Learning to Listen

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Moses gave God’s people a prayer that is known by the first word of the prayer, “Shema.” The prayer is the centerpiece of the daily morning and evening prayer services and is considered by some the most essential prayer in all of Judaism.

Worshipers pray, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (Deuteronomy 6.4).

Why do God’s people need to hear? Because the Only True God has condescended to speak to mere humans. His speech is essential to the life God has purposed for us.

Peter expressed a profound truth about listening to God’s message. He told Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6.68-69).

Given the importance that God places on listening, it is no surprise that Isaiah counseled his audience to listen to God’s message for their lives.

Who is the Speaker?

One of my college professors was an economic advisor to President Eisenhower. He retired to run a chicken farm with his wife and to teach economics where I attended college.

His class was so electrifying that I decided to minor in economics. When he lectured, we all listened and took detailed notes.

God is infinitely wiser than a nationally recognized economist. He is the One True God. He has no equals. When he speaks, we are wise to listen.

Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called:
I am He; I am the first,
and I am the last.

My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they stand at attention.
(Isaiah 48.12-13)

Jesus frequently ended his speeches with the words, “Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 11.15; 13.9, 43).

On one occasion, when Jesus’ close followers were full of their thoughts, God intervened and spoke from a cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17.5).

If it weren’t so serious, this scene would be comical. It took the Father-God speaking from a cloud to get Jesus’ followers to stop and listen to what he had to say. I wonder what lengths God must go to to get people like me to listen.

The Listening Payoff

The Books of Deuteronomy and Numbers outline God’s promise for those who listen to him. Part of Hebrew worship includes reciting both the Shema (Hear or Listen) Israel, a declaration of love for God, and God’s promised blessing.

Isaiah shows listening, obeying and God’s blessing all fit together in a seamless whole.

Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you for your own good,
who leads you in the way you should go.

O that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your prosperity would have been like a river,
and your success like the waves of the sea;

Your offspring would have been like the sand,
and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
or destroyed from before me.
(Isaiah 48.17-19)

God teaches us for our good. He leads us to bless us. The first Psalm describes the blessing of following God’s direction.

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;

But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
(Psalm 1.1-3)

People who listen to or delight in God’s direction are given this promise: They will prosper in all that they do.

Tragically, humans believe they know more than God to such a degree that we are unwilling to listen to him.

The disasters that occurred in Hebrew history were often the results of the nation’s poor choice to take the advice of the wicked instead of God.

Our Sin – God’s Grace

Instead of destroying his people, God redeemed them. A century after Isaiah penned these words, God released his people from slavery in Babylon.

Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
send it forth to the end of the earth;
say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
(Isaiah 48.20)

Over the ages, God has demonstrated the reality of his Being through the way he dealt with Israel. His saving power is one of the greatest testimonies to the fact that he is the One True God.

The continued existence of Hebrew people in the face of all they have experienced is testimony to God’s reality. The same can be said about the multitudes of people who experience God’s transformation through God’s love and grace.

About This Blog

Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.

I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.

Please email your prayer requests to me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.

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