Read Psalm 81
Focus on verse 13
Apparently listening involves more than just my ears. Just the other day, I heard my wife say something to me while I was reading something that I had found quite interesting. My ears heard that she said something. I recognized the words, but it took about thirty seconds for me to pull my attention away from what I was reading and I had to ask her to repeat what she said. Fortunately for me she is typically quite gracious and patient with my inability to focus on more than one thing at a time, and she repeated what she had said.
We all desire to be heard, and typically it is considered rude to ignore a person when they are attempting to communicate with us. Really hearing someone often goes beyond hearing the words they are saying. Those who have studied human communication tell us that words alone carry less than half of the message being communicated. Tone and body language can make the same words carry very different messages. For instance, in our American culture a man may be walking down the street and seeing a familiar face approaching ask, “How are you doing?” to which the approaching person might reply; “I’m fine” in response as they pass each other. It is possible in that context that it means he or she really is “fine” or it may more likely just be a greeting in which the response is acknowledging the presence of the person who asked the question. On the other hand, when the man returns to his home after a day on the golf course with his buddies and notices that his wife seems to be somewhat sullen he might ask her “Are you okay?” to which he might get a terse response of the same words “I’m fine!” If he is has been married for any length of time and understands how to listen to his wife, he will immediately know that she is NOT fine, and he will realize that he has forgotten that it is their anniversary.
When we listen well we interpret not just the words but also the feelings of the person who is speaking. If this is true of communication between humans, and if we are made in the image of God, it would seem to follow that this might also be the way God desires to be heard. In today’s reading the psalmist writes as though God is speaking in the first person; “Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!” It would seem that God desires us to listen not just to His words, but also to His heart. When we hear His words and his heart, our obedience begins to be motivated less by fear and guilt, and more by love.
A little over thirty years ago, I allowed a cute little junior in the college I was attending to capture my heart. She still has my heart, and I do things for her out of love that I would not do for anyone else. While my relationship with God is not identical, there are similarities. While I grew up with knowledge of God as far back as I can remember it was not until I was in my teens through the preaching of an evangelist named Barry Moore that I finally chose to allow God to capture my heart. Since that time the relationship has grown just as the relationship with my wife has grown and changed as we have spent time together. I suspect that if I should be so blessed as to live another thirty years with her, while I may become physically deaf, I will continue to grow in my ability to hear her heart. I trust that the same will be true of my relationship with God.