The Hearing Heart
"Be still," He says, "and
know that I am God." Psalms 46:10.
It takes a keen ear and a determined
heart to hear the whisper of God's voice.
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 3:7-10).
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 continually
had 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,
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
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”
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"
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
(8). 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; or 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
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
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
"... 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..."
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!
1 Matt 13:13-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John
Copyright 1977, Diane S. Dew
2 John 5:24; 10:3; 10:14; 10:10
3 Jer 5:21; Ezek. 12:2; Mark 8:18;
2 Tim 4:4; Rom 11:8; Heb 5:11
4 Acts 7:57
5 Matt 13:15; Heb 5:11
6 Acts 28:27
7 Exodus 33:11; 1 Sam 3:9; Isa 41:8;
8 Acts 7:57; Rom 11:8; 2 Tim 4:4
9 Amos 6:1; Jer 48:11; Zeph 1:12