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The Hearing Heart

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It takes a keen ear and a determined heart to hear the whisper of God's voice. "Be still," He says, "and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10).

The Lord does not require us to do anything or go anywhere to meet with Him. Rather, His simple command is for us to "be still" – to cease from our own efforts and from all that would distract – and to allow Him to reveal Himself to us............

There is a sense of hearing beyond the natural capacity. When Jesus said to His disciples, "Let these sayings sink down into your ears" (Luke 9:44)He was referring to the ear of the spirit, in the inner man.

Isaiah "heard the voice of the Lord ... And (God) said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of these people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." (Isaiah 6:8-10)

Though at the time these words were originally spoken they fell on deaf ears, it is significant to note that the same passage of scripture in which they were recorded was quoted in every gospel account.1 It was only because Isaiah heard the voice of God himself that the prophet could deliver such a word. God speaks through those who have learned to listen. It is a process.

We learn to discern the voice of God by listening to Him. The more we hear, the more we spend time in His presence, the more surely will we be able to recognize when He is speaking. Hebrews 5:14 says that our spiritual senses are sharpened "by reason of use" – that is, with experience. In the same way, repeatedly refusing to respond to the call of the Spirit results in a spiritual condition that leaves our hearts hardened before Him – calloused, so to speak – and insensitive to His voice. This grieves the heart of God. (Hebrew 3:7, 8, 10)

To maintain an adequate level of spiritual sensitivity we must learn to respond without delay to the gentle beckoning of the Spirit. God requires an immediate response within the hearts of His people: "Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts . . ." This verse is three times repeated, for emphasis, in the third and fourth chapters of Hebrews. "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh . . ." (Hebrews 12:25)

Similarly, Isaiah 55:6 exhorts us: "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near." "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." (Hebrews 2:1)

Jesus was continually having to repeat Himself, because His words fell on deaf ears. At least eight times in the gospels we read of Him exhorting the people, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (or, Listen!)." This same verse is also quoted eight times in the book of Revelation. Though each of the seven churches of Revelation was at a different stage in the development of their spiritual experience, his invitation to them all was the same: "He that hath an ear, let him hear ..." (Revelation 2, 3)

To each of the seven churches He was, in effect, saying, "There is more." All but one had either settled down or fallen away at one point or another along the path, and He wanted them to move on. Many in our own day have become satisfied with the knowledge that they will "someday" inherit the promise of eternal life. However, that is barely enough to get them through the "here and now." Jesus said, "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath (that is, now possesses) everlasting life, and ... is (already) passed from death unto life."

We must learn to come to know Him with whom we will spend eternity, if this life is to have any meaning or purpose at all. Unless we learn to know His voice and fellowship with Him now, we shall never come to experience the abundant life of which Jesus spoke.2

God's greatest complaint in this matter is not with the unregenerate world, for He does not expect from them the same sort of respect for His word: they are "uncircumcised in heart and ears." (Acts 7:51) The Lord's deepest concern is for His own people – those who have the ability to hear, but refuse to listen. They "have ears to hear and hear not."3 Many have "stopped their ears" and have by choice turned "away their ears"4 from hearing the word of the Lord. Others have become "dull of hearing"5; their "heart is waxed gross."6

So we see that the famine in Amos 8:11 is "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord." Churches are plentiful; the Word has gone forth – but the famine or lack is for those who would hear His voice. God has not stopped speaking; the problem is that His people have failed to listen. When the message becomes too demanding ("Forsake all?" "Deny myself?") many try to avoid the issue by seeking an escape: any excuse that will allow them to continue in their own ways. However, the claim upon our lives remains the same and we cannot find true, lasting peace apart from His best.

"The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." Samuel heard His voice and responded: "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." It was Abraham whom God called His friend, because He knew he was trusting and could be trusted. They two communed together often. Hence, when God was contemplating the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, He first discussed it with His friend Abraham. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing except He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets." Now "I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you." Jesus said, "God is no respecter of persons." He speaks to those who will listen.7

"He that (1) hath an ear, (2) let him hear ..."

Two very significant implications are revealed in this scripture. First, to single out "he that hath" implies that some did not have. All do not hear, nor do all have the desire to hear. Many are content in the performance of their religious pageantry (mere "empty show") and because of a lack of interest and commitment are not even aware that there is anything better than what they have seen. To them God has nothing to say.

However, to those who will hear He speaks imperatively: "Let him hear!" It is a command. This implies that even of those who could hear, who have the capacity within them ("that hath an ear"), some do not. The response is a matter of choice, an act of the will.6 It is one thing to have an ability or even the knowledge of something, but quite another to put it into practice. Many can recite the scriptures from memory (even cultists; even Satan himself!); but not all will allow the working of the Holy Spirit to make the application of those truths real in their lives.

In the time of Moses, Scripture says, the people of God did not want to hear from the Lord Himself, because they feared they would then be held personally accountable to both hear and do it. (Exodus 15:26; Leviticus 26:14) They were content to hear from God through His prophet, Moses. (Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:2; 18:16) Oh, let us never be satisfied with the secondhand revelation of any man, but ever seek the Face of God for ourselves.

It is the Lord's intent to awaken "them that are at ease in Zion," to arouse from slumber those whose relationship with Him has become spiritually stagnant.9 Consider the sense of urgency that is expressed in Jeremiah 22:29, where we hear the mighty voice of our Creator shouting to attract the attention of His spiritually deaf creation: "O earth! Earth: EARTH! HEAR the word of the Lord!"

In Revelation 3:20 we are given the picture of Jesus standing outside the doors of His own church, seeking entrance, waiting for someone to hear His voice and open the door. Although many have used this scripture with reference to the unbeliever at salvation, it was written to believers. The Lord continually knocks at the door of our heart, daily seeking entrance into new areas of commitment and surrender. He desires to be welcomed by waiting hearts.

It is this same picture that we are given in the Song of Songs 5:2-3. Here the attitude and response of the Shunamite, typifying the church, are revealed: "I sleep but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me ... I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?"

We must beware lest our hearts be overcome by an attitude of complacency and spiritual laziness. The Lord does not always call at a convenient time, and unless we keep ourselves "watching" and ready, ever listening for His voice, we shall miss out. Moreover, so long as we consider His calling an inconvenience, all we can meet with will be disappointment: "I (later) rose up to open to my Beloved ... but my Beloved had withdrawn Himself, and was gone: my soul failed when He spake; I sought Him, but I could not find Him; I called Him, but He gave no answer." (Song of Songs 5:5, 6)

How can we better hear God's voice? As it is in the natural, Paul says, so it is in the spiritual. When we have trouble hearing, we can (1) get closer to the speaker; or (2) close out the distracting sounds or voices which interfere or compete for our attention. In other words, the problem often is not hearing, or even listening, but discerning His voice.

"The Lord God ... wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back." Isaiah 50:4, 5

Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes, but to His own He communicated the reality of those truths. (Luke 8:10) "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops."

"... many prophets and righteous men have desired ... to hear those things which ye hear and have not ..." (Matthew 13:16, 17) "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired ... to hear those things which ye hear and have not ..." "My sheep hear My voice..." (John 10)

Only those whose hearts have been tuned to hear the call of the Spirit can hear the whisper of His voice, the secrets of His kingdom. Only those who have attained an appreciation of the Truth will know to grasp the hidden treasures of darkness and bring them to light. (Isaiah 45:3) With loving anticipation and determination of heart will they respond to the call of the Spirit. And the secrets of many generations shall unfold before their eyes as they behold the King in His beauty!

© Diane Dew in "The Banner"
 

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