My pastor has this uncanny knack of nearly knocking me right out of my seat with his wisdom. Most recently, he shared a verse from Matthew 17:
“This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)
This verse is found as Peter, James, and John witness the transfiguration of Jesus. They had just awoken to discover Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah. As if seeing two giants of their faith isn’t exciting enough, let me remind you that Moses and Elijah had been dead for quite some time! When we take those things into consideration and the fact that the disciples had been sleeping, we can understand why Peter began to run at the mouth and the Lord had to interrupt his presumptuous and out-of-place suggestions for building altars.
As my pastor shared with us about a verse I’ve read countless times, he relayed that the Greek meaning of the word “listen” in the original text means, “to listen with the intent to obey.” God was telling the disciples to hear Jesus out … but to also understand what Jesus was about to say so that they could obey His directive.
My mind wouldn’t budge from that concept for the rest of the church service. I came home and re-read those verses several more times. Suddenly, it dawned on me how like Peter I am. I’m prone to making big proclamations and pronouncements full of good intention and even scripture to back them up. BUT … what I sometimes miss is fully hearing God out before I jump in feet-first. As a new idea dawns on me or my eyes are opened to a fresh truth, my zeal can overshadow what I know to be best: listening to God.
Also, there are too many times that I get so excited at something and begin to plan for amazing ways to show the Lord that I’m listening. The irony is, in an effort to praise the Lord for His Word, I interrupt Him before I’ve fully heard it. The Lord doesn’t speak to hear His own voice. He speaks so that I will listen … and obey.
Peter’s knee-jerk reaction to seeing Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah was to proclaim that he wanted to build altars — three of them — for Jesus and the two prophets. His idea was noble and even Scripturally sound as we read of altars being built to the Lord all throughout the Old Testament. What Peter was missing, though, was that Jesus was about to lay out before Peter and the other two disciples all that was about to happen with the crucifixion and resurrection. The very foundation of our relationship with Jesus and God’s reconciliation plan for redeeming His people once and for all was about to be shared. I can imagine all of the Heavens holding its breath, waiting in anticipation.
Meditating on this passage of Scripture really caused me to look at myself objectively, and I wonder if it would help you to do the same. When you hear the Lord speaking to your heart, are you listening? And once you’ve listened fully, are you ready to obey?
Or, like Peter (and me!), do you get so enthusiastic that you begin to act before you know how you’re supposed to obey? If you answered yes, don’t despair! Peter is also called The Rock on which Christ said He’d build His church. While Peter may have made notable missteps recorded for all to read in the pages of Scripture, he grew in his faith and became one of the greatest leaders of Christianity.
Let’s take heart: God loves a willing and obedient heart (Deuteronomy 10:12), and He also calls us to action (James 1:22) for sure, but we must also remember to hear God out completely before we dive in. Acting without clarity is a waste of time and energy, and can even miss the mark of what God was actually calling us to do (James 1:19).
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12)