11:1-23 – God speaks His Word to us. He calls us to obedience. He says to us, ‘Obey My voice’. Sadly, however, the story of our life is often summed up in the words: ‘They did not listen or pay attention. They did not obey’ (7-8). God’s Word is not just ‘something to think about. When God calls us to obedience, we’re not to say, ‘I’ll think about that later’. ‘Now’ is the time for obedience to God’s Word: ‘Obey now the voice of the Lord’ (38:20). We must not put this off until tomorrow. God is looking for our obedience today: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:7). To those who were deeply involved in religious ritual – ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ – , God said this, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience involves our whole life – not just ‘never missing a service’!
12:1-17 – ‘“If any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it”, declares the Lord’ (17). We must not look out to the world and say, ‘That’s what’s happening “out there”’. We must look into our own hearts. We must ask, ‘What’s happening “in here”?’. We are to pray, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart’ (Psalm 139:23). When the searchlight of God’s Word begins to shine on our lives, it becomes clear that ‘all is not as it seems’: ‘They speak well of You with their lips, but their hearts are far from You’ (2). Our situation seems hopeless. We cannot change ourselves: ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (13:23). There is a Word of hope. We can be changed by the Lord: ‘I will give you a new heart’ (Ezekiel 36:26).
13:1-27 – ‘These wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them will be… completely useless’ (10). Are you on the way to becoming ‘completely useless’? Each of us must think about what’s been happening in our lives? – ‘Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His Word? What peaceful hours I once enjoyed! How sweet their memory still! But they have left an aching void the world can never fill’. We need to pray for real change. We need to pray for ‘a closer walk with God’: ‘Return, O Holy Dove!… The dearest idol I have known… Help me to tear it from Thy throne, and worship only Thee. So shall my walk be close with God…’ (Church Hymnary, 663).
14:1-22 – In ourselves, there is sin – ‘O Lord… we have sinned against You’. In the Lord, there is salvation – ‘O Lord our God… our hope is in You’ (20,22). In the Lord, there is no sin – ‘You are too pure to look on evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13). In ourselves , there is no salvation. We are ‘spiritually dead because of our disobedience and sins’. We need to be ‘made alive’. How can this happen? It is not something we can do for ourselves. The new birth can only be received as a gift from God. We must stop trying to save ourselves. It cannot be done. Salvation cannot be earned. It must be received as a gift from God. It must be received by ‘faith’. We must look away from ourselves to Christ. In Christ, we see ‘God’s great love for us’. Through receiving Christ as Saviour, we are ‘born of God’ (Ephesians 2:1,4-5,8; John 1:12-13).