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New City Catechism 42.2

Question 42: How is the Word of God to be read and heard?

Answer: With diligence, preparation, and prayer; so that we may accept it with faith, store it in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

When Isaiah the prophet was commissioned to proclaim the Word of the Lord to Judah, the message he was given was, "Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the hearts of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed" (Isaiah 6:9-10). God had destined the hardened people of Judah for judgment, and the main purpose of Isaiah's prophetic ministry was to harden them further as his warnings met only with resistance.

It is interesting to note that Isaiah's message speaks of two levels of hearing and seeing. It is possible to hear without understanding. It is possible to see without perceiving. The Word of God, if not received with faith, does not profit the one who hears it. It only hardens in sin. But it never leaves us the same, one way or the other.

This is why we must approach God's Word with reverent preparation of our hearts to receive it in faith. Read Scripture and listen to scriptural exposition with a heart that is humbly waiting to receive from the Lord whatever he would say to you. Ask God to convict, encourage, rebuke, teach, and train you through his Word as he sees fit. And then expect him to do it. Above all, do not allow yourself to be hardened to God's Word as Judah was.

Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Isaiah 6. What does this passage teach about God? What does it teach about us? What does it teach about our need to hear God's Word in faith?

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