Uggh… It came up again today. Sometimes the most obscure verse can hit me right where I’m at, and its not always fun. Tucked into Deuteronomy 27 we find God speaking through Moses to His people, “O Israel, be quiet and listen!”
I’ve been working on this listening thing since last year when I discovered some deficiencies in this area. It happened one night with the gals at middle school youth group. They were sharing some communication issues they all seemed to be having with their parents. The resounding response was, “My parents don’t listen – when I talk, I can see they are thinking about something else. They are busy, preoccupied, and my little school or friend problems aren’t important to them. Eventually, I just quit telling them all the details because they didn’t listen anyway or they act like the things I’m concerned about are silly or unimportant.”
This composite of multiple responses alarmed me. When I went home and sat down with my daughters to inquire about my own listening skills, I wasn’t prepared for their responses. They had some similar feelings. “You’re always on the computer, phone, or working in the kitchen and you seem distracted or even irritated when I try to tell you something.” I have to admit – there is a lot on my mind most of the time. Big yellow flag. I don’t want my girls to stop talking to me and find other ears willing to listen. Later, when they have questions about their friends, boys, and even their faith – I don’t want to have lost the opportunity because I closed my ears when they had a long, detailed story about the characters in a book they’re reading or the ongoing saga of how their friends aren’t getting along at school.
I began to wonder: if my listening skills aren’t the greatest with my own children who are physically present and asking for my attention, how much easier is it for me to struggle with listening to my Creator God? This is a question we need to ask. Are our own spiritual ears open or closed? In studying Jeremiah, I see a resounding theme that occurs over and over. God wants His people to open their ears and listen to Him.
Jeremiah 9:20a especially hits home, “Listen, you women, to the words of the Lord; open your ears to what He has to say.” He did make us, so I guess He knows us girls have a tendency to flap our gums more than open our ears. He takes it pretty seriously. The Hebrew word for listen is shama. It means ”to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience)” It occurs 1160 times in the Old Testament. Wow – that is kinda A LOT! Any of you with a Jewish background may recognize this word. It refers to a very important element of Judaism today. Deuteronomy 6:4— “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone” is referred to as the Shema or Shama because of the Hebrew word meaning “hear” or “listen.”
THE SHEMA is the central prayer in the Jewish prayerbook (Siddur) and is often the first section of Scripture that a Jewish child learns. Listening was a big deal to God in the Old Testament. It didn’t end there. Jesus said in Luke 8:18, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”
So how do I become not just a Jesus talker, but also a Jesus listener? I know it will take time, intentionality, and focus to shut my mouth and open my ears to truly listen. Whether in my marriage, my parenting, in my church, or in my prayer time, listening doesn’t come naturally for me.
No wonder God mentions it all over His Word. He knows I need to keep hearing it to remind me. So instead of saying, Ughh… I guess I should be grateful for the constant reminder to shut my yaps and open my ears. So today I say with the Psalmist, “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” (27:8) To listen…… and learn.