By Brock Bondurant
There’s a battle going on – a battle between Good and evil, being waged all around you; within you. You know it. You’ve felt it. We are equipped in this battle with a sword – the sword of the Spirit – also known as the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). To battle well we must know how to use our sword. We need to know the Word. This is vital in our discipleship to Jesus. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus resists the temptation of Satan in the wilderness. He does so by knowing Scripture, and the heart of Scripture, better than Satan. Yes, Satan knows Scripture – Even the demons believe – and shudder! (James 2:19). Satan knew Scripture well enough to know who Jesus was – the One promised long ago to bring about the Kingdom of God and an end to sin and death. In this particular story, Satan does what he always does as “The Father of Lies” – twists the Words of God in order to tempt. But Jesus, knowing Scripture perfectly, did not fall for the devil’s tricks. He was able to resist the devil and walk away unblemished. So how did Jesus come to know Scripture so well? Well, because he is God of course. But as God, he came down and put on human flesh to show us the way to be human – to model how we, as men and women might come to know Scripture ourselves: be where the Word of God is read, prayed, and preached among a community of believers. There, in the Temple, Jesus was able to read the Word of God and hear the Word of God.
These two ways of coming to know Scripture (reading and hearing) are together found in one story of Jesus’ regular Sabbath day appearance in the synagogue. In Luke 4:16-30, which comes directly after his bout with Satan in the wilderness, Jesus picks up the scroll of Isaiah and reads it over the rest of his fellow Jews in attendance. In this instance, we see both the reading and the hearing of Scripture by Jesus in a community of Faith. Now, his purpose in doing so in this particular moment had far more intent behind it than just reading Scripture over others (Jesus announces the official start of his ministry by claiming himself as Messiah), but it surely wasn’t any less!
There is something to God’s Word being read over us – especially in a communal gathering – that goes deeper than reading God’s Word privately with Bible in hand. Don’t get me wrong: reading the Bible is a vital habit not to be replaced! But listening to the words that God has to say to us can not only be refreshing, but vital. We hear differently than we read. Hearing the Word read over us can be received in a different way than our reading can be, thus presenting itself as a gift and a blessing. God’s Word reminds us of who we are. Neither is more important, but I think we tend to forget about the importance of receiving God’s Word audibly.
Being that it’s 2021 and almost all of us have appendages called “smart phones” on our person at all times, guess what. There’s an app for that! You are probably aware of the “Bible” app that comes with an audio feature to have the Word read to you. There’s another app that I recently rekindled a liking for. It’s called “Dwell”, and it’s a great resource to receive God’s Word read over you. The app allows you to pick a voice that you connect with and even background music to cater the experience more to your liking (I prefer my guy “Felix” reading with “ambient” background music).
But my point of this is not to talk you into downloading or purchasing Dwell and its content. My point is to illuminate an important and beneficial practice that Dwell reminded me of – hearing God’s Word. Nothing replaces the personal reading of Scripture, and maybe the best practice is to try reading it aloud even to yourself, but the Dwell app has helped me identify how both reading Scripture and hearing Scripture read over me can lead to learning something different, even within the same verse. Although the app was a great substitute, there’s no better way to hear the Word of God than in a communal gathering where it is read, prayed, and preached.
Right now is a critical moment as COVID, for a time, has stripped us of in-person worship gatherings and has aided in our forgetting the importance of the corporate gathering. It has made us think that we can walk with Jesus on our own which we know to be untrue. In-person gatherings are now largely back up and running, both church services and small groups. So, as the world (hopefully) continues to open back up a bit I encourage you to get back into community where you can hear the word of God read, prayed, and preached over you. Wear a mask, follow distancing procedures, find an outdoor setting—whatever it is that will make you feel safe and honor the safety of others—but find a way, for the health of your soul, to hear the Word of God.
Dwell has been a helpful tool to hear God’s Word, but – such as modeled by Jesus in Luke 4 – nothing replaces hearing God’s Word spoken over you with the communal body of Christ at your side. Nothing will equip us more to resist the devil than knowing God’s Word, and knowing it together. Let us dwell in that.