Ultimately, God Himself speaks to us through biblical sermons. Who is this God who speaks to us? He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the most high and holy God, and the almighty Creator of all things. He created us and rules over us, and we owe Him everything we have to offer. So, of course, we should remember to listen to Him reverently. It is true that we listen to our pastor preach week after week, but our pastor is merely the instrument through whom God has chosen to speak to us. Above and behind the words of any faithful preacher is the Lord God telling us how we should live. As John Calvin put it, “When the gospel is preached in the name of God, it is as if God himself spoke in person.”
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” Paul thanked God for the Thessalonians because when he preached the Word to them they recognized that it was not merely a word from Paul, but from God. This is how every Christian should receive the preaching of the Word: as coming from God Himself. When we remember this, it should motivate us to be reverent as we listen.
Ecclesiastes 5:1–2 exhorts all who approach the house of God for worship to “guard your steps,” to “draw near to listen,” and to “let your words be few.” To put it another way, we should be reverent toward God when we are gathered for worship. We do this by being respectful and quiet when God is speaking to us through His Word. This does not simply mean we are not talking. It also means we must make every effort to keep our minds alert and focused on the message being preached. For if we allow ourselves to drift off to sleep or to think about other things during the sermon, it is as if we are saying to God, “Lord, what you have to say to me now really doesn’t mean that much to me. I don’t think it’s very important.”
Another way we seem to “interrupt” what God says to us during sermons is by refusing to accept all the Bible says as being absolutely true. Sometimes we silently argue with God as we listen to a message, trying to persuade Him that His words are not true or that they do not really apply to us. I know that whenever I try to instruct my children about things they do not agree with, their favorite response to me is, “But . . . ” They will often say, “But Daddy . . . ,” and I have to respond with, “No ‘buts’—please just listen to me!” Yet we treat God this same way, saying, “But Lord, this can’t be true” or “Lord, that command isn’t really intended for me, is it?” Scripture reminds us that we must be “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). We must listen to God! We have to allow Him to speak to us and remember that His words are perfect, true, and unchanging. Furthermore, He is good, loving, supremely wise, and—because He is all-knowing—He knows exactly what He is doing.