Ears to Hear
God speaks. He has always been speaking. It was how He created everything in the beginning (Genesis 1:3) and in the story of God leading His people from slavery to freedom, from the wilderness to their purpose, we see a pattern of God calling to individuals, speaking to them, and speaking through them.
God’s story reaches its pinnacle and fulfilment in Jesus: the Word of God, the divine become flesh, bone and blood, the “exact imprint of [God’s] nature” (Hebrew 1:3); Jesus continues to call, first His disciples and then each one of us, into His way of life. Jesus even promises that He has more to say and that when He has gone, the Holy Spirit will speak and guide us into all truth (John 16:12). He has always been speaking and, by His Holy Spirit, He will always be speaking.
A speaking God needs a listening Church, a body of believers who wait and expect His voice to lead them in all areas of their lives. If we can learn to recognise the Shepherd’s voice and follow His call, we can bring His Kingdom here, on earth, in our conversations, discussions, decisions, fears, doubts and celebrations.
We know that we should forgive because He forgives, that we should love like He has loved us; can we learn to listen like God listens? Can we bring His Kingdom and reflect His heart of compassion and peace simply in the way that we hear each other, friend or enemy, neighbour or alien? Even when we disagree, however passionately, can we dare to enter into the mind and perspective of the other? Jesus was good at this. I’m struck, in reading the gospels, at how many questions Jesus answers with a question, or how many times His answers seem to have missed the question, only for the listener, and now us the reader, to realise that He was answering something much deeper that had gone unspoken.
In Mark, a famous story is told of Jesus and His disciples travelling by boat one evening. A storm begins to rage and the boat begins to fill with water whilst Jesus sleeps in the stern. His disciples wake Him and ask “don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Jesus doesn’t answer, He calms the storm and asks them: “why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:35–41). So too when He is presented with a woman caught in adultery (John 8). When asked if they should stone her, Jesus bends down and starts writing in the sand. Jesus looks past the immediate circumstances and sees straight to the heart of what’s going on and, in looking at the bigger picture, calls His followers to a deeper faith, to a deeper relationship with Him.
Can we listen like Jesus? Can we hear the heart of what’s going on and call people, whatever their opinions, to a deeper relationship with Him? Can we bear witness to a loving Father who is waiting to welcome us in and hear what’s on our hearts? In Jesus Emmanuel (God with us), we find the precedent of meeting people in their context, in a way that they can relate to but that challenges them and calls them to something more, to something greater; and in Jesus we have our teacher in the art of listening. The secret seems to be practice. Jesus took every opportunity to withdraw to a quiet place and pray, not least just before His crucifixion when, in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed through the night that God’s will be done (Matthew 26:36–46).
In learning to listen, we learn to trust the character of God. A God who speaks to Elijah not in the wind, or earthquake, or fire but in the sound of a low whisper (1 Kings 19:9–18) needs our discernment and our confidence in who He is: if I’m listening to God, I won’t hear hate or aggression, division or persecution; He is love, and I will hear love. If the Spirit is leading, He won’t lead me into resentment, war and selfishness; instead I will follow Him into peace, kindness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). This is the voice of my Shepherd King. Let’s spend time with God, praying that our hearts would be aligned with His and that we would hear others the way He hears us in prayer: with love, compassion and a longing for relationship.
Read more from Stephen Pal-George at https://medium.com/owl-theology
Written by Stephen Pal-George