Do You Hear What I Hear?

Communication involves speaking as well as listening.

In the spiritual life, we sometimes wonder why God seems silent. But rarely do we stop to consider an important part of the equation.

Are we listening?

Often, I find I have much to say but have become too busy to listen. The things about which I am so busy are all “good” things. I’ve evaluated them time and again. But these good things can still be distractions. They can still keep me from truly hearing what God is trying to say.

In church, we tend to put a lot of focus on doing good things. We talk about raising money so we can serve in missions, we talk about buildings, programs, and special events that can be used to share Jesus. We’ve become busy talking about God that we’ve stopped listening to God. The Church needs to hear from God. The world needs the Church to hear from God.

We talk about having a personal relationship with God, but how can we have a personal relationship without individualized communication? To go further, let’s consider Jesus’ words. In Matthew 4, we see Jesus starving after He had fasted forty days and nights. When the tempter came to him and said,”If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

How, then, do we live without the word that comes from the mouth of God?

If God is speaking (and I believe He is), perhaps our next step in our journey should simply be to begin listening.

With that in mind, we considered Psalm 19 in our Commissioning group this week. C.S. Lewis has called this psalm “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”[1] While God’s guidance comes to us in many forms, we focused on 3 which are discussed in this poem.

God Speaks Through Creation

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth. (VV. 1-6, NIV)

Creation is not God. God is not in creation. But God has revealed Himself through His magnificent creation. “The skies proclaim” the glory of the Creator (Rom. 1:18-32). “Day after day” and “night after night” the lights are an ongoing testimony of the greatness of God. They also point us toward the True Light Who has come into the world (John 8:12). We see in the rhythm of every day how God cares for His creation in providing a “tent for the sun” and the response “like a bridegroom” of the sun. Such events beg for us to consider the gift and provision of life.

God speaks through creation, but are we listening?

Do we take time to enjoy and study the work of our Creator? Do we obey the command to “tend the garden” as an act of worship knowing God Himself cares for His creation? Have we ever considered stopping to smell a flower, watch a sunrise or enjoying a new food as an opportunity to give honor and praise to a God Who is constantly speaking through creation to tell us of His love and care?

God Speaks Through His Word

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;

in keeping them there is great reward.

The Word of God reveals the heart of God. Many times we go through the Bible as a textbook, picking apart every word. While it may be helpful at times, a constant study in this way can keep God at arm’s length.

It has been helpful for me to keep in mind that opening my Bible is like opening a conversation. I don’t want to be the one doing all the talking (critiquing, defining, etc.). I need to be sure I understand that the Word was written that I might truly hear God speaking to me.

When I listen in this way, I begin hearing what David heard. Scriptures truly do the word of “reviving the soul.” I find a place of assurance that “the precepts of the LORD are right.” They guide me into a place where I can safely discern God’s heart for me and live wisely.

And, if I really listen, I find that nothing is sweeter than God’s Word. Nothing more desirable or of greater value. David had listened well. Consider Psalm 119. I’ve thought, “When was the last time you wrote 8 lines of poetry for each letter of the alphabet just to show your love for God speaking through His Word?” Sadly, I can’t think of a time.

It’s important that I practice speaking AND listening. I need to keep this in mind as I pray AND as I read. Both are times of speaking my heart to God. Both are times where it is essential for me to make space and time enough to listen.

God Speaks to My Soul

12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

When I make space and time for listening, God brings my heart and soul to a place of confession. I can’t discern my own errors all of the time, but God can. In my listening, the Spirit convict me of any willful sins and directs me to a place of forgiveness and refuge in Christ. As I listen, I also become increasingly more humble knowing the lengths to which God has gone to speak to me – through Creation, His Word, and most clearly through His Son (Rom. 8).

But listening involves focus. It requires time and space. It doesn’t often happen by way of accident. Instead, I must be intentional about slowing down and listening. This is the concept of meditation. Not to empty your mind, but to fill your mind with the Truth of God’s Word. To be filled with thoughts and praises for our Creator.

To make time to actually have a relationship with Him.

Dallas Willard has said that “only our communion with God provides the appropriate context for communications between us and him.”[2]

How can I expect to hear from God if I don’t take time to be with Him?

Communication is a two-way street. God both speaks and listens to us, and we are often good at speaking.

The question is – have we been listening?

May today be the day when we commit to being Listeners.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” And today, my friends, “if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Hebrews 4:7).

[1] Lewis, C.S. Reflections on the Psalms, p. 63.

[2] Willard, D. Hearing God, p. 33.

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