“Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting.” So begins each session with a call to listen carefully to important words about to be uttered.
Even though listening is a high virtue, we still have to remind each other to practice it. A coach tell his noisy team, “Listen up!” A mom tells her recalcitrant teenage daughter, “You’re not hearing me.” In a business meeting, I heard someone quash a frequency-jamming word barrage with, “You need to stop transmitting and switch to receive for a while.”
Did you know that some version of the words “hear” or “listen” occur over 700 times in the Bible? Are we so deaf to truth, one wonders? Perhaps the reason for that Biblical theme is this candid challenge: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov. 12:15).
It is easy to be right in your own eyes, especially in beliefs about God. But well-intentioned people can fall into error. Sincerity plus freedom of thought is no formula for truth. Before you can live the truths of God, you must listen to them.
Saul was a murderous persecutor of the Way (followers of Jesus). He sincerely believed he was doing the work of God. But then his Damascus Road experience happened, when Jesus spoke to him. He listened. It so radically changed his life that his enemies became friends.
The Hebrew prophet Samuel often found himself bearing the Word of God to people who did not want to hear it. He counseled them not to demand a king. He warned them not to turn away from God. He rebuked the King who failed to listen. He had the confidence and courage to stand firm in critical moments because as a boy, he experienced the power of a receptive heart when he said to the Lord, “Speak for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam. 3:10).
God has spoken to you through creation, the Bible, and in His Son. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The most profound message you can hear is the truth of Christ that results in faith. Only then are you who God intends you to be, in relationship with your Creator, Savior, and Counselor.
In 2017, Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the commencement address at his son’s graduation. His theme was that the trials of life are a tutor. He said, “I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others.” No one likes to be ignored, particularly not your Creator who offers love, forgiveness, and eternity. To live well, listen well.