What comes before "hear"?
How God Deals With People Who Won't Give Him a Chance
Hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized--it's not difficult to see how the "five-fingered" approach to attaining salvation has been understood. Even a casual reading of Acts 2: 37-47 shows four of the five in very obvious fashion, and the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8: 26-40 shows the confession of faith in Jesus Christ (the less explicit, fourth step of salvation) before baptism in natural context (verse 37).
Actually there is a decision that is made before the first step of the five--hearing--is made. It is the decision to hear or not to hear. The decision is one that shows arrogance or humility. The decision to hear or not to hear tells much about the heart of the person to submit to his Creator or to "do it my way," as the words of the popular song go. "I did it my way" will be the exact wrong answer in the Judgment. God isn't asking people to live their lives their way. He's telling them to live it His way or they will pay for it in eternity (see 2 Thessalonians 1: 6-10).
The story of Moses and Pharoah makes a good object lesson about those who refuse to listen to God when He tries to speak to us. In Exodus 4 we read of Moses' trepidation when God asked him to go to Pharoah and demand that Pharoah let His people go for a three day's journey into the wilderness to serve Him. Moses cites several personal weaknesses that could interfere with his success in trying to carry out God's mission. Notice that only when Moses shows his rebellion to God--"Oh Lord, send another"--that God's anger is kindled. God has shown remarkable patience in dealing with man as long as it is man's weakness and not man's rebellion that is driving man's questions and fears. But God doesn't put up with outright rebellion. To finish the story about Moses and Pharoah, Pharoah did not have a heart that would listen to God. Exo 10:28 Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die." Pharoah tried to shut off God's word to him at the source. He effectually told Moses to "shut up." What was the outcome after the ten plagues and after Pharoah sent his army after the children of Israel? Exo 14:26-30 " Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen." So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore."--ESV.
One man (Moses) humbled himself before God, deciding to hear Him long enough to find out what He had to say, and by so doing became one of the greatest examples of faith and obedience to God that ever lived. The other man (Pharoah) disappeared in the annals of history as a vanquished ruler. Pharoah, like all unhearing and unbelieving people, didn't really "break" God's law; he broke himself against it, for God's law still remained long after Pharoah was gone.
Pharoah wasn't the exception to the rule when it came to man trying to shut out God. The table below invites you to see what has happened every time when man has decided he would shut God out and "do it his way."
|Instance of man refusing to listen/hear||Location||Who won? Who had the last word?|
|Wicked of Noah's time||Genesis chapters six through nine||God--Genesis 7: 21|
|Homosexuals of Sodom and Gomorrah||Genesis 19||God--Gen. 19: 24,25|
|Elymas the sorcerer (magician)||Acts 13: 6-12||God--13:11 blindness|
|Herod||Acts 12: 20-23||God-Acts 12:23|
|Pagan mankind||Romans 1: 18-32||God "gave them up" Romans 1: 24, 26, 28|
|Mankind||Romans 14: 11||God--every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord|
Man can choose to refuse to listen--stopping the formation of faith at its very source (Romans 10: 17), but all he is doing is storing up punishment for himself. Man is foolish if he thinks that by remaining ignorant, he can avoid becoming accountable to God (Acts 17: 30), for he already is. Luke 21:33 "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away," Jesus said. "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." in John 12: 48.
There are two immediate applications of the above discussion: (1) The unbeliever is headed for terrible destruction for his refusal to listen to God's word. and (2) The Christian who refuses to read his Bible or come to church is little better off! 2 Timothy 2: 15 and Hebrews 10: 24, 25 don't go away just because the lazy child of God has decided he doesn't want to hear about them anymore. For either one, he is playing peek-aboo with a God whose eyes are everywhere (Psalms 139) and who isn't playing games when it comes to obeying His commands (John 14: 15; I John 3:24).