Albert Mohler posted a commentary yesterday addressing this very question.
He starts out with a quote from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, in an essay entitled “Yawning at the Word.” I admit that as a preacher, I can feel this pressure at times:
It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.
That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity — an impatience with the Word of God…In just a few hundred words, he captures the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible. We may wince when we read him relate his recent experiences, but we also recognize the ring of truth.
As Mohler continues in his extended commentary, he provides an Old Testament example of listening to the reading and explanation of God’s Word. As I read this familiar passage again, I am struck by this thought – “How many people in today’s churches would put up with this kind of a service? What would the comment cards look like afterward? What would the feedback be?” Observe:
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.
And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading with their faces to the ground. [Nehemiah 8:1-8, English Standard Version]
Isn’t that stunning? They listened from early in the morning until the middle of the day to the reading of Scripture, they were attentive as they did so, they were engaged in the reading, exclaiming “Amen, Amen,” to the it and lifting up their hands in response, while their heads went down and worship erupted. God’s Word moves!
How can so many of today’s churches demonstrate what can only be described as an impatience with the Word of God? The biblical formula is clear — the neglect of the Word can only lead to disaster, disobedience, and death. God rescues his church from error, preserves his church in truth, and propels his church in witness only by his Word — not by congregational self-study.
In the end, an impatience with the Word of God can be explained only by an impatience with God. We — both individually and congregationally — neglect God’s Word to our own ruin.
As Jesus himself declared, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Oh God – forgive us for our impatience with your Word. May we be attentive, all of us, in the morning as your servants proclaim what you have spoken.
[Read the whole commentary by Albert Mohler.]