We are a listening people
So one of the highlights of my week is a small discipleship group I’m involved in. I love the opportunity to go deeper in God’s Word with a bunch of people who are all committed to wanting to grow in their faith.
This week we were thinking about how we receive God’s Word. And by “receiving” I mean what are different ways we hear it, study it, make time and space for it, and respond to it. It was a wonderfully practical study as we saw how God’s people throughout the pages of Scripture have sought to engage with God’s Word, and how they have expressed that engagement with their words. For instance, Jeremiah expresses how he “eats” God’s words; and David how he “hides” God’s Word in his heart.
And in fact, what we looked at flowed beautifully out of Sunday’s message where we heard Jesus’ own words: Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practise is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. God’s Word is not just for listening to…but for doing!
And all of this merged with another thought I haven’t been able to get rid of (I’ve mentioned a couple of times a prayer book by Walter Brueggemann that Andrew had left in the prayer room – it’s full of beautiful prayers that resonate with my soul)…
Brueggemann says that God’s people are to be a “listening people”. That might sound odd, but if God is a God who speaks, then His people are to be a people who listen. And in fact, the Hebrew word for listening is “Shema” (pronounced “shmah”). If you were to read Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (go on, do it!), the first word you will read is “hear”, or, in the Hebrew, “Shema”. (This verse gives rise to a famous Jewish prayer….the Shema…which faithful Jews recite twice every day).
But here’s the thing…when Westerners talk about listening, they are talking about a very passive activity…a mental activity…the activity of our minds picking up sounds. But in Hebrew thought, listening is quite different…listening describes hearing and the response to that hearing…the putting into practice what you hear.
So when God, through Moses, speaks in Deuteronomy 6….he’s telling his people to “listen…listen to my Words and live in response to them.” And if you read through Deut. 6:4-9 you will see that the outworking of this listening to God occurs in every aspect of every-day life.
So, let me ask you some questions…..
How is your listening to God?
How do you do it?
How do you make time and space for it?
How do you make time to hear God’s voice in God’s Word?
What have you heard from God recently?
And how are you responding to God’s Word?
Are you a listening person?
Are we a listening people?
To finish, let me quote from two of Brueggemann’s prayers…
You have endlessly summoned us: shema
We mostly do not… in our narcissism,
In our recalcitrance,
In our departure from you.
So we pray for ears, open, unwaxed,
And then this,
We are people over whom that word shema has been written.
We are listeners, but we do not listen well.
Folks, let us be a people who listen well.