Thursday, May 7, 2009

Learning to listen...

"Sticks and stones may break my bones..."

That was the first line of the little rhyme we said as children when someone taunted us. In today's scriptures, 2 Samuel chapters 16 through 18, David endures cursing, conniving, scheming and threats.

As I read these verses, I tried to imagine myself in his shoes and compare what my reaction would likely have been to the way David responded.

When Shimei, a relative of Saul's, cursed and threw stones at him, David made no attempt to shut him up, nor would he allow his mighty men to squelch the jeers, because he was willing to hear what God might have to say to him--even if via a swearing enemy.

Ironically, the very things that Shimei accused David of were proven untrue by his restraint and refusal to retaliate. Had David been the person he was accused of being, Shimei's story would have ended with his death. Instead, David allowed him to rant with rage because he realized that God was completely capable of silencing him.

I struggle with the desire to defend myself when I feel assaulted. This passage reminds me that I can trust God even at times like these--and if I stop, listen and resist the urge to react in the flesh, I may even learn something that I genuinely need to know.

One of my desires is that I learn to listen--to hear what God has to say to me even if it comes from critics or criticism, taunts or jeers. I am confident that if I pray--asking God for discernment and wisdom, He will faithfully allow me to see the timber beam in my own eye if that is my need.

I love The Amplified Bible's translation of Matthew 7: 3-5:

3 Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother's eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam of timber in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother's eye.

It doesn't get much clearer than this--sometimes, I am wrong. Sometimes, I am the problem. In David's case, he was innocent of the accusations made by Shimei--yet he was willing to consider that he might need to hear something from God--and he recognized that arrogant refusal to listen could be costly.

Father, help me die to my flesh when it screams to be validated or vindicated. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear so that when I need to admit that I'm wrong, I'll be willing-- and please forgive me for all my past failures to do just that.

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