Hearing Is Not Enough; We Must Also Listen

Yesterday’s post noted that despite God’s command that Israel’s kings not multiply wives, David had eight wives and 10 concubines.

David’s disobedience is especially notable since this instruction in Deuteronomy 17:17 comes immediately before the mandate to kings in Deuteronomy 17:18-19 to copy and read daily from the Law. We have reason to believe that David did this since he probably wrote Psalm 1, which stresses the importance of meditating on the Word day and night. His reading and meditating on Scripture must have often led him to the instruction to kings not to “multiply wives.”

It seems that David’s disregard for the command regarding multiplying wives was not done in rebellion, since David is described as a man after God’s heart. Rather, this must have been a blind spot

Though this might appear to us to be a glaring error, Scripture teaches that human beings possess this tendency to hear but not to listen—to allow words to penetrate their ears without grasping the message with their minds and hearts. God instructs Isaiah, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive,’” a passage frequently repeated in the New Testament.

History tells us that Frederick the Great’s father read Scripture daily and yet was incredibly cruel to his son and others. Apparently he heard the message of agape love but never actually listened to it.

The warning to us: hearing the Word provides no guarantee that we are listening to it. My book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals Are Losing the Culture War and How They Can Win, shows how contemporary evangelicals struggle with this very problem. We must heed the words of Jesus, “Be careful how you hear.”

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