Hearing does not seem to be a problem with many believers. They have well-oiled ears that can hear clearly. However, most have a problem with listening. But what is the difference between hearing and listening? Hearing merely perceives a sound with the ear, while listening involves a conscious effort to let the mind process sound or words and prompts the person to react accordingly. Parents are often frustrated with their children because they do not respond to what they hear—so they conclude that their children were just not listening. Our tendency to do likewise also frustrates the Lord. He said, “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!” (Psalm 81:13-14). Our failure to listen is to our loss. Indeed, nobody suffers more when we do not listen but ourselves. God is just waiting for us to respond to his commands for him to do the good that he promised us.
But how do we listen? Foremost, we listen with our ears. There is nothing for the brain to process if there is no input from the ear. We need to capture all of the words uttered for us to get the complete information to process. In encouraging his friends to fully appreciate his case, Job said, “Listen carefully to my words; let your ears take in what I say” (Job 13:17). Many find themselves in trouble when they do not hear all of the words being said and try to supply what was missing. Though they could make a good message out of it, it would not have been the true and accurate message. Therefore, there is a need to incline our ears when someone is talking, so that we can capture all of the words and come out with an accurate message.
We also listen with our hearts. When our heart is hardened, no matter how many words we hear, we do not respond the way we should. This was the case of the Pharaoh of Egypt. We are told in the account of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 9:12). Those who have a hardened heart will resort to selective hearing and listening. They would only incline their ears and listen when they like the topic. Otherwise, they would let their mind wander around and ignore whatever message being conveyed. Many believers have been hearing the Word of the Lord proclaimed week after week, but they have not been listening and obeying, as evidenced by the life they are living. Their disobedience is born out of a hardened heart.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we listen with our spirit. To listen with our spirit is to let God speak to us in a still, small voice, just like Samuel when he was just a small child. The Lord had been calling Samuel, but young as he was, he did not know how to listen. Eli, the priest, taught him how to listen, saying, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’” (1 Sam. 3:9). If we would only incline our ears and listen to him as he speaks through his Word, then we would avoid many of the troubles that have beset men. Rather than be troubled, his command is to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the letter to the seven churches, as recorded in the Book of Revelations, the Lord repeatedly said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7). Up to these days, the Lord is speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. We need to listen and heed what the Lord is telling us to do. We could miss great opportunities and blessings if we do not heed his voice.
Let us learn a lesson from what the Pharaoh of Egypt had gone through. By not listening to what the Lord was saying through Moses, he and his people suffered from many calamities including the death of their firstborn. If they only had heeded the word of the Lord to release the Israelites, they would have not to suffer a great loss. Friends, it is time to incline our ears to the voice of the Lord and listen attentively. He will continue to speak to us and reveal his plans for us to succeed. We will indeed avoid many sufferings if we would but listen to him. He can quickly deliver us from our enemies and bless us with the desires of our heart. Praise the Lord!