The Way to Receive God’s Word
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (Genesis 12:1-4, ESV)
The DNA of faith, the very Word God planted in Abraham, the history of faith began. Therefore, we need to know well the promise given to Abraham to know what faith is. What started the meeting of God and Abraham? The Word. By God searching for Abraham and giving him the Word, the history of everything started. When you draw a picture, there is a moment you put a brush on the canvas for the first time. Such a moment is like the moment God gave Abraham the Word.
There were many gods at the time, and the people living where Abraham lived had been serving gods in their way. The meetings of those gods and the people took place in some kind of image. The people made images, whether they be images of animals or image of their ancestors, into idols and carried with them while they lived their lives of faith. They lived their religious life. In the area where Abraham was living was the first, oldest civilization among every civilization of the world. The alphabet we use now originated from there. And despite the fact it was hard to see a two-story building during the Chosun dynasty era in Korea, they built buildings of tens of stories in that area: it was a tremendous area. As advanced as they were, there were many works of evil spirits, and idolatry was severe. The meetings of those idols and the people started with something sensual, something that can be seen or carried. However, the meeting of God and Abraham started with the Word.
So He gave him the Word saying, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” And Abraham obeyed this Word, and their relationship began. If he had not obeyed when given this Word, this relationship could not have been established. But God gave the promise first, gave the Word first, and Abraham received it, and the covenant between the two was established. Such is faith. Faith is not one-sided but is achieved by agreement, by covenant between the two. It is a covenant relationship. Covenant. This is the same with us. We made a covenant with God; it’s not a relationship in which he unilaterally demands us or forces us to do something. Some people feel, it is hard to live their life of faith, confused that “God forces me to do something,” but this is not so at all. We made a promise to each other. A marriage is a promise. What is a marriage? A promise. Then why should we keep the promise? Why shouldn’t we date different women and different men than our spouse? Because we promised. Among Americans and Europeans, before marriage, their relationships with each other are very disorderly. It is something normal. Their relationships are so natural, hard for us to understand. When I was living in a dorm in China, the Europeans had their own girlfriends or boyfriends. They always got together and shared their rooms. After they broke up, they lived with another person, and so naturally, they got along with their ex-boyfriend/girfriend and current bf/gf, as friends. Three people, ex-girlfriend, girlfriend, and the man in the middle. They got along so naturally, like it was perfectly normal because they had broken up. When they broke up, then it is done. After a while, they meet new bf/gf, keep on repeating, and lives disorderly. But when they get married, from then on they are not allowed other lovers at all. From the moment they get married, they are not allowed. When they are in a relationship, if they cheat on each other, it’s not allowed. Though it seems very disorderly, only cheating is unacceptable. Because it is a contract, a covenant between a man and a woman. It is the same with Americans; though they seem disorderly, the relationship after marriage means keeping promises, it is a covenant. So someone who had a lot of bfs/gfs is not disorderly, but someone who doesn’t keep the promise is.
Just like that, the relationship between God and us is a relationship of promise. We obey the Word of God not because he is mighty, but because we promised to do so. We admitted this was so when we were baptized. “I died inside of Jesus. I became one with Jesus. from now on, I live serving Jesus Christ as my Lord.” As we promised, we are eager to obey. “If you do not want to do so, do not promise to do so,” he says. “Then I will not save you. But if you obey me, I will save you, and I will give you the Holy Spirit and use you this way.” When we say, “I will,” then we accept Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit, and so on. So there’s no need to ask for the Holy Spirit when you have no intention to obey. If you think, “I don’t have any heart to obey. Although I know this is the truth, I don’t want to live according to it,” then you are not forced to do it. So there’s no need to blame God thinking, “why does he do this?” because that’s what he promised. So this is how the relationship between God and Abraham began, but the problem is “how does he receive the Word?”
What some people misunderstand when they read this passage is that they think God touched Abraham’s heart and told him in this way. What they think is like this. While Abraham lives his life, or while he meditates silently, suddenly in his heart he hears God’s voice, and he comes to think in his heart: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” “Oh! It is so.” and he follows that.” They misunderstand like this. However, this is not so at all. But a lot of Christians think this way and hear this as the voice of God, so it is a problem. God never touched their hearts, but he appeared before Abraham and talked to him. Abraham must have known that this was the one sent by God. He heard this Word from the person who appeared in a form that he could see with his eyes. In the Bible, there is a word for “God” and a different word for “Jehovah,” and when it uses “Jehovah” in the Old Testament, it typically means a person that could be seen with their eyes. It calls the being they could see Jehovah. When referring to God they could not see, then the words for “God,” just “Elohim.” But when it tells of the one who appeared to humans, it uses “Jehovah.” Therefore, Jehovah can walk. It was Jehovah who appeared to Adam when he said, “Adam, Adam, where are you?” it was not a voice in Adam’s heart, but he was walking through the woods, searching for Adam. And Adam hid from him. He hid in the bushes and hid behind a tree, and he trembled in fear. This is the one who appeared and walked. If he had spoken to Abraham as himself, God who is bigger than heaven, Abraham could have not heard Him. If God had touched his ears and his eardrums to speak to him, the sky would have just gone away, and his ears would have been torn. It can’t be done this way. So God sent an angel and spoke to him through the angel. This is the same with Abraham. When we look at Genesis chapter 18, there are three people that meet with Abraham, and one of them is Jehovah. Abraham stays with him and talks with him, and also negotiate. “50, 40, then 30,” they talked like this.
Surely there are cases where the voice of God, the voice of Jehovah was heard in visions. However, in such cases, the Bible tells us clearly how it appeared to them. In Genesis, chapter 15 says, “After these things, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision.” A vision is not the voice of the heart, it’s a real, clear experience, so clear that it’s like, “Is this real or am I dreaming?” but other people don’t share the experience with me. It is one’s own experience, that is called a vision. It’s not something we say every day like, “Oh, my heart was touched like this,” but it is something that appears supernaturally.
In some cases, the voice was heard from the sky. In Genesis chapter 22 verse 11, it says, “But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said,“ Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, …” from heaven someone called him, and that sound was an actual sound, not a sound heard in the heart of Abraham. So here, it didn’t say, “from the heart of Abraham was touching, and a mind, saying…” but it said the angel called him from heaven. So the sound came from heaven.
Similar events also happened in New Testament times as when the disciples went up on the mountain, from out of the clouds came a voice and said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” and it was not heard by only one person. Who heard it? Jesus must have heard it, Peter heard it, and John, and James too, three people heard it together. This is a very objective phenomenon. Peter himself confessed in 2 Peter that “we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” He said, “we heard it.” A similar thing also happened to Paul. While Paul was going his way, he was blinded by a big, bright light, and at the same time, he heard a voice: “why are you persecuting me?” When that happened, in Acts chapter 9, it said the other people with him heard the voice but didn’t see the light. So Paul didn’t hear it alone. It was a sound able to be heard by the people around him. And, back in the past, during the appearance of Jehovah, some say it was a kind of vision, but it was not a vision. Of course, he sometimes appeared in visions, but Jehovah showed himself as a person, not in a vision. A person appeared to Abraham and talked to him. Therefore when he said, “You will have a son,” it said that his wife Sarah heard it at the door afar and laughed. So Abraham was not alone in hearing that; someone else also heard it, the voice, in secret, from afar.
Like these, the Word God first gave to Abraham when he appeared to him was not the Word given to his heart, but the Word he clearly gave when he was present in person. When he gave a vision, it was clearly a vision too, not the touching of the heart. And the hearing of the voice from heaven was also the sound clearly, objectively heard. So God told the prophets during Old Testament times to record those, so they did record such things. What was recorded in the Five Books of Moses, Moses did not record them hearing voices of his heart. He heard them directly. At first, the Ten Commandments were heard by all the elders. So when they heard them, they were so frightened and said, “We don’t have to listen to this, we’ll now believe that God told you, we can’t listen to it anymore, we’re so trembling, we’ll just be down there, You hear everything and come down, we’ll believe,” then God regarded them having humble hearts nicely and said, “I want them to continue to be humble like that, I hope they have faith like that,” and from then, about the Statutes and the Laws, Moses heard them alone. But he didn’t hear them in his heart; he heard them with his ears and wrote them down.
So, in the same way, if you think this is how God appeared to Abraham, Adam, and Moses was by moving their hearts, and they were sensitive to their hearts to hear God’s voice, if you think they were like this, it is a huge misunderstanding. However today, people think exactly this way and think our faith started from there. But this form of hearing one’s own heart’s voice was before God started to work; it was the form of the religions present before God’s working. It was the work that those shamans who worshipped so many gods and those who worshipped the gods of the world had been doing. Deceptions like that dig into our faith and pretend to be voices of God, but the Bible clearly warned against those. Let us look at Ezekiel chapter 13, verse 2 to 4: “2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ 3 Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel.” In verse 6, it says: “They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.” And chapter 14, verses 7 and 8: “7 For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. 8 And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
Just like these, they keep taking their idols into their hearts, and asking their hearts. They say these are the voices of God, but they’re actually their hearts, and what they have in common is this: it’s about what they ask. They don’t ask about the mighty works of God. “They began prophesying,” it said, “they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” And in another passage, it said, “we hear them telling the mighty works of God.” Telling the works of God is prophesying. And the characteristic of those who took their idols in their hearts is that they ask for themselves. “For anyone who comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself.” So God answers them. But “I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” They keep asking for themselves. By doing this, they are already corrupt. Those who intend to ask for themselves, their hearts are already corrupt. Before we talk about whether the answer is the voice of God or not, asking for themselves is already corrupt. Why? God didn’t tell us to ask for ourselves, but he said, “you are originally to die, but choose life and blessing to live.” And he told us to choose the Word to live. So those who don’t have faith in the Word keep asking: “what would I be?” “what would my future be?” “shall I be a missionary or not?” “shall I evangelize or not?” These are all something for us to go and get, and something for us to let come true, but they don’t do it like that, and they keep asking. Their wills are already corrupt, and God doesn’t answer them.
So today, when people go somewhere and ask for their own sakes, and then prophets answer for their individual sakes. But all the prophecies of the prophets in the Old Testament have spiritual meaning, and they all are not for any individuals but for Jesus. In Revelation chapter 19, verse 10, it says: “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This sentence is a bit awkward. “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Do you know what it means? It means that the spiritual meaning of all the prophecies is that they testify of Jesus. The Chinese translation is well done. It says “所有的预言的灵意就是为耶稣作见证”, which means that every prophecy testifies of Jesus. So prophecies are given for Jesus, and “all the Prophets prophesied until” who? Until Jesus. It was done by John the Baptist and was fulfilled by Jesus. Every prophecy of the Prophets from then tells what God has done and will do. They mean those who testify of Jesus, that is, preachers, not those who tell for any individuals.
So we should not go back to the past and those childish things, and as we now know the truth, we should now be witnesses of Jesus, and it is enough for us to be those who fulfill the Word Jesus said for Jesus. Do not try to receive God’s Word with your heart. They keep trying to get impressions. The Word of God is recorded, but they don’t regard it as the Word they should obey, they wait for the Word to be impressive, but these people, without impressions, would not obey and are eventually people without faith.
So someone who hopes for God to impress on his heart even today must know for sure that was not the way back then. God didn’t work like that with Abraham, nor Adam, nor Moses. And would he work like that with you? No! rather, that is the way that existed in this world, on this earth, before Abraham. So if they follow the way of the world and do it the way the world serves gods, eventually, they will be affected by the gods of the world. Our faith has the very one who carried the faith to us. The one who appeared and gave Abraham the Word, and gave Moses the Word, and how he let those events be recorded, and left the recordings for us, in order for us to have faith through the recorded Word.
So John chapter 20 verse 31 says, there were many other events, but only these are written. Why? if you have these, you have enough, enough to have life. So look at these carefully. But there are people who are not satisfied with these and try to receive more. But let us check again that the recorded Word is the foundation of our faith, and pray Lord, help my faith so it doesn’t get away from this written Word. Let my faith fulfill the Word. Let us pray like this!
God our Father, let us not have a corrupt will to live by fate, and although we are truly cursed and have to go to hell, by obeying our Lord’s Word and by fulfilling the Word, let us be the ones who obtain the right to go to heaven and the right to receive the great reward in heaven, help us be the ones with active faith. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center