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The Bible has much to say about hearing. A repeated phrase in Revelation is ‘whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Rev 3:6, 13,22). That may seem an odd phrase to us, for there are very few people without ears. What it’s really talking about is not the physical anatomy of ears, but if we are actually listening and hearing what God is saying. The Message version talks about our ears being awake.

At the moment, Garry is having trouble hearing in his left ear because of a build-up of wax. He’s deaf in that ear. This morning, I was downstairs when his alarm clock went off and instead of him turning it off, the noise of the alarm continued, getting louder and louder and more insistent. I had to go upstairs to wake him, astonished that he wasn’t disturbed by the noise. He was lying next to it, oblivious, while I was disturbed by it a relatively long way away! He couldn’t hear it because of the wax blockage in his ear.

We can be like that when God speaks to us. We simply don’t hear Him. Our ears are clogged up with the noise from the world, deafened by our own sin and by the culture all around us.

We need God to open our ears so we can listen. (Ps 40:6) The Hebrew word here is ‘dug out’. We need God to unclog our ears, to dig out the wax, to open the channels again so we can hear Him speak.

How does this happen? The chief way, it seems to me, is actually stopping to listen. We are adept at multi-tasking, but this creates half-hearted listening. To truly listen to God, we have to slow down and give Him our undivided attention. Jeremy Camp sings, ‘I need to stop so I can hear You speak’ (‘Slow Down Time’, Jeremy Camp) and this seems to me to be the first step. Instead of being proud of our ability to multi-task, we need to understand that we need to stop and spend time with God, with no other item on our agenda, that we need to listen in this time and not just talk.

Secondly, for us to hear God, we have to soften our hearts. Just as Garry needs ear drops to soften the wax which is the blockage preventing his hearing, hard hearts don’t hear God well. We have to allow God in if we’re going to hear Him. Every time we hear His voice and ignore Him (‘it wasn’t really God; it’s not convenient to do that; I don’t want to forgive X or give to Y’), we are actually making it harder to hear Him again.

Thirdly, hearing (listening) is allied to doing. (James 1:22-23) If we hear God and don’t do what He says, we’ll find it harder to hear Him next time. When God speaks, it’s not usually “information only.” He speaks to us to shape us, mould us and transform us. He speaks to us so we can be involved in His transformation of society. We need to get used to hearing and obeying.