Several months ago I made a simple change that has enriched nearly every area of my life. Instead of listening to music or talk radio in the car I’ve been listening to the Bible. That habit is helping to sustain me as we shelter.
It all started when I was scanning the Audio Books section of Amazon. I wasn’t looking for a recording of the Bible. I’ve read it. I read it all the time. It has been my bread and morning sun since I was a teenager. And I guess that’s why, until late last year, I’ve never been motivated to add it to my audio list. As the years I have left in this life draw down, the number of books on my ‘must read’ list grows. So why would I listen to the one book I’ve been reading all my life?
Honestly, what grabbed me about “NIV Live: A Bible Experience” at first was the price. (If you know me well, that won’t surprise you.) For just $21 I could get the entire Bible on 79 CDs. What? How is that possible? It must be some cheesy recording they overproduced and are trying to unload. I did a little research. I was intrigued. The recording, I learned, features Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award nominees – for example: Peter is played by Gospel giant, Kirk Franklin – as well as a music score by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. And there are theatrical sound effects throughout: clomping camels, babbling brooks, singing birds, clashing swords, braying donkeys, rainfall, thunder, laughter, the shouts and groans of huge armies. Basically, it’s the NIV Bible, word-for-word, performed in the style of big-time radio theater.
"The discipline of listening has changed my understanding of God’s Word. "
Over the past few months I’ve listened to the Bible all the way through and I’m now about 80% through round two. So much about the experience has surprised me. First, I’m amazed at how little time it takes to get through all 66 books. My commute to church is minimal, but I’m in the car many more hours than I realize. I no longer have that sense when I’m driving that my time is being wasted. I look forward to the long haul to Home Depot.
Here’s my main point. The discipline of listening has changed my understanding of God’s Word. Hearing the narrative straight through, without looking at notes and other reference materials, has helped me to absorb the grand sweep of God’s redemptive plan. Hearing skilled actors enliven the voices, I’m sometimes shocked, astonished, puzzled and moved to tears by the ancient stories in ways I haven’t been since my youth. Stealing a line from Donald Justice, the Spirit often manages to “recreate that hour/ When all things to the eye their early splendors wore.” It’s not so much that I’m thinking about God differently. It’s that my love for him and my desire to be changed by him have been deepened – just by listening. The change is one of the heart rather than the head.
And now I’m wondering: why should any of that surprise me? The Lord intends his Good News to be proclaimed and heard. At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commends “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them in to practice” (Matt. 7:24). In explaining his Parable of the Sower (where the seed represents God’s Word) he says that “the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding 100, 60 or 30 times what was sown” (Matt. 13:23). Discipleship, Jesus insists, is a matter of hearing and doing.
By the way, if you’re a tightwad like me, maybe this will grab you. The cost for the 79 CDs has now dropped to $9.99.