The God Who Speaks,The God Who Hears- Part 2
Last time we considered the remarkable fact that God has a Voice and speaks to His people, His Voice spanning the centuries between the Old and New Testaments, the very same speaking to us now. We began with Israel’s encounter with the Voice of God at Sinai and ended with that same Voice becoming Incarnate in the Jesus, the Word of God.
This installment is about the equally remarkable fact that God listens and is quite concerned with what we have to say. Once again we turn to Exodus and the experiences of God’s people, only now instead of being emancipated and hearing Yahweh in the wilderness, we see the Hebrews crying out because of their horrific bondage as slaves in Egypt (Ex. 2:23-25).
“They cried out and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel and God took notice of them.” (NASB)
It is interesting that remembering His covenant with their ancestors and taking notice of their plight are associated with God hearing them. In the Septuagint, the verbs heard, remembered, saw, and took notice are all in the aorist tense, indicative mood indicating events occurring in the past; i.e. He had already heard, remembered, saw and took notice of His people, it was not something new to God, but to the Hebrews it was good news, indeed that God had, after all, heard them and was still hearing. Ex. 3:7-8 sheds light on this when God says to Moses that He has been aware of their sufferings and is now preparing to act on their behalf.
Now, fast forward to the New Testament when Jesus talks to His disciples about prayer and what we are to seek after (Matt. 6:7-8, 32). Twice in these verses Jesus says that God knows about those things we all need. The verb ‘know’ is in the perfect tense, indicative mood meaning God knows now even before we ask. He hear us and is listening, not just to the sounds but the meaning of what we say, therefore knowing what we are all about.
Speaking requires hearing and listening is an essential part of hearing, really hearing. What I mean is listening suggests an attitude, an inclination towards, an interest in what is being heard. But, nothing is heard without first speaking, at least in these contexts. God speaks and then listens for a response and when a response comes, He hears it. We speak, listen for a response and when it comes, hear it; that is if we are interested at all in whomever our speech is directed. And herein lies the rub: there are those who “have ears but do not hear” or, we might say, hear sounds but do not understand what they mean, or hear but do not listen. This is the difference between us and God, and thankfully so; God both hears and listens with perfectly clarity of understanding and always, without exception, responds appropriately. On our part, however, His words may be clamoring for our attention but we simply are neither hearing nor listening.
The point of all this is that God hears us, really hears us, hears everything in fact and is constantly listening for our response to Him. He is never deaf as we sometimes are and even answers us when we haven’t even uttered a word, like those times when anguish of heart smothers verbal speech and all we can do is groan and travail, just as the Hebrews did in Egypt. Therefore, we are encouraged throughout the New Testament to pray, even pray without ceasing, all the while knowing our words are not falling on deaf ears. He is eager to hear from us and listens closely to what we say.
This whole thing about communication between Creator and creature, this speaking and hearing on a two way street is astounding when you think about it. And think about we should for no greater privilege is afforded us than to have an audience with God whenever we want and no greater power available than aligning our will with His. Hear then, and listen to the words of Jesus, our God Who Speaks:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from the Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:12-17 NKJV)