“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22 (NIV)
One of the most admirable things about the people of God in the book of Ezra is their willingness to let the word of the Lord transform their lives. Consider the situation at the end of Ezra 4: “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:24, NIV) But by the middle of the next chapter, the Bible says “The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress…” (Ezra 5:9, NIV)
Talk about a turnaround! How did they go from a complete standstill to rapid progress? The answer is in Ezra 5:1, “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet… prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.” The result? The people of God immediately went back to work.
Haggai 1:12 puts it this way: “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.”
Don’t Just Listen. Do What it Says.
The people of Israel heard the Word of God and immediately put it into practice. Are you willing to do the same? Or do you use one of these battle-test defensive mechanisms to avoid making changes when God speaks?
- In One Ear and Out the Other: Whether through distraction or apathy, it’s far too common to hear the Word of God without doing anything about it.
- Shoot the Messenger: Maybe we get defensive an attack the messenger for stepping on our toes. Instead of accepting the difficult truth, we attack the speaker for getting too pushy.
- Pay it Forward: Sometimes we treat God’s Word like good advice–for someone else to follow. We instantly think of the five people who need to take the message to heart without realizing it starts with us.
And that takes us back to our opening passage from the book of James: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The people of Israel didn’t get defensive; they didn’t get angry; they didn’t stay complacent. They listened to God’s Word and immediately got down to business on the work he was calling them to. The piercing question that we all need to wrestle with today is simply this: Are we willing to change a single thing about our lives based on what God is telling us? Or are we simply listening to God while continuing on with the status quo in our lives?
Israel’s willingness to make drastic changes to their daily lives by immediately embracing the call of God is the example we should all follow every time we open our hearts to the Word of God.