A Journal for Bible Teachers

Today, If You Will Hear His Voice

Today, If You Will Hear His Voice

“Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).

How often have we heard this familiar exhortation? Even though it is one of the most recognised portions of scripture, it can be one of the least regarded. In fact, the words “Today if you hear His voice” are mentioned four times (Psalms 95:7, Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:15, Hebrews 4:7).

Recently these verses have had a renewed impact on me. I had a vision of an incident that took place in 1968. A portion of a sidewalk was broken up and replaced in front of our house. The wet cement was laid and the area was roped off while it cured. Some of the older boys from the neighbourhood made impressions in the wet cement by scratching their names and the date. The cement hardened prohibiting any further ability of adding or erasing the names and dates. That one day was the only opportunity those boys had to do their mischief. That piece of sidewalk remained for several decades revealing the etched names that were planted on that one day of opportunity. One of those boys later became the chief of police in that city, and his choice to do mischief on that day probably is not the impression he wants people to see now.

It is a special and precise time we have now before us where we can allow the Lord to make a lasting impression upon our lives. Are we hearing the Lord’s voice? Are we allowing the doors of our hearts to be opened for the finger of the Lord to do its work? Somehow we can lose sight of the fact that there are appointed times where our choices can have eternal significance. We casually hear the voice of the Lord and then reason that we can put it off for another day. The parable of the sower makes this truth abundantly clear (Mark 4:1-20). The sown Word goes forth to all, but its impact will ultimately be determined by the condition of the heart.

Recently I viewed an old photo of myself taken when I was a teenager. The long hair, strange clothes, and look of my face are revolting to anyone who would see it, including myself. I cannot undo the photo, but fortunately I had an opportunity to make appropriate changes to my appearance, learning from my youthful foolishness. The Lord is ever gracious in pleading with us to hear and respond to His voice, even if we may have resisted Him for a time.

There is a limit however. There is a day, or period of time, where His touch can make an eternal impression. To further illustrate this truth, let us consider two scriptural examples:

 

The Call to Israel’s Inheritance

The children of Israel had long desired to be brought into their inheritance. Sadly, the majority took lightly the instructions of God as they were led through the wilderness. In addition, they were unthankful (Numbers 11:1-6). The day of opportunity came when God commanded them to go in. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them” (Numbers 13:1-2). The spies entered the land and surveyed their potential inheritance.

Here was their response, “But the men that went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land, which they had searched, unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature” (Numbers 13:31-32). They refused to hearken to the word of the Lord. They lightly regarded God’s dealings in the wilderness, which conditioned them to harden their heart. In this one day they lost an eternal opportunity that could never be regained. This one day’s failure was the culmination of several failures leading up to this defining moment. That is why today we must hear and respond to His voice and allow our hearts to be hardened. Now let us consider another example from scripture.

 

Queen Esther

Queen Esther lived in a very unique time of Israel’s history. A particular day was ordained that would have eternal consequence for Esther and Israel based on a decision that she would have to make. The whole of Israel would be impacted by what Esther chose to do or not do. Esther was prepared for this day as evidenced by the following verse. “Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)” (Esther 2:12).

Esther had bitter and pleasant experiences, which produced the quality of meekness as well as other godly attributes that were evident in her life. Her willingness to allow these dealings of the Lord to impact her obviously served her well when she made her approach to the king. She was a prepared vessel for this unique moment in Israel’s history. “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (v15) Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, (v16) Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:14-16). That day, Esther heard and responded to the voice of the Lord through Mordecai.

In the previous illustration, Israel refused to hearken to God’s opportunity. Let us now consider these decisions of Israel and Esther from the realm of eternity. Think of the regret the children of Israel have when this cameo or portrait of their experience is shown before them. How they wish that they could once again relive that moment. Think of the eternal regret that now plagues them for that one day of missed opportunity.

Remember the following day when they assumed they could now hearken unto the word of the Lord and go into the land but now it was too late (Numbers 14:40-45). Their presumption led them to a great slaughter. Think now of the satisfaction that Esther would have as this snapshot of her experience is presented to her. Think of the love and adoration she would have for the Lord for his grace and mercy extended in giving the ability to respond to His voice on that one day of opportunity. We all have benefited from Esther hearing and responding to the voice of the Lord.

 

The Columnist

A few years ago, a well-known daily newspaper columnist passed away. It was stated that this person was one of the ten most influential persons of her time. The obituary cited humorous and interesting insights of this person’s writing career. The article then mentioned a particular day when the columnist took a moral position, winning the adulation and applause of the cultural elitists of the day. Sadly, this stated position has only added to the moral degradation that is now taking place around us.

Think now of the eternal regret of this stated position as this cameo is played out before her. How different it could have been for this columnist if she would have taken the proper position at the time. How different it could have been if she could have stood against the momentary discomfort of worldly criticism only to seek the Lord and espouse His views. There is now no ability to undo the decision that was made on this defining day. The consequences of such choices should be sobering to us all. How can we avoid such a tragic end? The following is perhaps the most significant key in helping to ensure we hear and respond to His voice.

 

Living for Eternity

The Lord has been making clear the need for or having an eternal viewpoint in the way we live our lives. Perhaps one of the greatest weapons the enemy has is his ability to minimise decisions and choices that we make. An understanding of this truth will help us to take more seriously the words that the Lord speaks to us. Procrastination and putting things off is a weapon of hell. We see this from the very beginning as Satan sought to minimise the consequence of sin to Eve. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:” (Gen. 3:4). This lie is what sinners would like to believe, yet it contradicts God’s Word.

Understanding the tactics of the enemy will aid us in our Christian walk. He constantly is seeking to undermine God’s Word and laws. It should be no surprise therefore, that the first recorded words of the serpent to Eve were, “Yea hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). This was a challenge to the first commandment God gave to man. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:1-7). “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6). The decision that was made in the garden in that one day has affected all of mankind. God desires that we have an eternal viewpoint in all matters. When Satan confronted Jesus in His temptation, the Lord constantly referred to the written Word, “It is written…” Having an understanding and love for the Word will ensure that we become men and women of vision who look at life from an eternal perspective.

As Moses progressed in his ministry, he came to recognise how vital his time on earth had become. He cried out to the Lord that he might take stock or inventory of his days so that he would know wisdom, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). He had a sense of his mortality as well as a sobering understanding of eternity. Eternity is real, and our eternal destiny is dependent on the choices that are made today. Try to think of yourself in eternity, knowing that you cannot undo a particular decision. Try to imagine the anguish you would feel if you had no ability to return to that moment.

Let it sink in and impact you. Perhaps some choices have been made that you regret and are now suffering the consequences of them. As painful and real as these consequences may be, there is still the ability for God to work mightily in your life. Today if you hear His voice.

 

We Are Without Excuse

Our eternity is fully dependent on the choices we make in life. We are accustomed to making many decisions throughout the course of a day. Some choices may seem trivial. Nonetheless, they help to shape and prepare us for those days of consequence, such as when Israel was called to enter into the land or when Esther made her plea to the king.

The choices made on those important days were the result of hearing or ignoring the spoken words of the Lord. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). God sent forth his prophets to declare and reveal His heart through His word.

In the days of their ministry, the people had the choice to heed or reject the words of the prophets. In rejecting the words of Jeremiah, the people were rejecting the voice of the Lord. The words spoken through Jeremiah and others will eternally resonate to the people who lightly regarded the warnings. How easy and convenient it was to hear an easier and non-threatening message. The majority took comfort in assuring themselves that Jeremiah’s words were without merit. Is it any different today with the easy gospel message that is becoming popular? We can choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). We can choose to avail ourselves of God’s grace so that we can fulfill our course and hit the mark. Oh Lord, teach us to number our days and give us an eternal perspective of life.

When the cameo or snapshot of our current condition of life is taken, what will be our future reaction as we face eternity? Oh the lament and anguish of missing God, knowing full well what He was looking to accomplish in our lives! The regret, tragedy, and torment of never being able to undo that moment! To some, it will result in eternal damnation. “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).

There will be those in heaven who will come to regret choices made while on earth. They will see that a particular work of grace was afforded them but they rejected it, limiting their eternal reward. Imagine the joy and satisfaction of making right choices, having the ability to see the eternal fruits of hearing and responding to the Lord’s voice. To hear the Lord Himself declare, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the ‘eternal’ joy of the Lord.”

What would follow would have to be the essence of true worship – “Lord, You alone art worthy, You alone are faithful.” In this light, we can understand the bowing and casting down of crowns at His feet, declaring that it was by His grace and His grace alone. “Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).

Today does matter. Let the word of the Lord make an eternal impression upon you in this crucial moment of time. We are living in days of great expectation and promise. May we press in and touch God, making this day count.

Your eternity depends upon it!

 

About the Author

Rev. Timothy O’Connell is an ordained minister of Zion Fellowship International, based in Waverly New York. He has served as a missionary in India for several years and has an extensive understanding and knowledge of the mission field. He is an excellent teacher of the Word. and is currently the Principal of Tung Ling Bible School (Singapore), and is also the Dean of the School of Leadership. He and his wife, Joanne, are currently based in Singapore.

 

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