Reflection: Listening ears
When we moved into the manse recently, it took a bit of time to get used to the different sounds in the house. Like the wood expanding and contracting when the heating is turned up or down. There’s a beep-bop on the external doors when they’re opened. There’s no heavy traffic trundling past the front door day and night, so the still sound of silence is a constant delight.
Then there’s the neighbourhood dogs barking, and ours, Blake and Amber, hear what is being said along the barking chain, and of course they have to respond and bark back, joining in with a merry woof. I immediately recognise my dogs bark from any other dog’s bark, so that sound tells me it’s time to bring them in.
When your mobile rings, you know it’s yours by the ring tone you have chosen so you’ll respond and go answer … most of the time. If it’s someone you know well on the phone, you’ll recognise their voice right away and respond differently to the times when it’s perhaps a stranger or a sales call.
We recognise these things and people that become familiar to us over time, but, when God speaks, how often do we recognise His voice and in turn respond to Him? Have we grown close enough to God that we recognise the sound of His voice when He speaks?
In 1 Samuel 3.1-10 God tells us about the young boy Samuel who didn’t recognise the voice of the Lord speaking to him at first, but then, as Samuel kept on running to the priest Eli, assuming it was him who was talking. However, Samuel, with the help of Eli, eventually came to understand and recognise it was God’s voice he was hearing. It took a bit of time, but Samuel got there in the end and listened carefully.
Did you know that we humans are created to hear God? There are many passages in the Bible that confirm this principle (for example in John 8.47, John 10.27, Isaiah 30.21), but somewhere, somehow, along the way we just stopped listening. When we consider accounts in the Bible, like that of Samuel and Eli and as many others demonstrate, we begin to understand how God speaks to His people.
God has been known to speak to humans through dreams (Matthew 1.18-25, Acts 2.17), through other people when perhaps we aren’t able to hear for ourselves (Hebrews 1.1-2), and through a deep peace in our soul when we pray discerning His gentle voice in a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4.7). God speaks to us through His Word (2 Timothy 3.16-17). God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3.2) and Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision (Acts 9.3-7). We can’t limit the wonder of a creator God and how He chooses to interact with humanity, however, we must be careful that our understanding is according to His Word, which is recorded in the Bible. Any other way would be a different gospel, different from the narrow path Jesus tells us about (Galatians 1.6-8).
Listening intentionally for and recognising the voice of God is important and applicable for today, and helps us to remain in the will of God, which is the best and safest place to be. This is about being in a relationship with God that He wants us to enjoy every day.
When it comes to listening, I’ve often heard our daughter saying to our very distracted grandson when he doesn’t respond, ‘put your listening ears on’, and then they both make this gesture over their ear, as if to switch the ears from non listening mode to full listening mode.
Sometimes, the question we need to ask, is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are still enough and focused enough to hear, so in a sense do we have our listening ears on to stay in His will. The Bible assures us that our heavenly Father is always listening to us and hears even our innermost thoughts (Psalm 139.23). But do we really listen and know what it means to “Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
Father God, we thank you for the knowledge that it’s your desire to hear our voice, as we pray to you throughout each day, we are also grateful that Your word assures us Your sheep know Your voice (John 10.27). Teach us to listen, as we thank you for the days ahead when we will seek to hear, endeavour to listen and glorify You as we hear Your gentle voice leading us forward. With grateful hearts we give thanks for Your love, encompassing us wherever we are and for Your voice that gently leads and guides us, bringing us into a deeper place of fellowship with You in peace and faith. In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.