Of they myriad blessings God has given me…one is a job that, for now at least, allows Michelle to stay home with Augie. Another is Michelle herself–she truly is the “better half” and is “far more precious than jewels” (see Proverbs 31:10).
She is also is my “help meet” (see Genesis 2:18)…which (in part) means she makes the trek to the Nissan dealer in Swanzey when either her Quest or my Cube needs a little attention. Although, while there, much of her time is spent watching Augie entertain himself at an automobile dealership, it does give her the opportunity to chat with other folks in the waiting area. Early last month she was hanging out while my Cube was getting inspected, and struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was getting his vehicle fixed.
You probably have run into the type…let’s see if you can figure it out after a some bullets:
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
- He suggested we go to Maine to watch fireworks
- Michelle noted we had just come back from a long trip to Maine, so we weren’t terribly interested in repeating it
- He tried everything he could to convince her it would be worth it…both for the fireworks and the other activities
- He talked about his two girls…who like to play football with boys (one is even a quarterback)…and who also dance
- Michelle mentioned Mikey originally wanted to be an aeronautical engineer but now wants to play the euphonium professionally
- He quickly brought the conversation back to his son who is studying to be an engineer
- He described Disney World and his trips there
- Michelle noted we aren’t huge on crowds
- He tried to convince her it still was worth doing
Have you guessed the type yet?
That’s right…he was a talker…not a listener. Any word he let Michelle get in edgewise was just a springboard to getting back to him, his children, his life…
He may have “heard” her…but he did not listen…
Listening (In the Beginning)
From the beginning we humans have had trouble listening…we appear to be genetically predisposed not to. That makes sense, considering our original human father didn’t seem to clean the wax out his ears…let’s take notice of the first recorded words from God to Adam:
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
Is that pretty succinct and clear? Any reason for confusion? Absolutely not…however oly a chapter later we hear some more words from our Lord to Adam:
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (Genesis 3:17)
No…right from the get go Adam did not listen to God…instead he listened to his wife…not that, husbands, it’s not good to listen to your wives. ☺
Listening (Through History)
Starting with Adam, the Bible records a history of men (and women) who did not listen.
- (As we just saw) Adam did not listen when he ate from the fruit.
- Cain did not listen when he gave God a suboptimal offering and when he allowed the “sin crouching at [his] door” to enter and he killed Abel (see Genesis 4:1-8).
- (As discussed in a recent sermon) Pharaoh did not listen and refused to let the Israelites go (see Exodus 7:13).
- Israel’s first king, Saul, did not listen and failed to “devote to destruction” all that the Amalekites had (see 1 Samuel 15:3; 17-23).
- The Israelites themselves…were a nation that seemed to make a profession of not listening…even though God made great effort to get them to do so. I found Leviticus 26:14-32 very interesting…
Verse 14 says, “”But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments…”
Verse 18 says, “And if in spite of this you will not listen to me…”
Verse 21 says, “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me…”
Finally verses 27 through 32 wrap it up with:
27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste (Leviticus 26:27-33).
What happened to Israel? They were “[scattered]…among the nations”…their land was made desolate…their cities were laid to waste.
All because they would not listen…
Thick as a Brick
How many of you are familiar with Jethro Tull? You know, the guy who is best friends with that Led Zeppelin dude? ☺
Either way, that group has an album that consists of a single song (although it is divided into two pieces because vinyl records have to be turned over). The song starts off like this:
Really don’t mind if you sit this one out.
My words but a whisper your deafness a shout.
I may make you feel but I can’t make you think.
[Skip this verse in church.] Your sperm’s in the gutter your love’s in the sink.
So you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.
Contrary to what Ian Anderson (the song’s writer) says…I think all humans know exactly how it feels to be thick as a brick…the question is how many of us actually realize just how foolish we are…
How exactly our deafness is a shout…
Earlier I started my list of people who didn’t listen…but the greatest “deafness [that is] a shout” happened around two thousand before now:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power… (Hebrews 1:1-3a)
The Father sent Jesus…the exact imprint of His nature…the clearest communication of a righteous and loving God…and the great majority did not listen and crucified Him.
But it wasn’t even limited to those who rejected him. As we’ve previously discussed…even Jesus’ disciples…who walked…talked…ate…who spent so much time with Jesus in person…seemed as thick as a brick. Perhaps their greatest thickness came in totally missing the message of God coming in servant form:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:1-6).
No…after He who did “not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6) spent so much time with them…what was the disciples’ concern?
Who would be the greatest.
Their deafness was a shout!
Now, have you wondered why Jesus chose to answer their direct question by pointing to a child? I suspect that a great part of it is that a child actually listens…
He or she doesn’t worry about whether all the other children are going to report to him or her…
Doesn’t assume he or she knows more than his or her teacher…
Asks questions from the heart…and waits to hear the answer…
History Continues (Today)
The Bible gives ample advice about listening…for all of you sitting there before me in church, the most apropos is probably from Ecclesiastes 5:1-3:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.
That’s another one of those “better than sacrifice” verses in the Bible…and this time it tells us listening is better than sacrifice…and then it gives additional advice…reminding us of the proverb that says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19).
And although we, like Jesus’ disciples, will have our “thick as a brick” moments…we wouldn’t be saved if we hadn’t listened to the voice of good shepherd (see John 10:7-21).
Sadly, however, the Bible gives a pretty clear picture of our post-modern culture…one that thinks we are so smart…that we should depend on our own reason:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Throughout the ages…starting with Adam…we have “[turned] away from listening to the truth and [wandered] into myths”…with our “itching ears…[accumulating] for [ourselves] teachers to suit [our] own passions.”
And our fate will be no different than that of our ancestors:
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate’ ” (Matthew 23:37-38).
In that harsh news is a wonderful reality…our God isn’t some dispassionate being that could care less whether we are thick as a brick or not…He longs to gather us under His wings! He wants us to listen…He “desires all people be saved and come to the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
He desires all people be listen.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15)…your deafness is a shout!