Listen Slowly (by Revd Manik Corea)

How good are you at listening to your Lord?

Writer and pastor Chuck Swindoll tells of a particularly frantic time in his life when he was flustered and hurried by many appointments and commitments. He was gulping down his food at family meal-times, being short-tempted and irritated with his family and getting annoyed by unplanned interruptions. His family members began to get affected by his increased stress.

One evening, his youngest daughter said she wanted to tell him about something that happened at school that day, but said she would tell him ‘really fast.’ Realizing her frustration, he calmed her down and said, ‘Honey, you don’t have to rush. You can say it slowly.’ Swindoll says he’ll never forget her retort: ‘Then listen slowly.”

Are we listening ‘slowly’ to God?

Being a disciple of Jesus involves developing a keen sense of hearing – giving our undivided attention to the voice of God.

The listening ear is a door for faith to enter.

Thus Paul wrote ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). The Gospel must first be told us and heard and understood, to have effect.

But listening to God in Scripture must be a precursor to actual obedience and submission, or we will be condemned as many a Scripture warns (see Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46; John 14:24; James 2:26; etc). Thus hearing and obedience are intimately linked in the Scripture.

I was surprised to learn recently that there is no Hebrew word that translates directly to the English word ‘obey’. The Hebrew word that most often equates to our English ‘obey’ is the word ‘shema’ which literally means to ‘hear’. However, this means more than just audibly receiving communication, but most often carries the meaning of ‘paying attention to’ and especially, ‘responding to what is heard.’[1]

Hebrew words typically stress concrete action, as opposed to Greek works which are more abstract. Thus, we understand ‘hearing’ as understanding or receiving a communication, whereas the Hebrews immediately made the link to obedience and action.

In a similar way, when a mother says to her child ‘You’re not really listening!’ she typically doesn’t mean her child has not heard her, but has not obeyed her.

To Jesus and then Jews, having ears is not simply a matter of being able to hear. It is a matter of being able to also understand and obey what is heard. Hence, Jesus so very often ended his sermons with the Hebraism, ‘to him who has ears, let him hear.’[2] He was looking for a right response.

As James so clearly and pithily instructs in James 1:22, ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’

And so, a simple definition of discipleship could be as follows: ‘A disciple is one who seeks everyday of his life to hear and obey Jesus’ words.’

To do what Jesus wants, we must truly ‘shema’ His Words.

Often. Carefully. Slowly.

 


[1] See this enlightening Word Study video on the word ‘Shema’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=190&v=6KQLOuIKaRA

[2] Matthew 11:5; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35 cf Deuteronomy 29:4; Ezekiel 12:2).

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Listen Slowly (by Revd Manik Corea)

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