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Listening in awe

Listening is fundamental.  Our parents worked hard to instill this ability in us at a very early age.  It may not have been on the trip home from the hospital, but very soon afterwards and very often they were saying things to us like: 


                                      “Did you hear what I said?” 


                                      Were you paying attention?” 


                                       What did I tell you?” 


Their intent wasn’t to be overbearing or impatient.  Their comments were for our own good and their design was to get us listening.  And it wasn’t just our parents who were saying these things.  I remember a public safety message about crossing streets that told us to “Stop, look and listen.” 


We heard a lot about listening when were young.    


Unfortunately, hearing (rather than listening), seems to be the default setting for most of us now.  I’m not sure how this happened; only that it has.  Perhaps when we were young we listened to everything and then as we grew older we learned to merely hear certain things (like background noises).  It was a survival skill of sorts – we couldn’t consciously process all of the sounds we heard at any given time so we learned just to filter out unimportant sounds.  Then maybe we overcompensated and ended up filtering out just about everything.  In the process we lost many of the finer aspects of listening and that’s why so many of us struggle with it today.


The kingdom of God is built on the listening life.  Many of the parables are about the importance of listening to God.  One of the favorite sayings of Jesus was, “He who has ears, let him hear.”  To us, this sounds likes nonsensical speech (what else would you do with your ears?), but it was Jesus’ way of getting us to think about if and how we listen.  On another occasion He said, “Consider carefully what you hear,” (Mark 4:24).


The toughest time to listen is when there is competing noise.  Anyone who struggles with their hearing can tell you their how hard it is to have a conversation with someone in a room full of people having conversations.  Audiologists even have a test where you have to pick out certain sounds from a background of white noise.  If you can pass this test you know there is nothing wrong with your ability to listen.


This appears to be something of the context in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, where we’re told, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong,” (v. 1).

There were lots of competing noises as one approached the house of God – sacrifices to be made, vows could be spoken, words to be said, even dreams to be contemplated.  But Solomon cautions us to “guard our steps” and “go near to listen.” 


He concludes his thought in v. 7 when he says, “Therefore, stand in awe.”  He began with the admonishment to listen and he ended with command to be in awe.  It sounds a lot like he is telling us that listening to God is a way of standing in awe of Him.  Or maybe better, that we are to listen in awe to God.


We know a little bit about listening in awe.  We listen in awe when we hear a couple exchange wedding vows.  We listen in awe when the doctor tells us the results of a test.  We listen in awe as we speak on the phone to loved ones many miles away.


That is how we are to listen to God.  We are to hear Him with our heart.  We are to give Him our undivided attention.      


Therefore consider carefully how you listen,” (Luke 8:18).


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