My wife, Cindy, and I are currently enrolled in Parenting 2.0; some people call this season grandparenting. We are now six years into this course, and our five teachers are helping us learn much about ourselves, what we wish we had known in our first parenting experience, and our relationship with God. One reality that we have learned is that active listening is not an option in grandparenting or our journey with Jesus as his disciple. It is a necessity!!!
The other day, Cindy was putting one of our four-year-old boys down for his nap. As she stepped out of the room, he said, “Nana!” She went back to his bedside, and he smiled and said, “I’m so glad you are here and that you don’t BE far away!! I like to ‘BEES’ with you.” She responded, “Oh, Llew, I like to ‘BEES’ with you too!” Cindy not only listened to our grandson, but she also listened to what the Lord was teaching her about Himself through her four-year-old teacher.
Let’s look at what Jesus says to us about listening or hearing His words. How significant is active listening to the life and spiritual maturity of a disciple of Jesus? Is it enough for us to simply hear His words so that we are familiar with them, perhaps even memorize them? After the longest and most famous message ever recorded of Jesus by the New Testament authors, Jesus shares a parable of application:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them (does them) may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them (do them) will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and it fell–and great was its fall”
Matthew 7:24-27 [emphasis mine], see also Luke 6:47-49
As we take a close look at this concluding application story of the Sermon on the Mount, we find the end goal of hearing God’s words. It is not so that we can simply be familiar or acquainted with the Bible or even have it memorized, although this is helpful if it leads us to Jesus’ ultimate purpose. The goal of hearing the words of Jesus is to act upon them and do them. In other words, the goal for every disciple of Jesus is to obey and practice the words of Jesus!
I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me over thirty years of attempting to follow Jesus to realize a glaring insight into this familiar parable. BOTH of these men heard the words of Jesus. They both had access to the life-changing insights prescribed by Jesus! Both men experienced the rains, the rising floods, and the slamming winds. What element determined the different outcomes? One of the men acted upon the words that Jesus delivered to him. He put them into practice. He obeyed the teachings and commands of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus referred to him as a wise man.
In our Western church culture, it is so easy to study the Scriptures either personally or in a group setting, to discover dynamic principles and insights, and yet never ask ourselves, “What is God saying to ME in this passage? How will I respond in practical obedience to what I have just heard?”
Are you sitting down? In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word translated to hear or listen also means to act upon the words you have heard. The word is shema. It not only refers to the unique sounds that come from the words, but it also expects us to understand, take heed, and obey the words that we hear.
The word, shema, is the name of the prayer that Jesus and every God-fearing Jew would recite every morning and evening. I had the privilege of learning this years ago in my Hebrew class. It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. “Hear (Shema), O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” As Lois Tverberg reveals, when Jewish people would recite these words, they were saying to themselves, “Take heed! Listen and obey! Love God with all of your life!”
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment in the entire Hebrew Scriptures, he responded by quoting this very passage from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. He emphasized the importance and expectation of hearing God’s word, living it out, and putting it into practice as a lifestyle. This insight helps us understand why Jesus would say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9). Most of the time, we find the word obey in the New Testament comes from the verb to hear. I find it humbling that the wind and the sea heard and obeyed Jesus. Even the unclean demonic spirits heard and obeyed Jesus. However, when we as human beings hear the words of Jesus, we tend to resist putting them into practice.
When parents or grandparents say to a child, “Did you hear me?”, they don’t simply mean, “Did you hear the sound of my words?” They are reminding the child to obey what they had just asked them to do!
In Luke’s account of the parable of the two builders, he begins by recording this question from Jesus: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) Jesus made it clear that obedience is the goal of hearing the word of God. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and follow it! (Luke 11:28)
It took the death and resurrection of Jesus to awaken his little brother, James, to understand this vital truth of not merely hearing the words of Jesus, but if we truly believe and follow Him, we must do what He has called us to do! I love the imagery he uses to make this point in his letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
Unfortunately, having amnesia about God’s word has been an issue that began in the garden of Eden and spread throughout the nation of Israel. Listen to Asaph’s song written for God’s children throughout Israel in Psalm 81:8, 11-14:
“Hear, O my people, and I will warn you — if you would but listen to me, O Israel!
But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me.
So, I gave them over to their stubborn hearts. If my people would but listen to me,
if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!”
As an adoring and loving parent, God has been speaking to us from the beginning with wisdom and truth for us to follow to avoid the pitfalls of the consequences of sin. The author of Hebrews tells us that God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets in the past. However, in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things and through whom he created the world (Hebrews 1:1-2). John records that if we are indeed disciples of Jesus, we will hear the voice of Jesus; that He knows us; and we will follow Him in obedience (John 10:27).
Just in case we haven’t grasped the significance of acting upon and putting into practice what God has said to us throughout the Scriptures, in the last book, John records these words of Jesus, not once but seven times to the churches of his day: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” I don’t think this is a coincidence or an exaggeration. In these sacred words, Jesus reminds us not simply to hear what He has to say to us, but we need to act upon it and prove that we want to “BEES with Him!” After all, our God has vividly demonstrated through Jesus that He wants to “BEES with us!”
 Lois Tverberg; Listening to the Language of the Bible: Hearing It Through Jesus’ Ears
This post originally appeared at: Actively Listening to God and Others — The Bonhoeffer Project