Are You Listening?
The professor was trying his best to make the lecture engaging. He had mastered the material and was quite adept at communicating in a variety of ways, but today he knew he was losing his audience. So he stopped the lecture and the complete silence got their attention.
Is anybody listening?
That worked. Now he had everybody’s eyes. Then, he asked several students by name to tell him about the distractions. What was diverting their attention?
Are you aware of the things that are distracting you when you read your Bible? Can you detect those moments when you are really not listening to the Lord? You are reading the words. You are harvesting the data. You are gathering up the information, but the Lord doesn’t really have your attention.
I have observed a refrain in the Bible, a repetition that has provoked my contemplation.
You did not listen.
God often says those words to his people when they have gone astray, when they have set a course of thought and behavior that resonates well with the world around them, but is discordant with God’s ways. Remember, God’s Word is often incongruent with the world. And the ways of the world are hostile to God. When we are listening we hear the clash resound like cymbals. When we are not listening, we hear harmony between the ways of man and the ways of God. It appears that the kingdom of God is the same thing as the kingdoms of this world.
Martha was distracted by many things, so she wasn’t listening. Jonah didn’t like the message, so he put his fingers in his ears and intentionally got on the wrong ship. Jesus explained that the cares of the world, the pursuit of wealth and interest in other things can choke out the Word of God. We may read our Bibles, but our hearts are in another place, our attention is diverted elsewhere. Peter, James and John heard Jesus say crazy things about rejection, persecution and death that did not square with their pursuit of greatness and it rendered them deaf to the majestic voice of the Savior. God had to break in and say,
This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!
Josiah was a man who listened. Let us learn today from him.
Because your heart was responsive…I have heard you, declares the LORD.
2 Kings 22:19
O how Josiah responded when he heard the reading of God’s Word! He tore his robes, humbled himself and wept because he saw how displeased God was with his people. That was the beginning of his response. Then he really went to work. He removed from the temple all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem. He torn down all the high places that were used to worship false gods. He destroyed the Asherah pole and tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes.
When God speaks, he is looking for a response. Your response will tell him if he has your attention. Abram was told to look at the stars one evening and count them. Then God told him,
So shall your offspring be.
It seemed highly unlikely since he had no children and he and his wife were beyond he childbearing years. Nonetheless,
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Sometimes, all God wants us to do when we read our Bibles is to believe what he tells us. On those days, belief in a promise that seems too good to be true is the response God desires. Other days, he wants obedience, or repentance, or a step of faith to move in a new direction, or confession, or movement to follow a godly example, or crying out for salvation, or songs of praise and thanksgiving.
When God grants new birth to us, when he removes the heart of stone and in its place creates a new heart, accompanied by the indwelling of the Spirit of God, he gives us a new ability that we never had before. Now we are made alive to God. Now we are able to respond in faith to His Word. Now we can listen and actually hear his voice. We can listen and respond. God has taken the dusty, dry bones and breathed new life into them. They are now a vast army waiting to hear the command of God. Halleluia! Look what God has done!
When God gives the command will you hear it? Are you listening to God as you read your Bible? Your response will communicate the answer to that question. The Bible is not simply a reservoir of information, of data to be transferred into your head. It is the voice of God. The God who has spoken is the God who is still speaking to us through his Word.
Because your heart was responsive…
Are your listening? Are you responding?