A country boy went to spend a week with his friend who lived in a busy town. Walking along a crowded street together the country boy stopped and said “Shh – I can hear a cricket”. The town boy could not hear it until after a while when he ‘tuned in’ and then he could just about hear it.
“Why did it take me so long to hear it?” he asked. The country boy said “I’m used to listening for the sounds of living things.”
“What am I used to hearing?” asked the townie. “I’ll show you” said the country lad.
“All these people can’t hear the cricket because their ears are not tuned to that sound”. Then he dropped a coin onto the pavement, and everybody turned round to see who had dropped it, and how much it was. “That’s what town folks listen for” he said, rather smugly.
All right, the story is a bit over-simplistic, I agree-but it is quite true that listening is a selective process.We hear what we choose to hear on most occasions. A cry “Will someone please help me with the washing up?” will genuinely not be heard as easily as the much more quietly spoken words “Anyone want some ice cream and hot apple pie?”. Everyone at home will hear that whisper!
If hearing is that selective, how do we listen to God? What is the wavelength of God’s voice? Well, surprisingly, it’s nothing to do with the volume of the sound on our ear drums. Our dog was quietly obedient until he saw a cat, and then he was deaf to all the shouting in the world. It’s our wills, not our ears, that turn deaf to God.
In the First Book of Samuel there is a superb story of a woman so desperate for a son that she prayed to God “If you give me a son, I will give him back to you as your servant.” Well, she had a son, and named him “God heard”, or ‘Samuel’ in Hebrew, and she was as good as her word. She gave him to the service of God from his youth at Israel’s old shrine, at Shiloh. When God spoke to young Samuel by name, he didn’t realise that it was God speaking, and went three times to Eli the priest, saying “You called me?”. The priest finally caught on, and said “Next time the voice calls you by name, say ‘Speak Lord – your servant is listening’.” He did, and he received a powerful message which was anything but sweet music to anyone’s ears. It was dynamite. But then no one said if you open your ears to God you will hear sweet nothings. In the First Book of Samuel this is how Chapter 3 ends, and Chapter 4 begins
The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
And Samuel’s word came to all Israel. …….I Samuel 3:21 and 4:1a
Lord, I’ve nothing to say to the world, unless I hear it from you.
Now read Mark Chapter 4: 1-20.