In the last 18 months, we have endured 2 seasons of major disruption to our lives. I find it interesting how in both of these experiences, I have heard people share time and again how they hear the voice of God more clearly than ever before. In the extended hours of stillness, we find a willingness to speak less and listen more. Our souls seem to become more sensitive in times of inactivity. Today, we begin a new daily devotional series on listening to God.
"Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:1-9
Years ago, I read the story of a Broadway director who went to his doctor at the insistence of his family. They wanted his hearing checked. He argued that his hearing was perfect. They argued to the contrary. Eventually he relented and went to the family physician.
“I think this appointment is a waste of time, but my family insisted.”
His doctor asked him to sit on the table and he proceeded with his examination. The doctor peered through his otoscope at each ear. “Hmmm. Nothing unusual there.” Then he told the director, “Stay seated for a moment. I want to try something.”
The doctor stepped several feet away and whispered, “Can you hear me?”
The director replied, “Yes.”
The doctor then stepped outside the doorway, “Can you hear from here?”
The director answered, “Yes, I can.”
The doctor walked down the hallway and whispered, “What about now?”
A voice came from the exam room, “Yes, doctor. I can still hear you.”
The doc returned to the room, “I know exactly what is wrong!”
The director was surprised. “Really? What’s the issue?”
The doctor explained, “There is no issue at all with your hearing. The problem is that you don’t listen!”
The difference between listening and hearing is intention. You can hear all kinds of sounds and noises with no effort at all. Horns blow. Dogs bark. Phones ring. You hear them, but you are not listening to them. We can only listen if we intend to listen. We must make the choice to give our concentrated attention to whatever it is that we truly want to hear: the harmonies in a song, the words of a friend, the voice of God.
Read Mark 4:1-9 once more. We sometimes call this, “The Parable of the Sower” or “The Parable of the Soils.” What does this parable have to do with listening? Have we ever really listened to Jesus in this story?