So honor the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. Joshua 24:14 nlt
I’ve read from many different sources about the power of active listening versus just hearing. Some of the best ones talk about calling upon my other senses just as much (if not more) than that of just my physical hearing. The more senses I’m able to involve in the listening process, the more completely I am able to understand what the speaker is saying.
In the early 1990’s, a woman named Hannah Merker wrote a book on her experience of going deaf as an adult due to a skiing accident. It’s called Listening: Ways of Hearing in a Silent World. She takes an even more strategic approach to listening that goes beyond “active.” Here is a 30-second clip of her thoughts:
“How then do we redefine the word ‘listening’ to include all the interacting phenomena that occur when a deaf or hearing impaired person is talking to a friend, walking alone on a beach, occupying her spot in the world on any particular day? The ears of such a one miss much. The wonder that is the human body seems willing to soar over the gap. When earth’s auditory energy is received as a whisper, or perhaps not at all, other senses become sharpened, grasping communicative clues we have forgotten, in the rush of life, are there. Listening become visual, tactile, intuitive. Listening… perhaps… is just a mind aware.” (Listening: Ways of Hearing in a Silent World by Hannah Merker)
I could literally smile about that idea for weeks! I love the idea that listening is less about the act of physical hearing and more about my mind being aware!
This especially applies to my relationship with God. I don’t think I have ever physically “heard” God’s voice like I hear my friends and family talk, but I can’t let that stop me from listening to Him. So then Hannah’s definition of listening is extremely powerful in application here. How can I have a mind that is aware of God?
Joshua, near the end of his life, called all the people of Israel together to renew their covenant with God. He reminds them of all the miraculous things God has done for them and shares God’s words with them so that they may hear and remember. But it is all part of his farewell speech – how will the people of Israel hear God and connect with God after Joshua dies?
“So honor the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. But if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now life? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14 nlt)
Joshua told the people to honor the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. By having a servant’s heart, undivided by loyalty to other gods, they would be able to hear and follow God. By surrendering their false idols – gods they could control – for the will of the true God whom we surrender control, they are able to hear and obey.
Being a servant to God is to have a heart, mind and soul aware of Him in ALL we do.
In order to do this fully, Joshua has two final steps:
“All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23 nlt)
So, in my life today, that look like this:
- “Destroy idols” = Get rid of anything that I am relying on more than God. If I catch myself grabbing a bottle of wine or a box of cookies to calm my anxiety or distract me from my distress, I will go to God first instead. I will talk with him about my worries and feelings of frustration until I feel His peace. (Then I might still have my one glass or my one cookie afterwards – but it will be for the right reasons.)
- “Turn my heart to the LORD” = Spend time each day getting to know God so that I can understand what His will is for me. I will dedicate time each day to reading a little bit of the Bible and finding a way to apply it to my life; I imagine it’s my daily coffee talk time with God.
And the best part is, because of Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection, even when I fail at those two things, God still continues to speak to me. He doesn’t wait for me to have the perfect listening skill or the most aware mind; he wants to speak to me right where my ears, heart, mind and soul are at today.