The Blessing for All!
Francis Bourdillon, 1881
"As He said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed!'
But He said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!'" Luke 11:27-28
We are not surprised at the feeling shown by this woman; it was but natural and proper. If she believed that Jesus was the Messiah, then her words exactly agree with those of the angel to Mary, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" It was blessed indeed to be chosen to give birth to the Savior of the world. And even if she did not so believe — yet it is no wonder that, hearing the gracious words of Jesus and seeing His wonderful works and His pure and holy life — she was struck with the happiness of being the mother of such a son.
Our Lord did not rebuke the woman; rather He seems to have approved of her feeling. It was blessed to be the mother of such a son. Yet He corrected her speech and turned her thoughts, and ours, into another channel, showing us a blessedness, if not greater in itself — yet greater to us because more within our reach: "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"
Our Lord probably meant especially those who heard from His own lips the word of God. At that very time He had been speaking many solemn and cheering truths, and this woman had been among the hearers. Blessed were they, He tells her — who would not only hear Him speak, but would also keep and treasure up His words.
But what He said applies equally to us, who have the written word of God. We have it in our hands to read, or can hear it read by others — and we may hear also the preaching of the word. We "hear the word of God" more freely and fully than it ever was heard before. This part of the blessedness then is certainly ours.
But this is not all; there is another part. The word must be obeyed — as well as heard: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and obey it." We must not hear it carelessly. We must not be hearers only, forgetting it as soon as heard, feeling no value for it, and taking no pains about it. We are to guard it and obey it — to treasure it in our hearts as a precious possession, to believe it, and to follow it; then the full blessing will be ours.
But why are they blessed who hear and keep the word of God?
1. Because the word of God is the word of life — the message of salvation. It tells us of a Savior, speaks pardon and peace, and opens to us God's wondrous way of saving sinners. This can be said of no other book, and no other thing. The works of God in nature tell us much — but they do not tell us this. Many books of man are written on these subjects — but they are but man's books after all. They do not speak with authority; they bring us no message from God Himself, and all the truth they contain is but drawn from the book of God. Blessed are they then, who hear and keep the word of God Himself, because it tells them directly from God, how He will save them.
2. They are blessed also, because the word of God is a guide. It is a difficult path through the wilderness of this world. Many hindrances and perplexities meet us, and many different rules are offered for our guidance: fashion, custom, prudence, man's opinion, etc. The word of God is the only sure guide. A simple, humble, earnest following of this guide — is the wisest, happiest, safest course! The poorest and most unlearned who through grace take this course, have more security for going right than the greatest and wisest who follow any other. Therefore, again, they are blessed who hear and keep the word of God — because they have a sure guide through life.
3. The word of God also comforts in trouble, and therefore they are blessed who hear it and obey it. This world has its sorrows as well as its difficulties — sorrows many and great; but the word of God has comfort for all. It is full of comfort. It has invitations and promises, declarations of God's love, examples of mourners whom He has comforted — and these in great number and variety. There is no kind of trouble for which some suitable comfort may not be found in the Bible. In time of deep sorrow — a comfort and consolation are found in the word of God which are sought in vain in other books. It is the best of all books for those in trouble.
Thus for these three reasons (to mention no others) they are blessed who hear and keep the word of God. It is a word of life, a word of guidance, and a word of comfort.
This is a blessedness that is within our reach. Only one could have that other blessedness; and perhaps it was with a feeling of disappointment mixed with admiration that the woman said, "Blessed is the womb that bore You." That blessedness belonged to another — and never could be hers.
Not so with the blessedness of which our Lord spoke: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it." They — not one, but many; not a single highly-favored woman, but thousands, millions — all to whom the word of God should come and who would receive it aright. This makes the blessing ours — at least it may be ours.
Is it ours? Have we found the word of God blessed to us? Has it led us to Christ and to peace? Has it been our guide in difficulty — and our comfort in trouble? And is it so still? If not, it must be from some fault in us, for there can be nothing lacking in the word itself. Perhaps it is because, though the word has been heard — it has not been obeyed. There are two things needful: hearing and obeying — it may be that we have only done one. There are thousands of such hearers, hearers who are hearers only.
If it has been so with you hitherto — then seek earnestly that henceforth it may be so no longer. You do hear the word — now begin to obey it.
First, pray for the Spirit to cause the word to reach your heart. At every fresh hearing or reading, pray afresh. Seek thus that inward teaching which is from God alone. Then be diligent with regard to the word. Hear it with great earnestness, as the word of God; think over it, apply it to yourself, examine it — "search the scriptures." Consider that, whether you have hitherto found them or not — there are priceless treasures in God's word, and that God is willing to give you a share. Never rest until you gain them. "Seek — and you will find."
Lastly, watch. Keep the word; guard it; watch against all that might lead you to let it slip or might cause it to become unfruitful. Watch against the love of money, the love of pleasure, too great occupation in business, against the world in every shape. Watch against a cold heart, a trifling spirit, a careless walk. Watch against unprofitable reading and unprofitable company. Be very humble, very watchful, very prayerful.
Thus seek to treasure up the word in your heart. Keep well what you have learned already — and try to add something continually to your store. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Have it ready there for use — to guide, cheer, and comfort you. Let it be to you a word loved and followed, your close companion, your bosom friend — God speaking by it to your heart, and your heart listening to His voice.
Then you will be blessed indeed — called blessed by Christ Himself, more blessed than even she who gave birth to Him would have been, if she had not had this blessing too.