He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
How do you listen to preaching? It will affect your life. If you neglect or reject preaching, God will hate and reject your prayers. This is a sober warning for your future success.
Here is one of the most important proverbs. It involves an issue that affects every person, the consequences are severe, and the remedy is easy and simple. You can distinguish yourself in God’s sight for His blessings more quickly here than most anywhere else.
Do you attend every church service you can? Do you pray and prepare before arriving? Do you stay focused and absorb as much as possible? Do you review what you heard? Do you meditate on the subject? Do you examine yourself for changes the lesson called for?
The Bereans were noble for receiving Paul’s preaching with very ready minds and studying out what they heard (Acts 17:11), but the Jews of Jerusalem plugged their ears and rejected Stephen (Acts 7:51-60). Where do you fall between these two extremes?
Do you attend church as a Sunday habit? Do you miss whenever you feel like it? Do you watch television Saturday night instead of preparing? Do you doze during the preaching? Do you let your mind wander? Do you read your Bible or a hymnal instead of listening?
God reveals Himself and His will by preaching (Mal 2:7; I Cor 1:21). He picks the men, gives them ability to do it, convicts and leads their minds, and gives them their content – either by visions in the past or by written scripture today (II Tim 3:16-17; 4:2).
Preachers are God’s ambassadors (II Cor 5:20). He sends them with His message for your profit, if you will hear and obey. If you neglect God’s ambassador and the message he brings, you mistreat God Himself, and you will pay (Ex 16:8; Ps 105:14-15; I Sam 8:7).
What more can He say to get your attention? If you slight His words by preaching, He will reject your words in praying (Pr 1:24-30). The matter is important, for you need His wisdom through preaching for your success, and you need Him to hear your prayers.
God had preachers under the Old Testament that taught the people by verbal instruction (II Chron 17:8-9; Ezra 7:10; Neh 8:1-12; Jonah 3:1-2; Mal 2:7). Solomon, the writer of these proverbs is called the Preacher (Eccl 1:1-2,12; 7:27; 12:8-10). And there are preachers today under the New Testament (Rom 10:14; I Tim 2:7; II Tim 4:2).
The Lord warned that He will reject the prayers of those who do not listen submissively. In fact, He will consider their prayers to be abominations! Here is a very serious warning about your attitude toward the preaching of God’s word. He explained to the regathered Jews this was the reason for their horrific punishment by the Babylonians (Zech 7:7-14)!
Imagine your prayer being an abomination to God! While you beg Him for blessing and favor in your life, He intensely despises, hates, and loathes your efforts and words. Your prayers nauseate Him! It is one thing to have your prayers hindered by neglecting your wife (Mal 2:13-14; I Pet 3:7), but this is a far worse thing of God hating your prayers.
How were the Bereans noble? Consider Acts 17:11 closely. First, they heard Paul with very receptive minds. They did not listen scornfully, raising their own opinions, objections, or foolish questions against his preaching. They wanted to hear; they wanted to believe; they assumed he was right; they were thankful they had a man of God to declare truth to them. Their minds did not wander or wonder if perhaps Paul was wrong.
Second, they searched the Bible daily to confirm his words. They did not mock Paul’s superior knowledge by five minutes in a concordance trying to reject him. Some think they can ignore a preacher’s many hours of study on a particular subject and a lifetime in God’s word with a few minutes of weekend reading. Such is the mentality and nature of foolish and unlearned questions, which godly ministers ignore (II Tim 2:23; Titus 3:9).
Human pride is terrible, and a sermon against a sin of yours will bring it out. But pastors are to wage war against your opinions (II Cor 10:3-6)! He has studied the subject 100 times more than you; he is preaching to the varied needs of many people; he has a divine mandate to be true to Scripture alone without fear of men (Jer 1:17); he is not preaching his agenda; he is merely repeating orders from the King of kings. Remember these things.
Paul, knowing your temptation to resent such preaching, warned in I Thessalonians 5:20, “Despise not prophesyings.” God has warned in both testaments to listen attentively and submissively. The Lord Jesus Christ soberly brought his parable of the sower to a conclusion by saying, “Take heed therefore how ye hear” (Luke 8:18). His judgment is severe – He will take from the stubborn listener the little knowledge he thinks he has.
Cornelius gives one of the best examples of receptive hearers, when he assembled his family and friends to hear “all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33). And Israel held a great celebration for understanding preaching that pointed out duties they had overlooked (Neh 8:1-18). The Thessalonians heard Paul’s Bible preaching as all preaching should be heard – as if the words were the very words of God (I Thess 2:13).
No sermon is perfect, as any honest preacher will tell you. There are always small faults you can criticize, and conscientious pastors agonize over them; but the hearers who focus on them are wicked scorners (Is 29:20-21). Peter preached like an unlearned fisherman to the scornful Jews, but he had the wise words of salvation from Jesus (Acts 4:12-13).
God will defend His preachers, as forty-two disrespectful children discovered (II Kings 2:23-25). Korah and his friends wish they had respected Moses and his preaching better (Num 16:1-33). God does not appreciate men ignoring or rejecting the message of His ambassadors (Deut 1:41-44). Paul despised such men (I Cor 14:36-38), and he did not allow foolish contentions, even about matters as minor as the length of hair (I Cor 11:16).
Not all preachers are God’s messengers. Most pastors do not preach God’s word, just as the Bible warns (Amos 8:11-12). Most Christians want fables instead of truth (II Tim 4:3-4), so they find effeminate preachers that prey on vulnerable women (II Tim 3:6-7) with their false Christianity (II Tim 3:1-5). The cure is simple – preach the word (II Tim 4:2).
It is hard today to find a church where God’s word is faithfully declared, but you must, because settling for a contemporary pretender like Joel or Benny is just one more way to violate this proverb. You cannot satisfy Solomon’s warning by listening to men merely talk, tell jokes, tell stories, pretend to have visions, smile real pretty, or wear white suits.
Reject personality cults, pretend miracles, big business, or wives involved. Measure preachers by their fruit (Matt 7:15-20). What is the effect or result of the ministry? Does it redirect lives to comply with God’s word? And by all means measure it by the scriptures (Ps 119:98-100,128; Isaiah 8:20; Rom 16:17-18; Gal 1:16-17; I Tim 6:3-5).
Finding a true preacher is a great blessing from God, as Elihu told Job (Job 33:23-26). It is God’s ordained way for you to know His will, and where there is no preacher, the people perish (Pr 29:18; I Sam 3:1; II Chr 15:3). No wonder God said preachers had beautiful feet (Is 52:7; Rom 10:15). Do not neglect the blessing of hearing God’s word.
The proverb’s warning is severe, as it should be, because rebellion against God’s word is like witchcraft, and stubbornness is like idolatry (I Sam 15:22-23). If the Lord of heaven discerns you are protecting an idol in your heart and rejecting His message, He will send you lying delusions, just as He did Ahab (Ezek 14:1-11; I Kings 22:8; II Thess 2:9-12).
Consider the advice Eli gave Samuel, when the Lord called him at night. Eli told Samuel to answer, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (I Sam 3:39). This is the godly and humble attitude that will be blessed. He that hath ears to hear; let him hear. And let his prayers come up as a sweet savor in the nostrils of the glorious God in heaven. Amen.