How good are you at listening?

Sunday 11th October 2020

Isaiah 25:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

What are some of the differences between listening to the radio and watching TV?  Radio involves one of our senses whist TV involves two.  Tuning in to the radio often requires careful listening, whilst watching TV can be done carelessly; you’re not really listening to the words, just looking at the images.

Throughout Scripture God is calling us to listen to Him.  We are to pay attention and listen carefully.  How many times did you hear your parents or teachers say something along those lines?  How good were you at listening?  Did you answer the right question, complete the task correctly according to the directions given to you?  Or did you do what you thought you were asked to do, but because you weren’t listening properly you missed the mark?

Does this sound familiar?

The Bible shows us how important it is to listen to God.  As God’s Children the Israelites quickly forgot what God had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt.  They failed to listen and spent 40 years walking round in a big circle.  That meant that most of those who remembered escaping Egypt had died before they could get into the promised land.  They had seen it, but they didn’t get there.

Listening is so important.  Without listening we can end up not getting all that God wants us to have. Perhaps you see this in your life.

As God’s people we are not just to inwardly receive the Word but are to outwardly live it before those we share our lives with.  When we do this we will show God’s wisdom and be considered wise and understanding (Deut. 4:6).   You see God is, and always has been deeply interested in the witness of His people by giving the Word to the world.  As Christ’s Church we have a vital mission and if we lose enthusiasm to communicate the news of Jesus, we soon start turning our energy in on ourself – with disastrous effects.  Perhaps you can see where this has already happened.

Context of the wedding banquet parable (Matthew 22:1-14)

So what does this parable say about listening to God?  This parable, the Wedding Feast, is the third that Jesus spoke to the religious and political leaders during His final week in Jerusalem.  The first was the Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32) where Jesus describes the chief priests and religious leaders like two sons, and connects them to the son who appears to obey but does not.  The second was the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46) where Jesus shows the religious leaders that He is well aware of their plot to take ownership of His kingdom and to kill Him.  In the final parable, that of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14), Jesus again shows these men how they are wickedly rejecting the kindness and graciousness of God who has invited them to the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This parable looks at how etiquette and bad manners can escalate into violence.  The wedding party began as convention dictates.  A first invitation (a sort of “Save the date!”, which has become popular again) is followed by the summons carried by the host’s servants when the banquet is ready. This is when things start to fall apart.

First, the invited guests simply refuse to come, and when the second call comes, they treat the invitation as a joke and go about their business.  Did you notice that it is not because the invited guests could not come to the wedding feast, but that they would not come (see Luke13:34)?  Everyone had an excuse.  How tragic, and how indicative of human nature, to be offered the blessings of God and to refuse them because of the draw of mundane things.

More than bad manners are at stake, for some invitees even assault and kill the servants.  In his anger the king  then escalates the confrontation by sending in his troops to destroy both the perpetrators and their city. Apparently, the king has judged their bad behaviour to be the opening salvo of a rebellion that must be quelled.

Nevertheless, the party is ready, and the king is determined that it will go ahead, and so the servants are sent out again, this time to the very limits of the territory, (That is what v9 means). They are to bring in everyone, “good and bad” (v 10), so that the hall will be filled.  When the King plans a party, the party will go on!

We need to listen carefully to God’s Word.  How well have you responded to God’s invitation to enter His Kingdom?

You see, just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides salvation for humanity.  Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and unless we have it, we will miss the wedding feast.  Righteousness is found by believing the Word, and the Word is only found in and through the cross of Christ.  The cross is the only way to salvation (John 14:6) and involves us recognising our sin, confessing it and walking away from it with the help of Christ’s power dwelling in us.  We simply can’t do it on our own!

Those who try to do it on their own, who try to get in without going through the cross, will be thrown out into the darkness.  This darkness is existence without the love, grace, mercy and compassion of God.  This is why Christ concludes the parable with the sad fact that “many are invited, but few are chosen.” In other words, many people hear the call of God, but only a few heed it.

The self-righteous Pharisees who heard this parable did not miss Jesus’ point. In the very next verse, “the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words” (Matthew 22:15).

I see this Parable of the Wedding Feast as a warning to us.  Are we listening to God’s Word?  God’s provision of salvation is only found from listening to and then obeying the Word, not on our own good works or religious service.

We are always to keep listening to what God is saying to us.  The Word is God’s brilliant gift to us.  It stops us from insulting Him and thus destroying ourselves.  The enemy, the devil, is great at attacking our faith.  Having a lukewarm faith is not healthy.  Often when we feel lukewarm it is because of our small attention to God’s liberating Word and too much attention to non-liberating things.

The Word is full of wonderful incentives to return to God wholeheartedly.  Know, believe and live in the knowledge

  • that God “will not abandon or destroy you” (Deut. 4:31),
  • that “beside Him there is no other God”, (Deut. 4:35),
  • that it is His desire to save all people (1 Tim2:3-4, 2 Pet 3:9)

In Jesus we have a safe place to run to, for in Him, the Word, we find pardon and peace.  The heart of God is for all people to be safe.

When the writer of Hebrews calls us to “hear [the Lord’s] voice” (4:7), he also calls us to “approach God’s throne” where our High Priest Jesus Christ has perfect sympathy because He is unhardened by sin and has an endless supply of perfect mercy and grace. Trust what Jesus, the Word, says as you listen to Him.

Time to think

First read Isaiah 25:1-9 and Matthew 22:1-14

Perhaps with pen/paper or journal write down your thoughts as you consider the following questions….

  1. Listening is so important.  Without listening we can end up not getting all that God has told us, or shown us He wants us to have.  Where do you see that in your life?
  2. How well have you responded to God’s invitation to enter His Kingdom?
  3. What warnings does this parable show us?
  4. What impact does being lukewarm for Jesus have on our faith?
  5. Referring to the text above what are we to live in the knowledge of?

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

  1. Can you think of occasions when your failure to listen to God’s word for you led to unwelcomed problems in your life?
  2. The Word is God’s brilliant gift to us.  Ask God to show you where the sin in your life is causing the brilliance of this gift to be tarnished?  Confess this and receive God’s forgiveness.  Then rebuke the enemy’s schemes to dull the brilliance of God’s Word in your life.  Finally declare that you will fill your life with the Word.

Trust what Jesus, the Word, says as you listen to Him.

Prayer Response

  • Give some time as you start your prayer to noticing the immense hospitality of this king. ‘Invite everyone you find to the wedding!’ he says. That is God’s attitude to everyone on earth, and to you. Be grateful for this.
  • What of the man without a wedding robe? This part of the story is to highlight that we need to fill our lives with loving action. It is not a preview of eternal punishment, because God loves everyone even when they don’t reciprocate.
  • God, you are always looking out for us and inviting us to fill the place that is set precisely for us. Let me pray and work for the good of others so that there may be no gaps at your wedding banquet, and that I too may be there.