He prayed until his sweat fell like drops of blood to get God to change the content if not the course of what had to be done, but God wouldn’t budge. Scripture had to be fulfilled, and Jesus finally accepted it. We need to accept it, too, because it’s scriptural that our end will also be nasty, if we’re genuinely a follower of Jesus – as is the master, so are the servants.
- Maybe part of the loathing I have for reading about Jesus’ torture and execution is knowing it’s waiting for me, too. Jesus didn’t want it and tried to find another way to accomplish the same outcome, but it wasn’t possible. We’ll likely also try to find some other way, when our time comes, but that’s when we need more than anything else not only to remember what we heard in God’s Word, but to keep it. That means no cursing our enemies, no struggling, no resisting, no grandstanding, no planning our defence in advance. We need to face whatever is coming our way exactly as Jesus faced it – on the move and avoiding it until it was his time, and then submitting to it.
Blessed are those who hear God’s Word, and keep it. It’s all well and good to read the Bible (we need to; it’s our mother’s milk), but it’s just as important to do what it says. Of all the words you’ve read over the past 33 days and nights (and all the words you’ve yet to read over the next 7), it will someday come down to whether or not you actually keep them. Your final test will be your hardest. Resolve now not only to hear but to keep God’s Word, so that when your time comes, you face it like Jesus.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.