Hearing and Listening

Recently, one of our kids was in timeout for the way he was treating his sister, so I asked him to go tell his sister sorry and to give her a hug and kiss.  He gladly got up from the couch, apparently relieved that he was once again free, and merely yelled into the bathroom door where she was in mommy’s arms and said, “Sorry Bekah” and darted off.


My boy’s actions did not demonstrate that he was listening to me. He heard me, but he was not listening. Yelling a flippant “sorry,” and darting off, was not what I was hoping for in my child rearing efforts.


So, once again, “Son, please go back and tell Bekah you are sorry for hurting her and give her a hug and kiss.” And he did. This time he was sincere and she hugged him back.


This scenario is a quick snapshot of how we can often be with God. We may hear God, but we don’t fully listen.


Sometimes we “do what God says” so we can get what we want. Does that make sense? That is what my son did with me. He did what I “asked” so that he could be free to play- not so that he could reconcile with his sister. He heard, but he didn’t really listen. 


This kind of attitude of manipulating God’s word was rampant in Saul’s life. Early on in 1 Samuel, after Saul was anointed King, God wanted to use Saul to pour out his wrath on the Amalekites, but Saul didn’t fully obey God’s instructions (1 Sam. 15:1-11).


Notice Saul’s words when Samuel called him on the carpet (vv. 15:20-21). (Paraphrased)


“Hey Sam, Bro! Long time no see. How are you? Listen, I know you were gonna ask, so I wanted to let you know that I did what God said. I killed everyone and everything. Isn’t that GREAT {insert mischievous grin and nodding head}!?”


Samuel probes Saul a little and Saul says,


“Well…except… uh.., we kept King Agag- and actually, the army wanted to keep some plunder, the best sheep and cattle, so we can sacrifice it to the Lord– Yeah, it was for God! Isn’t that great Samuel!?” {insert long pregnant pause here…and hesitant grin once again.]


Did you catch that? Just a couple of, shall we say, minor issues here.


Saul may have been saying one thing, but here is what Samuel actually saw running through Saul’s head when he listened to Saul (1 Sam 15:19):


“I didn’t kill King Agag, because, hey, wouldn’t he be a great trophy to bring back to my people so that they can know what a great and powerful King I am?” AND…”We kept some of the best sheep and cattle because I wanted to line my pockets and to let people see how rich and powerful I am.”


A careful reader would see that Saul’s problem was greed, people pleasing and pride. Greed is intense and selfish desire for something. Saul’s people pleasing and pride wanted the praise of the people. He wanted the glory.


The issue was what bank account Saul was depositing the glory and fame for the battle. Saul put the wealth in his account and not God’s. On the surface it appeared that Saul obeyed God. Probe a little deeper and you can see that what Saul did was intensely selfish and wicked. Zoom out a little and you can see that the consequences are calamitous.


For the rest of Saul’s life he lived in fear and uncertainty. Saul became one of the most insecure kings in the history of Israel. He spent much of his time and energy pursing his selfish desires- even to the expense of the lives of others. Thus, God was no longer with Saul.


Saul never repented. Essentially, he apologized. But he did not repent. For the rest of his life he lived in rebellion against God until Saul died. In Saul’s death, God finally and completely stripped away the kingdom and reassigned it to David.


So there are a couple of lessons we can learn from this.


First, what we do is no secret to God. Our actions reveal the intentions of our heart. Actions speak louder than words. And that makes sense because actions reveal who we really are.


Second, God desires complete obedience from his people. When we sign up to be a follower of Christ, we agree to direct deposit our resources, fame and glory- all the accolades of the work of our hands- into God’s account. Our life becomes a mission to build the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of {insert your name here}. Thus, if God wants us to do something, we better completely obey and, in the end, give Him the glory.


I think of something as simple as my boy whose goal was to be free to play again. His goal and my goal were vastly different. He was seeking his own interests. I was seeking the reconciliation between he and his sister. At first he heard me, but he wasn’t listening. His actions proved this. I was gracious and gave him one more try. Fortunately he listened.


We all need to check ourselves. Are we listening to God or are we just hearing him? Are we truly living to glorify God with how we use our time and resources or are we really building our own kingdom?


Let’s be people who fully obey God and give him the glory!