The Creator was so wise to give us two really important sensors. I have recently enjoyed emotional uplifting by listening to some of my favorite gospel, oldies, or classical tenor music. And at our home we have a sweet little bluebird that has made a nest in the hollow metal support beam of our swimming pool. He sings a lot, brings bugs into the tubing for his nesting partner, and delights our cats with his attentions to our yard.
I am not ready to give up my hearing anytime soon and I need to address the hearing loss I still have (despite yearly tests). All of this has made me think there are ways I don’t listen or hear. How many times have we all loudly joked, “I can’t hear you,” when we don’t like what is being said? Is most of my “hearing” done in a defensive mode of self-justification? Do I listen with a critical spirit? Do I even really listen to my loved ones?
I started wondering about how many times listening or hearing is mentioned in the Bible. One of my concordances doesn’t list much for “listening” or “listens” but another has pages of scriptures that have been interpreted with “hear” or “hearken.” The Shema is a Jewish daily prayer ritual from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, beginning with verse 4: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (The New JPS Translation). The following verses remind God’s people to love God with all their heart, soul, and might. Every day they are reminded to hear.
One of the first Bible stories about listening that I considered was the story in 1 Samuel 3, with Samuel’s famous response to God’s calling: “Speak, for your servant is listening,” (verse 10, NIV). I wish I could hear God’s voice, or better yet, to have been present when Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom. Ah, to literally hear his voice.
Jesus often taught with parables when he was on earth. He told his disciples this method was in fulfillment of Isaiah’s warning (Isaiah 6:9) about “ever hearing but never understanding.” In Matthew 13:13-15, the people “hardly hear with their ears.” Then in verse 16 Jesus blesses those who really see and those who really hear. He goes on to explain the parable in verses 18-23 (also Mark 4:15-20) about the types of soil as hearers of God’s word.
Do we really want to hear? We live in an interesting time when many people do not want to hear the voices of those with whom they attempt to communicate, and at the same time often share exercise or travel time with a constant stream of playlists or podcasts. We are surely generations of people who are ADHD listeners—attention deficit and hyperactive. What might be muffling or choking our spiritual hearing?
In Luke 6:47 Jesus starts another hearing story with two types of builders: “I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.” Those who hear and practice are on a firm foundation for building a life. Romans 10: 17 reminds us that a strong faith comes from hearing Jesus’ message. And there is great promise offered in John 5:24-29, as Jesus describes believing hearers now, and the outcome for all who will hear his voice at his Second Coming.
Humans could not hear Jesus’ voice after he went back to his Father. Yet he assured all his disciples/lovers that the Father would send us the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to teach us and remind us of all that Jesus said (John 14). Beyond listening with ears, we are gifted with an internal kind of listening. We may listen for God with attention and focus. We can be ready to hear Scripture, hear nature, hear godly people and all the many ways that God might speak.
Counselors sometimes refer to certain clients as having very sensitive “antennae” guiding their reactions to relationships and issues. That sensitivity can result in many perceived wounds and pain, however, it can also behold more nuances of love. I desire exquisite antennae for God’s Spirit, and I believe that through resting in the faith of Jesus he will strengthen my obedience and practice. He will not abandon me.
Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:
- Read John 10: 1-16; 25-30. Underline all the phrases about Jesus’ voice. Write or share your response.
- Would you like to hear God’s voice? Why or why not.
Karen Spruill writes from Florida.
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