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Are You Listening?

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 2:7 

As a preacher, I want people to listen in church.  I raise my voice, so I can be heard.  Sound reinforcements systems make it easier to hear.  We have special devices for the hearing impaired; we record services on CD’s so people can have a service played back for anyone to hear.  Seven times John wrote “he who has an ear, let him hear” to the churches in Revelation. Why did he repeat this phrase over and over?  Because nobody was listening! 

This has always been the problem.  People don’t listen.  This has nothing to do with the ability to recognize sound waves registering on the ear drums, or with defective auditory nerves.  It has everything to do with the intention to take what one hears seriously. 

The word listen appears only once in the King James Bible:  Isaiah 49:1. The Hebrew word for “listen,” however, is shama, most often translated as “hear.”  Whenever you hear a command, you need to listen.  Adam and Eve heard the voice of God but failed to listen.  Their punishment for not listening was severe:  painful childbirth, cursed ground, toil and sweat, and finally, exile from Eden.  There is a steep price to be paid for refusing to listen to the voice of God.  Plagues and the loss of his firstborn punished Pharoah.  Israel didn’t listen to Joshua and Caleb and spent thirty-eight more years in the wilderness.  Moses didn’t listen and he was kept from going into the Promised Land.  Ahab didn’t listen and he was slain in battle.  Manasseh didn’t listen and he lost his kingdom to Assyria.  Jehoiakim didn’t listen and he lost his kingdom to Babylon.  

The question is…why?  Why don’t people listen?  Jesus begins to explain it to us in the New Testament.  In the light of my text, His word choice is startling:  And if you will receive it, this is Elias, who was to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:14-15. Why don’t people hear?  Jesus meant those who wouldn’t hear because the words are uncomfortable!  He said they were “Waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing.” Matthew 13:15.  Waxed gross means stupefy, grown callusedDull of hearing means heavy, not discerning.

When people are up to their ears in gossip and carnality, when they talk about people, problems, frustrations, headaches all the time, when they obsess on sports, politics and materialism, they get stupefied and callused.  How would someone become dull of hearing?  When they stop their intake of the Word of God on a regular basis:  When they listen to alternative voices; when they grow rebellious; when they lose their interest in God; when their prayer life fades away to non-existence.  Listening is an act of the will. It cannot be forced.  You must choose to listen.  

How does a pastor get people to listen? just mention a few names or throw out a few terms that they are interested in.  Pastors cannot afford to talk about the irrelevant.  They talk about the eternally significant.  You will draw your last breath on the strength of what you hear. You will go to heaven or hell from the pews of the church. You will stand before God in judgment on the basis of what you hear from the pulpit.  Is it grace today, or judgment? Faith or works? Trials and afflictions? Healing and salvation? Sheep shearing or sinner reaching? 

Whatever the message, the point is, are you listening?  If you do not listen to God, will He hear you in the time of your crisis?  “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” Psalm 18:6.

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