An Open Ear

6It’s not sacrifices and offerings that you want.
You’ve given me an open ear.
It’s not burnt offerings and sin offerings you asked for. — Psalm 40:6

There’s a structure in this verse that is often used to point to and emphasize particular elements of a statement. Notice how the first and third lines say almost the same thing. That’s called parallelism. In the center, we have a simple statement—you have given me an open ear. That’s the central point. It stands out because of the way it is placed.

We don’t often talk about an open ear as something that is most important. When we feel that God is too far away, and suspect he isn’t listening to us, we tend to do just about everything else. Am I tithing correctly? Am I attending worship enough? Am I following God’s plan for my life? Is there sin somewhere around?

We can really get to stewing about it. We go from one idea to the next in a desperate attempt to get back closer to God. But we do this all alone.

The psalmist has caught something important. Perhaps, he is telling us, if you aren’t hearing God the problem is that you aren’t listening. It’s not the sacrifices and the offerings, it’s the listening. And if you want to hear something, you often have to wait.

Probably the greatest gift for our spiritual growth is the open ear. Most often, when we don’t hear God, the problem is not that God isn’t speaking, it is that we aren’t really listening. Real listening, whether spiritually listening to God, or listening to friends or to your spouse involves:

  1. Waiting. You have to be patient enough to listen. You can’t run into the room and ask “What do you want to say?” and then run out again. Communication requires time.
  2. Paying attention. You have to put your attention on the conversation. This is where I have my biggest problem. I have a hard time putting aside other concerns, whether I’m trying to hear God or my wife. But full attention is necessary.
  3. A willingness to act. Does the conversation require an active response? You have to be willing to do so.
  4. A willingness to listen without acting. Oops! I’m stepping on my own toes again. This one is terribly hard for me. I want to hear the stuff that I can do something about, and then I want to do something about it. My wife frequently wants to tell me about something that happened to her without me jumping up and implementing a solution. Consider that God may sometimes just want to talk to you as well.
  5. Readiness to obey. When God speaks to you, he may just have a task for you to perform. But is there any point in him talking to you if you aren’t willing to do what he says? (But remember point #4!)

Your hearing ear is more important than sacrifices and offerings!

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