Hear, Listen, and Respond

Travis West

READ : Deuteronomy 6:4-9
James 1:22-25

Hear, O Israel. (Deut. 6:4)

I was a resident assistant when I was in college. One of the first things I was taught in R.A. training was how to listen. The college wanted to be certain that those called to lead the dorm life knew how to listen. Two things strike me about this. First, my alma mater took listening very seriously. Second, they could not afford to assume that everyone knew what that meant. I learned a few techniques, but mostly I learned that real listening is not passive. Real listening is active.

The people of Israel did not need to go through “listening training” to learn the difference between merely “hearing” and truly “listening.” Further, they did not need to go to school to learn that to truly listen to someone assumes that you will respond to them and to what they say. That feedback loop is built in to the meaning of the Hebrew word shema (shMAH), which means to “hear, listen, obey.” To shema is not just to mentally receive information from a speaker, or to have your eardrums quiver with incoming noise. Rather, to shema is to hear and respond. To shema is to be, as James says, not just a “hearer” of the word, but a “doer” of it (James 1:22).

Moses does not tell Israel to “hear” that God is one. Moses is concerned that the people respond to God's oneness with their own oneness: to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength.


May we listen and respond to you today.