My wife says that I’ve become hard of hearing. There’s truth in that I think. I almost always ask her to repeat herself (she’s becoming quite frustrated by that). When she speaks to me, I hear something, and maybe catch a word or two. In the past I used to try and piece together her message, but you know what? When you pretend you heard and then get it wrong you end up in worse trouble. So now when I hear her saying something to me I ask her to repeat it so I know I’ve got it right. Next stop is the hearing aid store, I’m sure.
Of course, sometimes we don’t hear something correctly because we’re not paying attention – not actively listening – when the person is speaking. And sometimes, we simply don’t like what we hear and we disregard it completely.
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading through parts of Jeremiah lately. After the fall of Jerusalem the remaining Jews ask Jeremiah to speak to God on their behalf to find out what they should do. They feel vulnerable after the destruction of the city, understandably. Jeremiah seeks the Lord on their behalf and returns with God’s promise to watch over them and protect them if they will remain in the city and be faithful in the rebuilding. The time of God’s judgment is passed, and now His heart is set on restoring the city and the nation. (Jeremiah 40-43).
The people reject Jeremiah’s word to them and accuse him of lying. They had already made up their minds that the safest thing to do was to flee to Egypt in order to have protection from the Babylonians.
This is crazy to me! Jeremiah had already proven He was the Lord’s prophet. He had rightly predicted the destruction of the city, and endured years of hardship as the Lord’s messenger. You would think believing him would have been the easiest thing to do. But it wasn’t. Why not? The key is found in Jeremiah 43:2. “Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you …’”
Did you catch it? It was arrogance that prevented these leaders from hearing God’s voice. Despite Jeremiah's proven track record as a prophet, they had already made up their minds about what they thought needed to be done. Their hearts were hardened to Jeremiah’s word because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. So they failed to hear it for what it was.
There’s an obvious lesson here for those of us who want to be led by the Spirit in our lives, and in our church. If we want to hear God when He speaks to us, we need to make sure we haven’t already predetermined what we expect Him to say. We need to avoid arrogance, and keep our hearts humble, in order for our ears to be open. We need to be ready to listen openly, actively, to every word that He says, not just the parts we want to hear.
Humility is a hearing aid that is available to each of us. May it protect us from hearing amiss when God speaks, or from missing Him altogether.