Hearing Vs. Listening

Noise fills our modern world. Even when there is no noise around us, we plug in our headphones to fill our ears with sound – any sound is better than silence, it seems.

Given the amount of sound we hear all the time, it's surprising that we are losing the art of listening. What is the difference? Any parent with kids will tell you that there is a big difference between hearing and listening!

In today's devotion, I want to take a closer look at Proverbs 22:17-19. In the bible quotes, any words in brackets are my own.

"17 Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,

And apply your heart (inner being: mind, will, heart) to my knowledge;"

True listening is very intentional. It is active, not passive. "To incline your ear..." means we choose to listen by adjusting our posture and giving our full attention. And more than that, we internalise it and apply it in our lives. While we may not be able to control what we hear, we can certainly choose what we listen to and internalise.

"18 For it is a pleasant thing if you keep (guard) them within you;

Let them all be fixed upon your lips,

19 So that your trust may be in the Lord;

I have instructed you today, even you."

So not only should we intentionally listen to God's word and apply it, but we are to keep it, or guard it, within us. I know all too well how easy it is for the things of the world to creep into our lives and crowd out the things of God.

This passage also seems to say that trusting in God is closely related to having God's word within us. So if we are finding it hard to trust God, then perhaps we should think about some of the following (both in the context of the bible and in our personal lives):

  • God's faithfulness in the past

  • God's steadfast love towards his people

  • God's promises, which never fails

I am challenged by this passage to be more aware of the way that I listen to God. I find myself asking a question, with which I would like to challenge all of us: “Do I give God my full attention and incline my ear when I listen to/read His word, or am I just passively hearing/reading His word”?

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