Hearing and Listening

Listening is an interesting thing.  It’s actually an art to be developed.  Listening to many doesn’t come easy.  We confuse listening with hearing, but there is a subtle difference.  Hearing is a physical receptor coming into our ears.  Listening goes a step further and takes what we hear into our minds and hearts for consideration.

There is a story in I Samuel 3.  Samuel was just a boy working for Eli the priest.  One night as Samuel was sleeping he was awaken by a voice calling his name.  His ears could hear the voice but his listening had not developed to recognize it.  He thought the priest was calling him.  Eli said it wasn’t him and to go back to sleep.  This happened three times that night.  Finally, Eli understood that it was God calling to Samuel.  He then gave Samuel some wise instruction.  He said to Samuel in I Samuel 3:8. “…Go and lie down again, and if someone calls you, say, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”  Samuel was about to go from mere physical hearing, to mind and heart consideration.  

Sure enough, as Samuel lay again in bed, the voice of God was heard calling his name.  This time Samuel answered in just the manner Eli had instructed.  God gave Samuel His message and Samuel, in obedience, considered and obeyed the message.

It’s easy in our busy worlds to merely hear without listening.  For example, we know the importance of reading God’s Word daily.  It is our spiritual food.  Physical food is needed daily; spiritual food is needed daily, too, to have the strength we need to face any obstacle, to make decisions.  Therefore, we quickly read some Scripture or a devotional.  We have “heard” the written Word, but have we listened?  Have we asked the Holy Spirit to shine His truth into our understanding?  Have we asked the Holy Spirit to make the truth we read and hear to be applicable in our lives, to guide us in some direction we are seeking?  Without the Holy Spirit we may hear but we aren’t really listening.   

Listening takes practice.  Samuel could not discern the voice.  It took practice and instruction before He knew it was God.  Through this practice, Samuel became one of the Old Testament’s great prophets.  He not only heard words, but discerned when it was God.  It’s the same with you and me.  Holy listening is developed through practice.  Ask the Holy Spirit to develop your listening hears.  That’s a prayer He loves to answer in the affirmative.  It’s an immeasurable joy to develop our listening ears, to know of a certainty when God Himself is saying to us, “This is the way, now walk in it.”

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