This cartoon illustrates in a humourous way the prevalent condition of many in the church whose minds are so conformed to the pattern of the world and so preoccupied with an information overload that they cannot hear the still, quiet voice of the Lord. It requires spiritual discipline to be able to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly (Psalm 85:8).
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain (2 Peter 1:16-18).
How do we hear the inaudible voice of the invisible God? How do we train our spiritual ear to hear what the Spirit is saying? Our minds are bombarded with so much information, much of it trivial and meaningless – and even much which is evil and misleading. How does God speak and how can we hear?
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that many people are carnal-minded do not really want to hear the Lord speak because their sinful lives are at enmity with his Spirit. They pretend to seek God but they only want to know him as a benefactor who will remove all their hardships and grant them success and prosperity.
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them (Isaiah 58:2).
The people of Israel were often inclined to listen to false prophets who would say exactly what they wanted to hear rather than the truth that the Lord was trying to tell them. Long before the coming of the Messiah the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah of how the people would be inclined to harden their hearts so that they would not (and could not) hear God speaking to them through Jesus the Messiah.
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Even among those who have come to believe in Jesus, the apostle Paul prophesied that many would depart from the truth and sound teaching. When people harden their hearts through compromise with sin and the unbelieving world it is impossible to remain faithful and to hear the Lord.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The evidence that people are genuinely hearing and listening to God with humble, penitent hearts is when they heed the word of Jesus the Messiah through whom God is calling people out of darkness and religious pretense into the light and the truth.
The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:10-16).
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:1-3).
So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:7-13).
As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief (Hebrews 3:15-19).
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Many people, like King Saul, delude themselves into thinking that they do hear the Lord and that they also respond in faithfulness, when in fact they are so reckless in their self-confidence, pride and self-righteousness that they do not respond in true faithfulness, but in presumption. They may indeed be hearers of the word but they are not doers of the word. Genuine faithfulness is proven through obedience in response to the word of God.
We must see to it that we do not have a sinful unbelieving heart like those who, although delivered from their slavery in Egypt, yet did not believe the good news by combining it with faithfulness and they perished in the desert without entering the Promised Land.
Listen to the Lord and you will draw near to Jesus. The gospel message is a two-edged sword bringing both salvation and condemnation – salvation to those who believe and eventual condemnation to those who hear but still stubbornly refuse to believe.
The Lord said through Moses that when the Messiah comes he will speak the very words of God after which the people would be held accountable for their unbelief. Neglectful ignorance of the truth is not innocence – many people choose not to listen and not to hear. After God raised Jesus from the dead and the gospel has been proclaimed throughout the world all people are without excuse.
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (Acts 17:30-32).
Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason’” (John 15:22-25).
God has spoken through Jesus Christ – and all people will be held accountable. Therefore, we must listen, hear and respond in repentance and obedience.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Those who hear and obey are also called to be faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ, therefore, let us not add to the meaningless noise and confusion in this world by uttering idle words, but let us be still, hear from God and speak according to his word. God still speaks through his faithful, redeemed people who are the light of the world.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:19-22).
Jesus said, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:47).
Jesus’ words have the power to impart eternal life and to raise the dead: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (John 5:24-25).
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27).
God hides himself from the proud, arrogant and sinful minded people who choose to remain in darkness and who deliberately block their ears to his word. They are the kind who will easily be led astray by false prophets who presume to speak in the Name of the Lord. But whoever confesses their sins and seeks God in humility – will intuitively hear God speaking to them and they will be drawn to Jesus through whom they will find life and be set free from sin and death. As Jesus said, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:45-51).
When the LORD spoke to the people at Mount Sinai they were overcome with fear and asked that God would not speak directly to them again but rather to speak through Moses as a mediator. “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:18-19).
And Moses told the people how God would speak to them through the Messiah, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ 17 The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
God again spoke audibly when he told the people to listen to his Word spoken through Jesus his son.
Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen (Luke 9:28-36).
On another occasion, shortly before the crucifixion, God, the Father, spoke in an audible voice testifying to the glory he had given to Jesus, who is the very Word of God among us in the flesh:
Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die (John 12:25-33).
Although Jesus the Messiah came at the appointed time, fulfilling all the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, many Jews who reject him, still claim that they are waiting for the Messiah to come. The fact that they have missed his coming is evidence of God’s judgment against them – they have failed to believe in him on account of self-righteousness and national and religious pride even though they have been scattered throughout the world.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Matthew 11:3-6).
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:14-18).
We have an awesome responsibility to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many may hear the good news, but not all listen and obey and combine it with the faithfulness it requires and offers.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed (Hebrews 4:1-2).
(Some translations say, “because they did not combine the message with faith”. In other words, as James taught, they did not demonstrate genuine faith by responding with obedient actions.)
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:7).
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:11).
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:17).
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:29).