In Genesis 16, Abram repeats the sin of his father Adam by listening to the voice of his wife over the voice of God. God promised Abram he would have a son by his wife, Sarai; but being impatient, Sarai convinces Abram to have a son by his servant, Hagar, who gives birth to Ishmael. Even though Abram believed in God’s promise and the Lord counted this faith to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:5-6), Abram in his own impatience listened to the voice of his wife rather than trusting in God’s Word just as Adam listened to the voice of his wife, Eve, rather than trusting in God’s Word (Genesis 3:17).
A wrongful interpretation of these events would be to say, “Never listen to the voice of your wife.” No, that’s ridiculous, and would violate Paul’s command for husbands to love their wives as Christ has loved His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Rather, the lesson here is listening to any voice over the voice of God. Not listening as in hearing a person talk but as in obeying, believing, and trusting in their voice over the voice/Word of God.
There are multiple voices that threaten our trust in God’s Word, especially in the technological age we live in. There are “influencers” on YouTube, social media, and podcasts who speak against God and His Christ. You will even find false prophets on these sites, such as Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren, and Kenneth Copeland, just to name a few. These voices, like those of Eve and Sarai, preach a word contrary to that of our God and urge God’s people not to trust in the words of promise spoken by Him.
It’s not just these technological things and false prophets either. Go to any public school, and its teachers will catechise your children about false things concerning Christ. Walk into a church that waves the gay pride flag and their false shepherds will teach you to worship yourself rather than Christ and to trust in any identity you conjure for yourself rather than what Christ has done for you on the cross and in your Baptism. Everywhere we walk, there stand places and people who make it their mission to convince you to trust in their voices rather than the voice of God clearly spoken in the Scriptures.
This is why daily catechism is urgent, even once you’ve “graduated.” (One never graduates from catechism class, for catechesis—or discipleship—is from the womb to the tomb.) If we daily remain in the Word and the catechism that instructs us in the Word, living amongst these cacophonous voices becomes more tenable. This is also why regular church attendance is important, for your local church is the place where God’s Word is clearly spoken. (Unless, of course, it’s one of those churches that requires you bow before the gay pride flag or some other idol rather than Christ on the cross and risen from the grave.)
This pattern of listening to other voices over the voice of God is, of course, a repeating of the Fall of Man. For this is original sin—listening to other voices, especially when it’s our own voice, over the Word of God. Our concupiscence is to violate the First Commandment—to place our fear, love, and trust in things that are not God.
The only way to silence these antichrist voices is to daily remain in the Word where we hear God’s voice most clearly. This consists of daily reading the Bible and catechism, being constant in prayer, reading devotionals, and attending church on the Sabbath even when you’re on vacation. As the word “vacation” comes from the word vacate, it makes zero sense to vacate the house of God on the day of rest when vacation itself is for resting.
Therefore, remain ever diligent in the Word lest you begin to listen to other voices that combat the voice of God, especially when they falsely claim to speak for Him.
Theology Terms Used
- Catechesis: the lifelong instruction of knowing who God is in Christ Jesus.
- Catechism: a sort of “instruction manual” on what you need to believe in order to properly be called a Christian.
- Concupiscence: original sin, in other words, man’s natural inclination toward living in sin rather than original righteousness.
- Discipleship: living as disciples, or followers, of Christ in the world; i.e., living as Christians in the world.
- False Prophets: people who claim to speak for God and make false predictions about the future as well as proclaiming false messages.
- False Shepherds: “pastors” who preach false teachings that lead God’s people astray.
- Original Sin: see concupiscence.
1 thought on “Beckett: Pastor’s Thoughts – Listening to Other Voices over God’s Word (Genesis 16:2)”
Your post today brings to mind Paul’s strong words to the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.”
The New Testament era congregations were plagued by false teaching. Acts 20 contains another vivid example. Meeting with the Ephesian church leaders at Miletus, Paul delivers an impassioned sermon during which he says: “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
I could go on and on about this subject. I preached a sermon on this very issue two Sundays ago. I will close with Paul’s admonition to Timothy, good words for all who serve in the Office of the Holy Ministry to memorize and take to heart: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Amen.
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