I learned many years ago that the best way to an early diagnosis and a successful treatment plan is to listen carefully. Now I’m not talking about my physical health, which this principle also applies to, but to my car. More often than not you will hear a problem developing, long before it becomes acute and strands you in the middle of the road. Of course I’m always tempted to dismiss such a problem and just turn up the volume on the radio, rather than to look into it further. This is also how many people and couples approach the damage that bumps in the road cause in their relationships. You say to yourself, “maybe it’s nothing” or more likely, “I know it’s a problem but I just don’t want to deal with it now…maybe later, if it gets worse.”
This is precisely what the Apostle James meant when he warned his readers that they not only needed to listen to what God says, but then do what He says (1: 22). But it all begins with us drawing near to God and listening. Surely James was familiar with Isaiah 48:16-18 and had it mind when writing his letter, for verse 16 begins, “Come near to me and listen to this.” Isaiah, the great prophet of Israel, goes on to explain why it’s so important to do just that.
It is noteworthy that Isaiah repeatedly reminded his hearers that what he was saying was from God and not him. He begins verse twelve saying, “Listen to me…I am He; I am the first and the last (also Revelation 1:8, 22:13)” Clearly, Isaiah is delivering the words of God Almighty and not his own, so what is said is completely reliable and effective. So let’s take a careful look at what God has to say through His prophet Isaiah in chapter 48. God begins by telling us that what He has said and continues to say “was not spoken in secret.” Unlike Satan who is always plotting in secret to deceive us, the Lord speaks boldly and without ambiguity so there is no excuse for not understanding. If I don’t understand, it’s only because I have chosen to ignore Him or even worse, decided to “cast my lot” with the evil one. If you think about it, most of the “secrets” we are so passionate about keeping; we hide because if they were found out, they would reveal something about us we would prefer, no one know about. Do you think we would want to hide them if they were something good and noble? God’s words are not like Satan’s or too often, our own.
The timing of our words can be as important as what we say. Sometimes we speak to our husband or wife hastily, without considering whether or not we will even be heard. Usually it’s because emotion has won the moment and even if what we say is right or even said for all the right reasons, any hope of being understood has been lost. God’s timing is perfect and He is always there, in person, to deliver His word to us, “at the time it happens, I am there.” How can this be and how is God always there when His wisdom and correction is needed? “The Sovereign Lord has sent me (Jesus), with His Spirit.” When we come near to God and listen, He comes to us with exactly what we need and when we need it, with authority, direction and peace.
Verse 17 reminds us that the Lord is the only Holy One, and when we draw near to Him, His response to us is for the purpose of our redemption. There can be no doubt of this since He sent His only Son, Jesus to die on a cross, convicted and condemned to death on account our sin. Yet, our redemption was secured by the Son’s resurrection to life and His return to His Father. Christ told his disciples before His ascension into heaven that they should wait for the gift the Father had promised them, the Holy Spirit and that they would receive power to be His witness to a world in desperate need of redemption. That promise is for us as well (Acts 1: 4, 8). The Spirit of God speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts, as we draw near to the Father in our prayers and as we trust in Christ alone to sustain us and to save us.
What are the practical benefits that we will enjoy when we come near to God? Tomorrow, we will see what else God has to say on the subject, as spoken through His prophet Isaiah.
Tool #262 If you seem to have lost your way and are looking for a way back, and not for a way out, come near to God and He will take you by the hand and lead you back to Him.