To Hear and To Do

“Then he [Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they [the children of Israel] said, “Everything that the Lord said, we will do, and we will hear” (Exod. 24:7; emphasis added). This event occurs after Moses has been on top of Sinai and received the covenant from the Lord. When he comes down to the people and reads the covenant to them, they respond “we will do, and we will hear.”The phrases “to hear” and “to do” appear frequently within the Bible: “And now, Israel, listen unto the laws and statutes which I am teaching you, to do them, so that you will live, and enter and possess the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, gave to you” (Deut. 4:1; see also Deut. 5:1; 6:3; 7:12). Elsewhere we read, “Only, if you will certainly listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep and to do all of these commands, which I am commanding you today” (Deut. 15:5). The context of these passages indicates that the biblical authors drew a connection between hearing God’s word and doing it. In fact, that was their definition of obedience: to hear and to do. Often when we say that we “hear” someone, it does not necessarily translate into action. In fact, the phrase, “I hear you,” can serve as our response meaning a certain level of inaction. Yet, within the Bible, obedience required action, both parts were necessary. To not hear and do meant for the writers of Scripture that judgment was imminent. The author of Kings identified the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel as due to their disobedience: “Because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord their God, they transgressed His covenant and everything He commanded Moses—the servant of the Lord; they did not listen and did not do” (2 Kings 18:12). Failure to listen and do resulted in Israel transgressing the law of the Lord. In the New Testament, Jesus also emphasized our hearing and doing. He compared those who hear and do His words as like one who built his house upon a rock; while the one who only hears but does not do, he is like one who built his house on the sand (Matt. 7:24-27). Paul likewise states that it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous, but the doors of the law who will be justified (Rom. 2:13). Do we spend time listening to the word of God? And do we translate what we’ve heard into action? If we are going to obey as the Bible intended, then we must both hear and do.

Father, as I seek to draw closer to You, may I obey You by hearing Your word and doing it. May Your name be glorified through my obedient action to You and Your word. Amen.

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