Hearing or Listening?
The Bible places great emphasis on the importance of hearing, using the word “hear” over 500 times. Many times it is found in historical references, but when Jesus came He placed special emphasis on the way we hear. Since faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), it is important that we make sure we listen when God’s word is speaking to us, building our faith and directing our lives.
It is true that there are at least two levels of hearing. The first level is when we are aware that someone is talking and while we may hear the words we really are not listening. What parents have not said to an older child, “I just told you what I wanted you to do—did you not HEAR what I said?” Obviously, the child heard, while at the same time they were not hearing what was being said. I wonder if God ever feels this way about us?
The importance of hearing on this second level is illustrated in the life of Mary as she raised Jesus. When the angel told her of the virgin birth, she was “…troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was” (Luke 1:29). There was no way she could understand the virgin birth, but having heard his words, she simply said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Her perplexity is seen again after the shepherds told her what had happened to them. “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She was listening on that second level. When she heard young Jesus talk about being about His Father’s business, she “did not understand the statement when He spoke to them…but His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:50-51). Our relationship with God depends on us, even though we might not fully understand, listening so intently that His words are kept in our hearts.
Jesus spoke so often about using our ears to hear (Matt. 13:9; Mark 4:23) and the importance of taking heed to what we hear (Mark 4:24). He added more when He spoke of the importance of taking heed how we hear (Luke 8:18). However, there is one phrase which deserved special emphasis. “Let these words sink down into your ears” (Luke 9:44). When God speaks, His words must never just enter into our ears on that first level. We must let His words sink down deep into our ears.
We must do more than read the words of the Bible. We must do more than hear words in Bible classes. We must do more than just sit and listen to a sermon. Great spiritual growth will never happen until we let the messages from heaven sink down deep into our ears, and like Mary, keep all these things and ponder them in our hearts.