The Art of Godly Listening
Daily Devotion for Thursday, July 9
[This devotional article first appeared in the June 23, 2020 edition of the Weakley County Press]
We are experiencing a moment in history where communities across our country, and indeed the whole world, are voicing frustration and pain. With constant access to news and information, individuals share both facts and opinions, correlating events in the overall context of an ideological or political perspective. Commentary on far-reaching meaning and implication are debated while events unfold live on our screens. At the same time, it seems that many of the immediate opinions (on all sides) have often caused more harm than good. Even though communication in this culture has never been faster, that does not mean it is ever the wiser. We are conditioned to hear someone while simultaneously formulating our response in our heads, ready to pounce the moment the other party pauses. When everyone is in opinion-mode, the art of listening wanes. But God’s Word reminds us “The one who gives an answer before he listens – this is foolishness and disgrace for him.” (Prov. 18:13 CSB)
God desires us to listen patiently and for understanding. The Bible teaches us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19 CSB) Our listening must first be directed toward God, humbly receiving His word for salvation and protection against evil (v. 21). We should “be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for him.” (Psalm 37:8 CSB) Humbly and silently waiting upon the Lord provides us with the proper framework to listen to others.
God gives us examples in his Word to help understand and appreciate the time for silence instead of speaking, circumspection instead of unending debate. When Job was stricken with great calamity and illness, three of his friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) arrived to console him. The latter part of Job 2 highlights several striking truths about this occurrence.
First, all three of Job’s friends hailed from different clans, tribes, and possibly, even different ethnicities. Secondly, their desire was to mourn with Job and comfort him. They saw him from afar and could not even recognize him, causing them to weep and outwardly display their concern. Then, amazingly, they “sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and NO ONE SPOKE A WORD to him, for they saw that his grief was great.” (Job 2:13 - NKJV)
Bible readers are quick to castigate the friends of Job, because the Lord rebukes them at the conclusion of the narrative. Yet, recall that the Lord rebuked the friends for insisting Job suffered because of some sin in his life. God did not discipline them for arriving and showing concern for their stricken friend. They saw the scope of Job’s pain, grief, and frustration, and they sat silently for seven full days.
The fact that Job’s friends were present, concerned, and SILENT demonstrated the true nature of their friendship. Clanship, tribal affinity, and ethnicity did not enter into the equation as they saw their brother in need. Job’s friends got into trouble only when they opened their mouths to speak! This reminds us that no matter how long we are silent in contemplation and listening, our words may still miss the mark. Therefore, our words and our deeds must always be accompanied by humility and grace. Remember what the Apostle Paul says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 - NKJV)
God calls his people to, “Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10 CSB) May we measure our words carefully in this season of listening, learning, and reflection, so that when we do speak, we speak with the love and wisdom of God’s Word.
Joshua Moore Pastor, Sharon First Baptist Church joshuatmoore.com/blog