I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his people, his faithful ones. But let them not return to their foolish ways. - Psalm 85:8
William Wordsworth, in his poem “The Excursion,” talked about meeting a small boy holding to his ear a seashell “to which, in silence hushed, his very soul listened intensely.” Even though the boy lived far from the sea, as he listened he “heard murmurings” which “expressed mysterious union” with the ocean. As a result “his countenance soon brightened with joy.”
Getting some boys to listen to anything, whether intensely or otherwise, is a challenge. Activity, rather than contemplation, is their rhythm. And yet if they could be persuaded to, as the railway crossing signs command, “Stop, Look, Listen,” they would be surprised by what they heard.
Men, like small boys, also find it hard to stop, look, and listen. We don’t like to stop what we’re doing—we think it wastes time. We don’t find it necessary to look—we think we already know. We find it difficult to listen because as another speaks, we are formulating a rebuttal. But failure to listen intensely can mean missing the message entirely, or it can lead to hearing the message only partially. To miss the message entirely means living in ignorance; to grasp it only partially can mean living with confusion.
The psalm writer, on the other hand, had decided to “listen carefully to what the Lord is saying,” because he had learned that the Lord “speaks peace to his people, his faithful ones” (Ps. 85:8). In those days, the Lord spoke directly and powerfully through the prophets who had responded to his call to “listen carefully” to the message God was delivering to them. Then they had to get the message across. But it was a difficult task. The people either didn’t listen or they listened only halfheartedly, and they ignored the warnings, predictions, pleadings, and promises of the prophets. Because they did so, disaster overtook them. They had lived in such turmoil that their question to God was, “Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to distant generations?” (85:5). Those who had taken the trouble to listen had learned that God’s “salvation is near to those who honor him” (85:9). They knew about unfailing love, truth, righteousness, and peace—”the amazing blessings” (85:1) which the Lord delighted to pour out on his people. But they also knew better than “to return to their foolish ways” (85:8).
Men today have the Bible, godly preachers, and gifted authors on every hand speaking God’s message. If these men will try listening attentively to what God is saying, they will find that he is still offering “peace” and warning against “foolish ways.” And, like small boys with sea shells, their countenances will be “brightened with joy.”
For Further Study: Psalms 85