The old rabbi concluded his teaching. He had presented quite a challenge to his talmidim (Hebrew for disciples). Then, with fire in his eyes, he stroked his long, white beard and asked, “I know you hear, but do you hear? I know you see, but do you see?”
One of the most popular study Bibles for the past three decades is the Life Application Bible. The study notes in the footer or sidebar are designed to take a passage of Scripture out of the realm of concept, and into the world of action.
All of us know, instinctively I think, that reading the Bible isn’t enough. That we must take the next step and put that Scripture into action. The rabbis described it as “hearing” and “seeing.” They would often end their teachings by asking whether the talmid really heard and saw what they were teaching. Obviously, the rabbi wasn’t asking if the talmid physically heard what was said. He wasn’t even asking if the talmid had made an intellectual assent to what was taught. The rabbi was asking if the talmid was ready to put the lesson into action.
Jesus taught this way. He often said things like, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” This is without a doubt His way of asking this very question. Of course His listeners had ears. But did they really hear?
Jesus ended His most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, with these words:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” – Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
Jesus categorized His listeners into “wise” and “foolish.” And the determining factor was not hearing the Word, but doing it.
We have an opportunity in our churches today. While I am absolutely passionate about seeing “the people in the pews” committed to consistent Bible reading, I believe we must take it a step further. Otherwise we make fools of our church members. The opportunity that lays before us is one to teach our church members the right way to read the Bible. Most aren’t reading at all. So, as we encourage them to begin this critical discipline, we can and must teach them how to properly apply the Scripture to their lives.
Let us teach others to be wise.