Listen or Hear
The human ear is an amazing instrument. It’s God designed with a range of hearing that is astounding. We can hear sound frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz. God designed our ears to purposely pick out frequencies between 400 Hz and 4,000 Hz (human speech and singing). In tone, the average human ear can hear the difference between 440 Hz and 441 Hz. In sensitivity, we can hear a sound on a level equal to a billionth of an atmospheric pressure to over 10 trillion. In volume, measured in decibels, we can hear between 1 and 130 db. Every 10 decibels indicate a doubling of volume level pressures. We can hear the slight ticking of a clock in our grandmother’s house in the middle of the night from the mantle three rooms away (and it keeps us awake for hours…) and we can differentiate between the different tones of two different jet engines roaring at the peak of auditory pain. Our ability and sensitivity to be able to hear is vast. But even with that ability, we do not always listen…
How many mothers have said, “You may have heard me, but you did not listen.” (My mother often said those words as I came back from the grocery store with only half the items she sent me there to get.) She was right. I heard every word that she said, but I wasn’t listening. If you have kids, you know this phenomenon. They can see your lips moving, and the sound waves produced by your vocal cords reach the inner ear drum of their ears… but something gets lost after that. Something is missing.
It is the difference between listening and hearing. When we hear something, we are acknowledging that there was sound produced and we noticed it. But listening seems to indicate that we perceived the content. It caught our attention. It was more than just a sound wave… it was something intelligent. Listening implies that what was spoken might just have been meant for us.
I have been reading through the prophets in the Old Testament. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel over and over again talk about our hearing and listening. Over 70 times in those books, God tells us, “Listen to me. Listen to this.” Never once does He say, “Hear me. Hear this.”
God knows that we are capable of hearing – what he wants to know is are we listening?
In the gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is a story about Jesus purposely recorded. Jesus is on a mountain, and He takes Peter, James and John with Him. While He is there, the Bible says that His likeness was transformed. He began to glow. He is joined by two of the heroes of the Old Testament. Elijah and Moses are seen there with Him. The 3 disciples are awed by what they see, and Peter makes some rash statement. Something to the effect – Jesus, let us make 3 shrines here on the mountain top – one for You, one for Moses, one for Elijah.
Peter knew important men when he saw them. Moses was the great law giver. He was the first deliverer. He was the rescuer of the people of Israel. Elijah was the great prophet. No one in the Old Testament did more miracles than Elijah. His book of prophecy is the longest of the Old Testament prophecies.
And yet -- even with the significance of Moses and Elijah on the mountain. God said very directly:
“This is my beloved Son who I have chosen (Luke 9), whom I love (Mat. 17) with whom I am well pleased (Mark 9) ... LISTEN TO HIM.”
Jesus is in a class by Himself. The words of God are greater than even the words/advice of the greatest of men. Even when they spoke about God. Jesus’ words are still greater.
I know we notice Jesus. I know that we can hear Him. Listen to Him. Notice the content. Notice the author. Pay attention, this might just be meant for you.
In a world that is full of noise and more words than we could read in a lifetime, I hope this summer we are giving a bit more attention to what God says. He is constantly speaking. We can read what He says – but can we listen? Can we carve out moments to pay attention to the content, to pay attention to the author to know this was meant for us?
One of the greatest blessing of my time of Sabbatical was forcing myself to stop listening to hundreds of things and to begin to listen to only one source. And not just to hear it – like we hear the background music in the car as we drive (noticed, but only subconsciously acknowledged). But for a time there was only one voice I wanted to hear.
Can I challenge you this summer? Take some time to listen to the voice of God. Sit quietly somewhere and grab a Bible and read for yourself the words of God. Take a few moments and listen only to Him. Maybe you pick a book of the New Testament and read it. Maybe you download the YouVerson App and choose a Bible reading plan for 21 days. But carve out some time, find some silence and let His words speak. Listen.
We are capable of hearing an incredible range of sounds. We are capable of understanding an incredible range of concepts. We are capable of distinguishing between the dynamics of thousands of levels of volume. We are capable of volumes of thoughts and prayers and verses.
The summer is not over. The fall and its fast pace is quickly approaching. Don’t put this off.
Don’t just hear me – Listen. We need the voice of our God.