You make your way down the dusty street. It’s late afternoon and the heat of the day is at its height--it will feel so good to finally sit and rest. Your soul is tired and worn out. You are thirsty as well. The home you enter smells of fresh bread, perspiration and dye--this last smell because Chloe, the woman who lives there, deals in cloth and fabric--she makes robes of purple and sells them in the market. She greets you at the door and leads you in. Some of your family has already arrived, so you take your place quickly. You don’t have to wait long. The leader of the small group carefully unrolls a papyrus sheet and begins to read out loud.
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .”
The sound of the pastor’s voice gently works it’s way through the room and the words find deep passage into your ears. The sound of the words engage your mind, vibrate your spirit. You are hearing the very words of God.
Since the very beginnings of the church most believers have received the scriptures by listening. Letters were difficult and expensive to reproduce and distribute. In the centuries we call the “Dark Ages” God’s word was read out loud every Sunday: Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels.
The way we sit down down and read a Bible, alone, holding in our hands or staring at a screen is something new. For centuries church services included reading from both the Old and New testaments because books were expensive and consequently rare. Believers trained themselves to attend to the word of God as it was spoken. They captured the words with their minds and digested them with their heart. They did so together, in community. What was true then is still true today: God designed us so that we benefit by hearing the words of life.
Does that seem strange to you? Imagine husbands and wives reading out loud together; friends gathered in a room with but one copy of the Bible--all of them receiving the spoken word. Imagine an assembly of people hungry to hear the voice of God.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with reading the Bible: I recommend it! In our society we are surrounded with audio opportunities: ear buds, audio files, and car radios. Yet how many of us listen to the word of God today? Let me share a recent story of how God spoke to me through the Bible. I heard his voice in my ears.
I recently drove 80 miles to visit a family member. Knowing I had an hour-and-a-half drive ahead of me, I downloaded the audio file for 1 Corinthians--the whole letter--into my iPhone. Me and my ear-buds were ready to go. As I drove, I listened to a steady human voice reading the words I thought I knew so well. Suddenly, I was over whelmed with two sentences I had never heard before! They were so startling I pulled my car to the side of the road, grabbed my iPhone and looked up the passage I had just heard. There--before my eyes--the words I had read dozens (hundreds?) of times before, but there on the roadside to Lexington KY, I heard them for the very first time. They were a revelation!
I know: you are wondering, “which two verses?” It doesn’t matter. They were for me--for my ears. But what about you? What verses are waiting to crash into your head--not through the eye-gate, but through hearing God’s word for the very first time?