There is a wonderful Farside cartoon that pictures a dog named Fido listening to his master who is talking to him. However, all that Fido hears is “blah, blah, blah, blah, Fido, blah, blah, blah, Fido”. . . . The words are there, but Fido does not comprehend them. There are times when I’m talking to my spouse, my children or my students and I picture a little cartoon bubble over their heads as they only hear “blah, blah, blah”, hearing me, but not listening to what I have to say. I think that we’re sometimes like that when listening to God. Either through inattention, distraction or lack of recognition, we only hear “blah, blah, blah” instead of attending to the God of the universe who is speaking to us.
The writer of Hebrews is telling us that God is trying to get our attention so that we not only hear his voice, but actively listen to what He is saying. One of the most difficult things to do is to be a good listener. You can tell when someone is not really listening to you. . . they may not make eye contact, become distracted by other things in the environment, continually look at their watch, or be more interested in what their response is rather than what it is that you are saying. Good listening is when someone is focused on you, attends to what you are saying and makes an appropriate response. We often do not practice good listening skills when it comes to hearing God’s voice.
It is when we don’t listen and pay attention that we are in danger of our hearts becoming hardened toward Him and are in a state where God’s voice makes no impression on us. There’s a little history lesson included here, using the experience of the Israelites following their miraculous escape from slavery in Egypt. As their attention got diverted from God, their hearts became hard and resistant, resulting in rebellion. As a result, they needed to wander in the wilderness a while longer until their hearts became more dependant and trusting on God. Only then were they allowed to enter the “promised land”.
Unless we learn from their experience, we are in danger of “hardened hearts” and resistance to God from the same “tricks” of sin that the Israelites were lured and deceived by: distractions of life demands, temptations that make us lose focus, stubbornness and the need to control our own lives, complacency and laziness, as well as inattentiveness to the voice of God in our lives. These issues fool us, distract us and cause us to wander in our own kind of wilderness. We are departing from God, causing alienation and estrangement, instead of moving toward God and entering into his promised “rest”. The consequence is a life filled with dis-ease, dissonance and despair instead of the life that is promised to us, one filled with harmony and stability. We are asked to listen up, focus and be in it with Christ for the long haul. That is where we will discover our “promised land”.
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