While studying to lead a small group in my home, I came across a place where the curriculum had two scriptures run together. The subject of the lesson was surrender to God. Here is how the scripture was presented:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool, if you are willing and obedient.
If you are not familiar with the Bible, let me show you why this is disturbing to me. I knew the authors had somehow mixed Isaiah 1:18 and 19a. As presented, the scripture sounded very legalistic and demanding. It seemed to say my sins would not become white as snow if I was not fully obedient. This triggered some old tapes learned in a very legalistic church I’d attended with a friend in high school.
I studied out the words in Hebrew and I discovered the words used actually reflect the relational heart of a Father calling to His children.
Try to hear a Father’s heart as you read this:
Vs 18: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Vs 19: If you intelligently listen to and recognize the Voice speaking to you, agreeing with the Voice and the words He is speaking, then you will be obedient and eat the good things of the land. (Paraphrase by Bill Kline)
“The first mission of love is to listen.” (Leonard Sweet)
Most of my life, I have felt most loved when I knew the other person was both hearing me and listening to me.
My first memory is of a moment when I spoke a complete sentence and my mother joyfully repeated it and praised me for communicating so clearly. She made a big deal of what I said, although I no longer remember the words. I simply remember feeling —I have communicated with another! She heard me and understood me! I felt a connection.
To this day, I feel valued and affirmed when people hear and listen to me. I feel most uncomfortable when people don’t understand what I am saying or even worse maybe, they don’t hear me talking.
“…the fundamental action word in the Bible as it concerns the voice of the living God is not to obey or submit. It is to listen.” (Leonard Sweet)
Could it be God actually listens to each one of us? I know He hears me. I make a lot of noise… But to know He listens to me, which requires focused attention. That thought profoundly touches my heart. I learned several years ago that the primary reason people join small groups is to find others who will listen to them.
Jesus often made statements like “Whoever has ears, let him hear…” Hearing and listening are clearly two different things. You can listen without hearing because you either don’t recognize the voice or you don’t understand the words being spoken. An example is hearing two people speaking a foreign language. As much as you try to concentrate on listening to what you hear, you cannot grasp or comprehend the meaning.
You can hear without listening. This happens to us all the time. The world is a noisy place! So many voices, so many noises. Because of this, most of us learn to be ‘selective listeners’ —especially true in marriage.
“My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27) but do we listen to Him, intelligently recognizing the power, glory and authority in the Voice of the One who is speaking, coming into agreement with His words with the intent to take action as His words require?
This is perhaps what James was trying to communicate in James 1:22 —being hearers but not doers… The very serious consequence of hearing but not doing (that is listening without the intent to take action) is deception, and is it too much of a stretch to say, “you won’t enjoy the good of the land, the abundance of life, the blessings that flow out of relationship with God.”
I have always liked the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It reveals the relationship with Father and Son in that Jesus specifically mentions and is thankful for his Father listening to Him. It is intriguing to know that Jesus did not immediately go to His friend upon learning that he was gravely ill. Instead, Jesus arrived days after Lazarus was in the grave! Was He waiting for His Father to tell Him what to say and do, rather than act out of His own emotions?
Jesus always did what Father showed Him to do and always said what Father told Him to say. I desire that kind of relationship with our Father.
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said,“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
So the purpose of raising Lazarus from the dead was not for Lazarus’ benefit alone but for the benefit of those who heard Jesus and saw what He was doing was directed by God.
In Sozo ministry, we seek to hear the voice of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. All healing comes from hearing God speak to you personally. I often pray, “Jesus, give me Your ears to hear my Father and Your heart to always agree with and act on His words.”
Blessings, Pastor Bill