Seeing But Not Observing

“You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; your ears are open, but none hears.” (Isaiah 42:20)

Addressing the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah, God tells them that they have “seen” much in His Law, but actually “observe” little. The Hebrew word translated “observe” here means to “keep, watch, preserve” (BDB) — in other words, they were not putting into practice all that they had seen and learned in His word.  

Unfortunately these words describe too many people who warm seats in American churches today.  They “listen” to sermons week after week in worship services, but don’t do anything in response to them.  Like Israel in Isaiah’s day, they “see” so much of God’s word — at church, and perhaps even in their own homes in daily Bible readings — but do not “observe” what God commands: they don’t change their lives due to what they have seen.

How can you know if you are just like God’s people in Isaiah’s day?  Ask yourself a couple of questions: 1) what did you hear in the sermon at church last Sunday, and what have you actually DONE differently as a result?  2) When is the last time I changed something specific in my life after reading God’s word?  If you have difficulty coming up with something, Isaiah’s words may well be addressed to you!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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