DEVOTIONS AND SERMONS

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Listening
 

(Attention, Concentration, Hearing)

Why is listening an important spiritual skill?

Deuteronomy 5:1-33
1 Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.
2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.
3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.
4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.
5 (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
6 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
7 "You shall have no other gods before me.
8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
11 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.
13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.
15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
17 "You shall not murder.
18 "You shall not commit adultery.
19 "You shall not steal.
20 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
21 "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me.
24 And you said, "The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him.
25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer.
26 For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived?
27 Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey."
28 The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, "I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good.
29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
30 "Go, tell them to return to their tents.
31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess."
32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.
33 Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.


KEY BIBLE VERSE: Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, "Listen carefully to all the laws and regulations I am giving you today. Learn them and be sure to obey them!" (Deut. 5:1)

1. Listening to God is the first step toward obeying him.

The people had entered into a covenant with God, and Moses commanded them to hear, learn, and follow his statutes.

Christians also have entered into a covenant with God (through Jesus Christ) and should be responsive to what God expects.

Moses' threefold command to the Israelites is excellent advice for all God's followers. Listening is absorbing and accepting information about God.

Learning is understanding its meaning and implications.

Obeying is putting into action all we have learned and understood.

All three parts are essential to a growing relationship with God.

1 Kings 19:1-18

1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.
2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,
4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."
6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."
8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
14 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.
16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.
18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."


KEY BIBLE VERSE: After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:12-13)

Listening for God is training in humility.

Elijah knew that the sound of the gentle whisper was God's voice.

He realized that God doesn't reveal himself only in powerful, miraculous ways.

To look for God only in something big (rallies, churches, conferences, highly visible leaders) may be to miss him, because he is often found gently whispering in the quietness of a humbled heart. Are you listening for God?

Step back from the noise and activity of your busy life, and listen humbly and quietly for his guidance. It may come when you least expect it.

Mark 4:1-20

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge.
2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:
3 "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.
4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.
6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."
9 Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.
11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables
12 so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"
13 Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?
14 The farmer sows the word.
15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.
17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word;
19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."


KEY BIBLE VERSE: He replied, "You are permitted to understand the secret about the Kingdom of God. But I am using these stories to conceal everything about it from outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: 'They see what I do, but they don't perceive its meaning. They hear my words, but they don't understand. So they will not turn from their sins and be forgiven.' "
11-12)

2. Spiritual listening involves the heart and mind.

We hear with our ears, but there is a deeper kind of listening with the mind and heart that is necessary in order to gain spiritual understanding from Jesus' words.

Some people in the crowd were looking for evidence to use against Jesus; others truly wanted to learn and grow.

Jesus' words were for the honest seekers.

Spiritual listening requires an openness to God.

Some people do not understand God's truth because they are not ready for it.

God reveals truth to people who will act on it, who will make it visible in their lives.

When you talk with people about God, be aware that they will not understand if they are not yet ready.

Be patient, taking every chance to tell them more of the truth about God, and praying that the Holy Spirit will open their minds and hearts to receive the truth and act on it.

James 1:19-27
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


KEY BIBLE VERSE: My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God's sight.
19-20)

Spiritual listening allows us to learn from others.

When we talk too much and listen too little, we communicate to others that we think our ideas are much more important than theirs.

James wisely advises us to reverse this process.

Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations, and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen.

When people talk with you, do they feel that their viewpoints and ideas have value?

Spiritual listening is always followed by action.

It is important to listen to what God's Word says, but it is much more important to obey it, to do what it says.

We can measure the effectiveness of our Bible study time by the effect it has on our behavior and attitudes.

Do you put into action what you have studied?Handbook of Bible Application.