The Way to Receive God’s Word
Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Genesis 12:1-4 NKJV
The faith DNA, that is, the history of faith, began through the word that God planted in Abraham. Thus, in order to know what faith is, we need to know the promise which was made to Abraham really well. By what did the encounter between God and Abraham happen? It was the word. God visited Abraham and gave him the word, which was the beginning of everything that happened. Just as when you paint a picture and make the first touch to the canvas with the paintbrush, the moment that God gave the word to Abraham was like that.
At that time, there were many gods, and the people who were in the area that Abraham lived in also worshipped some god. The encounter between those gods and men occurred through some type of image. People made images or forms like that of animals or their ancestors, and they carried those idols around to live their faith life. It was a religious life. The region where Abraham was living at that time is one of the oldest civilizations, where the alphabet used today is from. During the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, it was very rare to find even a two-storey building. However, in the time of Abraham, it was such a great civilization where they even had buildings that were tens of storeys high. And for this reason, there was a greater activity of evil spirits and idolatry. Although the encounter between idols and people started off with something tangible that people can see, carry around and feel, the meeting between God and Abraham started off with God’s word.
Therefore, when He gave him the word, He told him to leave his country, father’s house and relatives and go to the land He would show him. Abraham obeyed that word, and thus, the relationship was established. When the word is given, if the recipient does not obey, that word cannot be established. But God first gave the word, the promise, and then Abraham accepted it, and thus, the covenant between the two was established. This is faith. Faith is not one-sided. It is an agreement between two parties and a contractual arrangement. It is a contract. This is the same for us. We made an agreement with God. He did not just unilaterally demand or force us into it. People find faith life hard and misunderstand what it is, thinking that God is forcing them to do something. But that is not true at all. It is a promise between the two. Marriage is a promise. What is marriage? It is a promise. Why do you need to keep the promise? Since the couple promised that they would not meet another man or another woman, they must keep it.
For Americans and Europeans, their intimate relationship can be quite messy before marriage. Or we can say it is very natural to such an extent that it is very hard for us to understand. When we were in China and staying at the dormitory, the European students all had boyfriends and girlfriends. They always were together and shared rooms with each other. But once they broke up and started dating another person, they would so naturally remain as friends with their ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend. So the three of them – current partner, ex-partner and either man or woman – would stay as friends. There is nothing wrong with them, and it is very natural for them to do that because they broke up. Once they break up, that is it. And then they date somebody else, and then another. But after being in so many relationships one after another, once they get married, such practice is unacceptable. It becomes absolutely unacceptable. Or even while they are dating someone, if they cheat on their partner with anybody else, that is also not acceptable. Even though they appear to be promiscuous, they will never allow cheating. This is because there is an agreement between the girlfriend and the boyfriend. Even for Americans, once they are married, they regard their relationship as a promise and agreement which must be upheld. Just because a man had many girlfriends in the past does not make him a promiscuous man, but the person that does not keep the promise is.
Similarly, our relationship with God is a promise. We obey God’s word not because God is stronger but because we promised to and, therefore, must keep the promise. When we were baptized that is what we confessed – ‘I am dead in Jesus and united with Him. Thus, I will serve Jesus Christ as my Lord.’ Because we promised this, we obey Him. Suppose we do not want to do that, we should not make a promise, and God also will not save us. But He said, ‘If you obey me in this way I will save you and give the Holy Spirit to you and use you.’ If we accept that, then we accept Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit and so on. Hence, if one has no intention to obey, he does not need to ask for the Holy Spirit. If he has no intention to obey and does not want to live by the truth, knowing that it is the truth, then he does not need to be forced to do that. Thus, he should not blame God for what He does either. It is a promise. So, a covenant was made between God and Abraham, but the question was, how would he receive the word?
When people read the Bible, something that many misunderstand is that they think God touched Abraham’s heart and spoke to him. They think that Abraham was quietly living his life or perhaps meditating alone when suddenly he heard the voice of God in his heart. “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” They think that he heard this voice and began to follow it. However, that is not what happened at all. Yet, many Christians today mistakenly believe this is what happened and that he heard God’s voice. However, He did not just touch Abraham’s heart. He clearly appeared to him. He appeared before Abraham and spoke with him. And Abraham would have known that the one he spoke to was one sent by God. He heard those words from a man that appeared to him in a visible form. The Bible says it was God and also Jehovah. When it says Jehovah in the Old Testament, most of the time, it refers to the one who appeared before their eyes to be seen. Otherwise, it is just said to be ‘God’ – Elohim. But when referring to the one that actually appeared to them, it is Jehovah. So Jehovah can move around.
Even Jehovah that appeared to Adam said, “Where are you, Adam?” This was not a voice he heard in his mind or conscience, but Jehovah sought him while He was walking among the trees in the garden. He was walking, but Adam hid from Him. He hid behind the bushes because he was afraid. In this way, Jehovah manifested Himself in this way and walked. If He were God Himself, who is greater than Heaven, that spoke to Abraham, he would not have been able to even hear His words. If God spoke to him in ears, His voice would probably thunder so loudly that Abraham’s eardrums would burst. He could not do that. So, God sent His angel and spoke to him through His angel. Also, in Genesis 18, three men came to Abraham. But one of them was Jehovah. Abraham remains before Jehovah and tries to negotiate with Him about the number of righteous men in Sodom.
Of course, there were occasions when men heard the voice of Jehovah in a vision. But, in those times, the Bible clearly outlines how He appeared to them. In Genesis 15, it says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.” A vision is not just a voice you hear in your heart. It is actually a definite experience that one cannot differentiate whether it is a dream or reality as though in a trance. But other people do not have the same experience as him. He alone experiences it. That is a vision. It is not something that happens in one’s heart like how people say they were moved in their hearts. It is a supernatural phenomenon that was manifested before him.
In other times a voice was heard from Heaven. In chapter 22:11, it says, “But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’” So, a voice called him from Heaven, which was clearly audible. It was not a voice that Abraham heard in his heart. It does not say that Abraham was touched in his heart and heard a voice. It says that the Angel of the Lord called to him from Heaven. There was a voice from Heaven.
Such things happened also in the New Testament times. When the disciples went up on a mountain, there was a voice from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” But, this voice was not heard only by one person. Who heard it? Jesus would have heard it; Peter, John and James also heard it. This was a very unbiased phenomenon. So Peter also mentioned in 2 Peter saying, ”And we heard this voice which came from Heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
A similar phenomenon appeared to Paul. He was walking when a very bright light shone that his eyes were blinded and at the same time he heard a voice. The voice said, “Why do you persecute Me?” In Acts 9, it says that others heard the voice but did not see the light. Hence it was not only Paul who heard it alone. The people that were with him were able to hear it too.
Again going back to the past, when Jehovah appeared, some people think that it was some vision, but Jehovah appearing in person was not a vision, although there were times when he appeared in a vision. A man actually appeared to Abraham and spoke to him. That is why when he told Abraham, “Your wife will have a son,” his wife Sarah laughed to herself because she heard it outside the tent. So it was not only Abraham who heard it. Even Sarah, who was eavesdropping from afar, was able to hear it.
In this way, when God first appeared to Abraham and gave him His word, it was not given to him in his heart, but He actually appeared to him in person and spoke those words. Even if a vision was given, that is definitively a vision, not a voice inside your heart. Likewise, hearing a voice from Heaven was definitely a voice that was audible to all impartially.
Therefore, the people of the Old Testament, like the prophets, were told to write them down, and thus they were written. Moses’ Pentateuch was not written by Moses after he heard some voice in his heart. He actually heard those words. At first, he heard the Ten Commandments with all the elders. When they listened to the Ten Commandments, they were so terrified that they pleaded to be allowed to leave the place and told Moses only to listen. They said they would definitely believe God spoke to Moses even if they do not stay with him and hear everything and asked if they could wait down the mountain. So God thought it good that they had such humble hearts and told Moses that He wanted them to remain humble and have faith, and Moses alone listened to the rules and regulations. But he did not just hear something in his heart; everything was audible, which he heard with his ears and wrote them down.
People think that every revelation like this was given by God, and when He appeared to Abraham, Adam or Moses, they thought it was by touching their hearts so that those men were always sensitive to God’s voice, trying to hear Him. But that is a huge misunderstanding. Many people today think this way and believe our faith came from that.
However, trying to hear a voice in one’s heart already existed in religions before our God’s revelations. They were practiced by countless mediums that worship countless gods and people that worship the gods of the world. And they have infiltrated even our faith as though those are ways of hearing God’s voice. But the Bible warns against such people. Let us read Ezekiel 13. Ezekiel 13:2-4, “”Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts.”” In verse 6, it says, “They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.”
Also, Ezekiel 14:7-8. “For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” In this way, people keep setting up idols in their hearts and asking their own hearts.
They insist it is their god’s voice, but ultimately it is from their own hearts. The commonality among those people is that they are not asking to see God’s great work. They even prophesied, it says. They spoke in tongues and prophesied, which in another book of the Bible describes as “speaking of the wonderful works of God.” So prophesying is speaking of the great works of God. But, these people who have idols that prophesy out of their own hearts inquire for themselves. It says, “then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself.” And God answers them. “I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” They inquire for their own sake.
This is already corruption. The person who inquires of God for his own sake has already become corrupt in his heart. Before even looking at whether or not it was God’s voice, the fact that the person inquired for himself is in itself depravity. Why? God does not want you to inquire for yourself. You were already doomed to destruction. But for you to live, choose life and blessings, He said. He told us to choose God’s word in order for us to live. But people who do not have faith in the word keep asking. What is going to happen to my future? Should I become a missionary or not? Should I evangelize or not? All these things one needs to actively grab hold of and fulfil. Yet, if he is asking whether or not to do them shows that his will has already become corrupt. God will not answer such people.
Today when people go and inquire, it is all for themselves that they inquire, and the prophets’ answers will be for those individuals. In the Old Testament times, every word of the prophecy of the prophets had a spiritual connotation, and they were not directed to individuals but all about Jesus. Revelation 19:10. Let us read. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” The wording sounds a bit strange here. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.“ It sounds a bit hard to understand, does not it? The spiritual meaning of every prophecy testifies about Jesus. That is what it is saying. The Chinese translation is very clear. Therefore every prophecy is testifying about Jesus. Prophecies were given to Jesus. The prophecies of the prophets were until when? Until Jesus. The prophecies ended with John the Baptist. Everything was fulfilled by Jesus. After that, any prophecy of prophets are referring to the works that God has already fulfilled and will accomplish in the future. In other words, those prophets refer to preachers who testify about Jesus. So it is not about inquiring about matters regarding individuals.
Let us not go back to the past to childish things, but since we know the truth, we ought to be witnesses of Jesus and be content that we accomplish the words He has spoken. Do not try to receive God’s word through your heart constantly. People keep trying to be touched in their hearts. God’s words are written here. Yet, people do not take those words as those that need to be obeyed. Instead, they wait to be touched by the word someday. This means those people are not willing to obey unless they are touched in their hearts, which ultimately means that they do not have faith.
People who seek to be touched by God in their hearts today must remember that God did not work in such a manner even in the past. He did not appear to Abraham in that way, nor did He to Adam or Moses. Hence, would God appear to us in such a way? Such practices existed in this world even before the time of Abraham. If we follow the ways of this world as the people who worship worldly gods do, we will be influenced by the gods of this world. There is One who gave us the faith we have. He appeared to Abraham and Moses and gave them the word. Those words have been written so that we can come to have faith in those written words.
Thus, John 20:31 says that although many things happened, they have not all been written because these are enough for us to obtain life through. So carefully examine the words of this book. Yet, there are people who are not satisfied by these words only but want something more. However, we need to be assured that these written words are the foundation of our faith. Let us pray, “Lord, help my faith not to go beyond the written words. Help me to have the faith that fulfils these words.” Let us pray.
Father God, help us not to have a corrupted will that lives based on fate. Though we were originally cursed and destined for hell, by obeying the Lord’s words and fulfilling them helps us to have the active faith through which we gain the right to enter Heaven and receive a great reward, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on August 6, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team