Be Still Know
Psalm 95.6-7 NLT
‘Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!’
These words of invitation are often used at the beginning of church services to remind us of how wonderful God is, and how much he deserves our worship. But although God is perfect and is worthy of our complete devotion, he will never impose himself on us. It is up to us to respond, and listening is a crucial part of that response. The sad reality is that we often do not listen and the psalmist reflects on a time when the people of Israel refused to listen. They were at the start of their wilderness wanderings and there was no water to drink. I don’t want to minimise the acute difficulty of such a dilemma, but the people’s response was to complain and not to listen to God. Although he had miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt, and provided regular food for them through the provision of quail and manna, their immediate response was to blame him. Happily, Moses did listen to God and the result was that he struck the rock at Horeb and fresh water came gushing out.
In his letter, James challenges his readers, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1.19). It seems to me that James had an acute understanding of how people tick. He knew the grim truth that we are inclined to be quick to speak and get angry, and slow to listen. And the reason for that is not hard to find. Listening is hard work. It demands time and effort and, when we are facing a difficulty, we want an instant response so listening sounds like a very slow and unattractive option.
The Bible is astonishingly honest about the repeated disasters of the people of Israel, which all occurred because they stopped listening. If only they had listened, things would have gone so very differently. It is no different for us today. We need to be quick to listen, knowing that God loves to speak with us and will be seeking to do so today through other people, the Bible, literature, music, art, nature and in a thousand other ways.
Question: How could you improve your ability to listen to God?
Prayer: Loving God, thank you that you love to speak to me. Help me to listen hard for your voice today. Amen
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