Willing to Hear, Able to Bear the Truth

The cavalier assumption, “If there is something God wants me to hear, I will hear it,
masquerades as faith — but it is not faith — it is ignorance of how hearing God works. God’s word will come to us, no matter where we are; but for it to germinate into our understanding of what God is saying, that word (like a seed) must find suitable soil in our soul to unfold. More often than not, the cavalier assumption that it is “all up to God” is a cover-up by those whose inclination is not to hear, because they really don’t want to.

Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts . . .

Ps 95:7-8

In each of my last four lessons my arrow has sought one target — to show you the potential that existed for God to get through to someone, so that He could move them in a specific direction, so that He could accomplish something on their behalf — but how they kept that possibility from being realized. We need to understand that when it comes to us hearing and understanding what God is saying to us, it is not all up to God.

  • Jesus wept over Jerusalem, wanting to gather her into His protective custody; but she was unwilling (Matthew 23:37) . . . He wanted her to hear Him, but she didn’t, and she payed the ultimate price . . . having no idea of the jeopardy from which He wanted to protect her.

 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side,  and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Luke 19:41-44, NASU

  • God sent a warning to His faithful servant Josiah, telling him to turn away from King Necco, but Josiah didn’t recognize the word coming from the mouth of God to save him, and he died as a result.
  • Everything was in place. His gift of  The Promised Land was set before Israel, ready to be received. The divine dialogue between God and His people had been unfolding for over 400 years in prophecy and promises; and in the last year signs and wonders had accompanied the supernatural events leading up to Moses’ leading them out of Egypt to bring them to the edge of Canaan as free men. But one look at the giants caused Israel to forget everything God had ever said about this land and His plan for her. As a result she went dark for 40 years — unwilling to hear, unable to bear the truth. His words fell on deaf ears.

Scripture makes clear that God wants us to hear Him, that He wants to accomplish things on our behalf, but we have to be  willing to collaborate with Him for God’s loving intention to be fulfilled in our life.

Our will matters to God. He is neither indifferent nor apathetic to what we will.  Jesus wept because the children of Jerusalem were not willing to be gathered into His protection. He was passionate about getting His message across, but He refused to make it happen without their willingness.  

Scripture paints a very clear picture of  how our willingness is fundamental to what God will accomplish in our life.

The potential of everything He could do and be for us will be realized or will fail to be realized in our life, depending on the willingness of our collaboration.

This holds true for hearing and understanding what God is saying to you, but for everything else as well.  Every dream, every hope, every intention God has for us will be lost or gained by our willing collaboration. Indifference and unbelief shut out what God wants to do and be for us. . . because they shut down our willingness to collaborate with Him.

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God refuses to make any one of us hear anything, apart from our being willing.

The proof of this lies all about us.  Think of how many times you have earnestly shared the same truth with someone you know and care about — and they hear your words — but they don’t hear the truth.  You want to save them from heartache. God wants to save them from heartache.  But until they are ready and willing, they are not going to hear the truth.

The reason for this is that our willingness to hear is not measured by curiosity — it is measured by something much more demanding, much more telling — our commitment to change our current perception for the correction God wants to bring.

God’s thoughts, God’s perspective, God’s reasoning are far above our own, so almost everything He has to say carries a measure of correction in it, as He seeks to gently shape our thinking toward the truth of His own.

Our unwillingness to be corrected keeps us from being willing to hear.

In sharing my story last week, I illustrated how God sometimes allows painful consequences to bring us to a place where we become willing to receive correction, willing to yield our stubborn flawed perception to the truth God wants us to see. [1]   Needing to be right, our vested self-interest, our sensitivity to critique, our resistance to have our perceptions challenged or changed sabotage us — keeping us from willing collaboration with God’s deep desire to make His presence real in our lives.

Until we become willing to exchange our perceptions for what God is trying to show us (and He will work to get it across to us in a multitude of ways),  we will remain shut down against him, unwilling to hear, unable to bear the truth. 

* * *

So very often Scripture equates repentance, a God-worked change in our perception, with His keeping and protecting us.

The prophet Isaiah told his people,

In repentance (turning in your heart, having your perception changed by God’s work in you) and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength. But you were not willing.

 Isaiah 30:15 

Really painful consequences were coming, which God did not desire, but which He was not going to stop. Why? Because they were not willing.


Isaiah is laying the sacred gift of an inviolable will at the feet of his people, and at ours — along with the sobering risk it entails.  In a just universe, where God has set laws and principles into motion which we don’t begin to understand, He longs to be gracious, He wants to have compassion on us . . .  but He waits on high  until we are willing.

Isaiah describes how Israel is about to be overcome by their enemies because

▪   they were not willing to hear, to be teachable, to be persuaded and

▪   they don’t trust Him

 

How does God feel as He warns His people of the suffering that is coming?

Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.

Isa 30:18

God longs to be gracious and compassionate — but his grace and compassion will not be realized in their lives — apart from their reciprocal longing. There is a principle at work here; moral justice demands that God not violate their will. Therefore He waits on high . . . longing to do more than He can.

Do we understand the dynamic significance of our longing, of our being willing?

 My eyes fail with longing for Your word . . .  (Ps 119:82)

How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Isa 30:18)

Our longing for Him enables God to bless us as He longs to do.

  • Longing for Him is expressed in our longing for His word: our willingness to recognize and respond to the word He sends, our quickness to repent as we allow Him to change our perception.
  • Stubborn indifference, digging our heels in, thinking what we want regardless of what He is trying to show us expresses contempt for Him.
  • All too often His people go through the motions of a relationship, but those motions will prove devastatingly empty until they become willing to hear, able to bear the truth . . . 

 

 The Barrier

In his slim volume of terrifying power [2], Elie Wiesel remembers the Night that fell upon the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

He begins by describing a clownish, waiflike figure from his childhood known by the local villagers as Moishe the Beadle. Moishe lived in abject poverty among the Jews of Sighet, a village in Transylvania, “rendering himself insignificant, invisible.” But Weisel remembers splashes of spiritual profundity in the strange little man, which haunt him still.

One day the Hungarian police expelled all foreign Jews from Sighet, taking Moishe the Beadle away in the crammed cattle car of a train. The deportees were quickly forgotten, until Moishe returned months later. Wild with terror he told tales of men, women and children being taken off the train and forced to dig a trench—their own grave — above which they were shot “without passion or haste … infants … tossed into the air and used as targets for machine guns.” [3] Moishe wept and pleaded, “Jews, listen to me!” He shouted in the synagogue, but no one heard him.

In the spring of 1944 rumors from the Russian Front raised hope that Germany would be defeated. “The Red Army is advancing with giant strides . . . Hitler will not be able to harm us, even if he wants to . . .”  It was inconceivable that even with Hitler’s resolve to exterminate them, he could annihilate an entire population dispersed through so many countries, millions in the middle of the 20th century. Surely, the world would not allow it.  Thus the villagers of Sighet convinced themselves.

Elie listened to Moishe ranting and raving, trying to understand his grief. But like the rest of the Jews in Sighet, he pitied the little man, never once considering that he brought a message that was meant-to-save their lives.

In those days it was still possible to obtain emigration to Palestine, but that would mean selling everything and leaving all they knew behind. Reports of anti-Semitic acts filtered in, creating panic, as the actuality of their jeopardy  pierced through their mental defenses to momentarily sink in.  But the message of warning, a momentary iridescence bringing light into the darkness of their un-knowing, never lasted for long before false optimism damped it out.

Even when the German army drove into the village of Sighet, their officers housed in Jewish homes, the Fascists in power, and the verdict set—“the Jews of Sighet were still smiling.” [4]

Blind to the terror confronting them, deaf to the message they refused to believe, the Jews of Sighet did not understand that they were being given the chance to flee.

 

There is a barrier that defines the difference between our failure to realize what God wants to do and be for us and His success in getting us there.

No matter how urgent His message, no matter how much God longs to be gracious and have compassion on us, this barrier between where we are and where God wants us to be exists as long as we remain unwilling to hear and unable to bear the truth. We have to will — to long for — what He wants to do and be for us, in order to get there.

  • He wants to draw us under the protection of His wings, but we have to be willing.
  • He wants to spare us from the self-sabotage of the false optimism, of the lies we tell ourselves; but we have to so long for the truth that we are willing to have our perceptions changed.

Yet all too often we are like the Jews of Sighet, discounting the messenger — or like Israel with her prophets, stoning the messenger —  unwilling to hear, unable to bear the truth.

* * *

What makes us willing to hear and able to bear the truth?

In the movie, A Few Good Men, a legendary moment takes place in a fiery exchange between Tom Cruise (Kaffee) and Jack Nicholson (Jessep), delivering a hard hitting truth to us all. The younger of the two demands an answer.

The older fires back, “You want answers?” 

“I think I’m entitled to them,” Kaffee ( Tom Cruise) resolutely stands his ground.

The older Jessep (Jack Nicholson) asks again tauntingly,You want answers?”

Passionately banging his fist on the table Kaffee shouts back, “I want the truth!

Quick as lighting, the older Jessep strikes with deadly accuracy: ” Truth. You can’t handle the truth!”

 

The fact is, we say we want the truth, but we aren’t able to bear it.

Looking out on the faces and into the hearts of those gathered around Him, Jesus longed to tell them more, but he said,  “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

John 16:12-13, NASU

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What makes us able to bear the truth?

Read the story of David’s life, listen to his thoughts in The Psalms,  and it becomes readily apparent that his view of God made him able to bear the truth of the hardest moments in his life.

  • The years Saul kept him on the run, relentlessly seeking his life, David’s trust in God to deliver him and ultimately justify him enabled him to bear the truth of unjust accusation.
  • When Nathan brought word that the sword would never leave his house, because David had sent innocent Uriah to his death by the sword — David’s view of God’s mercy and forgiveness enabled him to bear the truth of just consequences.
  • When Absalom, his son, overthrew his kingdom to usurp his throne, David’s view of God’s sovereignty enabled him to bear the truth of an uncertain future and a divided kingdom spawned by his failures as a father.
  • David’s view of God: that He was “for him” and not “against him”, that He would bring good out of every trial entrusted to Him, that He was good, that He could be trusted, that He was stronger than David’s most threatening enemies, that He would eventually overcome his enemies enabled David to bear the truth of every situation.
In every case, Scripture demonstrates the same principle: that a right view of God gives His people the ability to bear the truth of their situation — while a wrong view plunges them into denial, fear and deception.

  • Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego could bear the reality of being thrown into a fire alive,  without fear or compromise,  because they rightly estimated God’s ability to save them if He chose. (and He did) (Daniel 3)
  • But Israel could not bear the truth of the giants in the land because she viewed God as unwilling and unable, wrongly accusing Him of bringing them all that way  just to slay them with their little ones. (they died, but their children went on to receive the land they couldn’t)
In his book, Night, Wiesel describes a village facing a reality so terrible that they were unwilling to hear, unable to bear the truth.  They were — as we are — all too often so unsure of God that they would rather cling to their false optimism (that would betray them) than hear the the word of warning  meant-to-save them . . . the word that came to them from the mouth of God in the hapless figure of Moishe the Beadle. 
*
For some,  the nightmare of the Third Reicht became the voice of God calling His beloved.  For a few,  the impending storm darkening the skies of Europe brought a divine summons to the resurrection of a lost dream . . . to Israel . . . Willing to hear, able to bear the truth, these Jews were made stronger not weaker — selling all they had, leaving all they had ever known, to fulfill their part in the destiny of an almost forgotten promise — a promise that in their darkest hour was in the process of being fulfilled.  
*
The divine dialogue . . . may we recognize its summons. . .  

for no matter where we are the word will come to find us, to bring us from where we are to where we are meant-to-be. . . if we long for His word, He will make us

 willing to hear, able to bear the truth

__________________

[1] See “How Wilderness Believers Leave the Desert Behind”, May 30, 2012

[2] From The New York Times’ description of Night, on the 2006 edition’s cover, A New Translation by Marion Wiesel

[3] Elie Wiesel, Night, Hill and Wang, New York, 2006, p 6.

[4] Ibid, p. 10.

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  1. Duhi Schneider says:

    I need to continue to hear the Truth even when truth hurts and be able to bear it!
    Thanks Val!

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