As you know, you have three sets of ears. But what you may not have heard is that not everybody knows how to use them. You don't have to be deaf to not hear - you just have to not listen. Even though many people have ears on the sides of their heads that are in reasonable condition, they may not use them particularly well. This is called selective hearing. But selective hearing not only effects the outermost ears, it can effect a person's inner ears as well.
¶ Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded
Proverbs 1:20-21, 24
Our second set of ears are not really "ears" because they involve our eyes as much as our ears. Hearing what someone is really saying requires seeing, looking, noticing, asking, and remembering.
¶ Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Even though we all have these second ears, it takes practice and training to learn how to use them. It seems that women are more adept at this form of listening. But when a man is introduced to his second ears it opens up a whole new way of seeing the world to him. It helps him to understand what his wife has really been saying to him. This is one of the most components in pre-marriage counselling when a couple is introduced to the five levels of communication (which start with clichés, then secondly facts, and so on). When we get to Level 3 communication, we introduce a new set of listening skills to the couple. This is a three stage process of listening. Stage 1 is "Active Listening". Stage 2 is "Reactive Listening". And Stage 3 is "Responsive Listening". Each stage is sequential. That is, you cannot do Stage 3 listening unless you've done Stages 1 and 2. This is one of the most difficult phases of the pre-marriage preparation for a couple. It requires learning to hear what they previously thought was criticism as heart. Reactive listening involves posture, mood, engagement, and openness. Have you ever tried to tell someone something they just wouldn't hear? Do people find it difficult to be frank and open with you? If you learn to be a positively reactive listener (give verbal cues that you're listening, smile with your eyes as they talk to you, don't interrupt them, don't be defensive, thank them for the courage and willingness to share with you) you may well find that more people want to talk with you.
And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Mark 7:35
What stops us from hearing with our first two sets of ears? Even though your physical ears work adequately, you can zone out and not hear what someone is saying to you (this is a common complaint that wives have with their husbands). We might have a lot on our minds. We may be stressed. We may be disinterested. Even though someone is talking clearly and directly to us, we may not be hearing them. Listening with your first set of ears requires concentration and this requires practice.
Even though we hear the words and sentences of the one talking to us, we can still mis-hear or even not hear what is really being said. This requires what we call in pre-marriage counseling, Level 3 hearing. This is where you begin to listen to other person's heart. In the West we automatically correlate heart with emotions. But in the Ancient World, the heart was where the mind resided. Often times someone is sharing their heart when they sound opinionated. It's easy to hear arrogance and miss that they are telling you they trust you enough to share their opinion with you.
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Hearing someone's heart does not come naturally. It might be possible to develop it without some training, but like anything learned the hard way, it would have to be learned the hard way. You could start by asking the one talking to you things like, "Help me to understand what you're really saying." "Are you saying...?" By restating to someone what you heard them say you are learning how to hear with your first two sets of ears. It's with your second set of ears that you hear and take note of what someone isn't telling you. These ears are used to hear hesitation. These ears are used to detect sadness, loneliness, excitement, fear, or care. But we all have a third set of ears.
HEAR HEAR HEAR
If our first two sets of ears require training and practise, our third set probably does as well. These are our spiritualears. We all have them - not just 'religious' people. I'm a professional communicator. I spend my life communicating with people. Despite it being my profession and despite how hard I work at it, I am still not heard by some. Even though I am speaking clearly and even though there is nothing obstructing the sound of my voice from being heard, and though my language and vocabulary are quite understandable, people still misunderstand me at times and therefore do not truly me. Successful communication involves two dynamics: what is communicated and what is communicated. To put it another way- what is intended to be communicated, and what is actually communicated.
It is one of the most profound truths a person can experience. God speaks. You don't need to take a seminar on hearing from God because when God speaks to you the way we see Him often speaking to someone in the Bible, He was clearly heard by those He intended to communicate with. This was almost always at moments of 'Redemptive History' (those moments involving people and actions which played an indispensable role in God saving the world through Christ). Most of the fellowship that people enjoyed with God was generally far less dramatic and usually subtle. I suspect that most of the fellowship between people and God during Bible times is not described in the Scriptures.
And you said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live.
We have recently been reminded that Daniel and all the wise men of Babylon faced imminent death - unless one of them could tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream and its interpretation. When Daniel heard of this dire situation he asked his three friends to pray for him. He then went into deep prayer, seeking God for revelation. (God normally 'speaks' by revealing insights, or illuminating His Word, see 1Cor. 14:26, 30; 2Cor. 12:1.)
"Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."
People who say that when God speaks there is always absolute clarity and certainty about what God has said, also say that there is nothing a person can do to be more aware of what God is saying. But there too many injunctions in the Scriptures to seek the Lord for this to always be the case.
But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
¶ I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
It is with our third set of ears that we hear God. For most of us, our biggest challenge will be learning how to use our first two pairs of ears. (It's uncanny how many people improve their spiritual ears after they've learned to use their first two pairs of ears). In the meantime, if you want to develop your spiritual ears, learn what the voice of God sounds like. Reading the Bible, attending worshipfully to the public preaching of God's Word, and regularly fellowshiping with fellow believers in an intentional small group, all help our spiritual ears to discern the voice of God with our spiritual ears. Do you hear me?
If anyone has an ear, let him hear: