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The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
Perhaps you remember a classic series of television ads that were as entertaining as they were informing. In the midst of some crowded, conversation-filled room, two people were talking about their investments. Then, one of them would say, “Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton. And E.F. Hutton says . . . ” Suddenly, everyone in the room became completely silent, leaning forward to hear the wisdom of E.F. Hutton. The voiceover would clarify, in case we missed the point, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
Would that this were true when God speaks! Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we pay attention to God’s words. But sometimes we don’t.
Ambivalence about listening to God isn’t new. It was true centuries ago among the Israelites. Sometime in the eighth century B.C., the prophet Isaiah had a vision in which he heard the Lord speak. God’s message was not just for the children of Israel, however. It was for the whole earth, indeed, the whole universe: “Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!” (1:2). The hosts of heaven and earth should pay attention to God’s words, which, in this case, contained an indictment against his people for their rebellion.
One result of this rebellion was that Israel did not know or understand God and his ways (1:3). In this, they were even less perceptive than animals. Whereas the “ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manager,” God’s own people did not know him.
Why did they not know God? The most obvious reason is that they did not listen when God spoke. Or, perhaps they listened, but soon forgot what the Lord had said. They rejected, not only God’s commandments, but also his revelation of himself. When God spoke, they did not listen, nor did they obey.
You and I can learn from their example to do otherwise. We can hear and respond positively to the call of Isaiah to listen when God speaks. By God’s grace, we can set our hearts to hear God so that we might indeed know him and his ways.
Listening to God will be disruptive at times, well, most of the time. We will be disturbed when God confronts our sin and calls us to right living. God’s word will also be disruptive as we hear the good news of his love for us in Christ, a love that never lets us go, a love that transforms us and every aspect of our lives. No other disruption is more merciful, more restoring, and more needed today. So, when God speaks, may we listen!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of times in your life when God spoke to you in a particularly powerful way? How did you respond?
What helps you to listen to God?
What helps you to believe and obey?
What keeps you from hearing God, believing, and obeying?
Gracious God, thank you for speaking to us. Thank you for teaching us how best to live. Thank you for revealing yourself to us, that we might know, serve, and love you.
Help us, Lord, to listen to you attentively, openly, and faithfully. Because we hear you, may we know you, growing in greater intimacy with you each day. May we learn from you how to live each day, guided by your word in every setting. Help us to hear you at work and at play, with our friends and our family, in church and in our community.
Speak to us, Lord, and we will listen! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Introduction to Isaiah
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