To Whose Voice Are You Listening?
Remember the story of Peter Rabbit? You know, the one where Mother
Rabbit encourages Peter and his siblings to go out, but cautions
against two things: losing or destroying their clothes, and entering
into Mr. McGregor's garden. Mother Rabbit had her reasons for warning
against entering Mr. McGregor's garden, as Mr. McGregor had killed
Father Rabbit in that very garden years before. (Father Rabbit had
gone there to eat some of Mr. McGregor's vegetables). So, off Peter
Rabbit and siblings went with Mother's warning ringing in their ears.
Most of Peter's siblings were determined to follow Mother's warning,
but, Peter didn't. He decided to go into the garden anyway. And at
first, all was well as he feasted on all sorts of fresh produce such
as carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and the like. Munching
happily away, Peter sniffed the cucumbers, and boy did they smell
good. Allured, he hopped over to the cucumber patch, when suddenly he
and Mr. McGregor came face to face. Surprised and irritated, Mr.
McGregor immediately picked up his rake and pursued Peter round and
round through the cucumbers, the tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and the
carrots. What mayhem they caused in the process. But try as he might,
Peter could not find the entrance into the garden, nor a place to hide
from Mr. McGregor. Frantic now, Peter kept looking, when up ahead he
saw a light. At last, Peter found the garden entrance. Hopping as fast
as he could, Peter squeezed through the small opening and at last was
free. Momentarily relieved, Peter sat down to catch his breath, and
that's when he noticed that he had lost his clothes hopping madly
through the garden. "Now, I'm in big trouble," he thought, "mother is
going to be so mad at me." "Why didn't I listen?" he asked himself.
In this version of the story, isn't it interesting that Peter Rabbit
asked himself, "why didn't I listen?" and not "why didn't I obey?" To
young children, the Peter Rabbit tale is just a fun story, but older
children and adults perceive that the story is really about obedience.
In the English language (and in many others), the word obey means "to
do what you're told." Therefore by our definition, Peter Rabbit was
disobedient the moment he did not do what his mother told him to do.
But is this getting at the heart of obedience? At its core, obedience
is about hearing the right thing to do, whether it be an inward,
silent, persistent thought, or an audible external voice, and then
choosing it. A wise man has said, " First there is the mental
creation, then the action is taken." So obedience involves not only
our outward actions, but our motives and attitudes before the doing. A
literal translation of the word "obey" in the Hebrew, is to listen
willingly, eagerly, attentively (sitting or standing on the edge,
straining to catch the slightest nuance) of the one who is speaking.
Its opposite meaning would be, hearing while preoccupied, resisting
the one who is talking, reluctantly paying attention, and finally,
listening to find the disagreeable.
In most biblical passages where the author (through Christ) is
encouraging the reader to hear, he is saying: ponder these words,
consider their meaning and importance deeply, then choose to give your
will to the Master on this matter, that He may DO it in and through
you. Christ Himself has said, that of Himself He could do nothing, and
that without abiding in Him (the Word) we can do nothing. To more
effectively illustrate the concept of obedience as listening and
hearing willingly and attentively, let's review the story of Saul of
Tarsus / Paul. In Acts chapter 6 verses 1, through Acts chapter 8
verses 1-3, the text records Stephen's sermon and his stoning in which
Saul consented. Of this, Sister White says:
"The Saviour had spoken to Saul through Stephen, whose clear reasoning
could not be refuted. The learned Jew had seen the face of the martyr
reflecting the light of Christ's glory--appearing as if "it had been
the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. He had witnessed Stephen's
forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had
also seen the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had
caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even
their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith. All these
things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his
mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised
Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this
conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief
that Jesus was not the Messiah and that His followers were deluded
fanatics" (Acts of the Apostles, 116).
Sister White further states (on page 113), Saul's mind had been deeply
disturbed by striking evidence of God's presence with Stephen. And,
this led him to doubt the righteousness of the cause he espoused with
the followers of Jesus. Perplexed, he appealed to those in whose
wisdom, and judgment he had full confidence. The priests' and rulers'
arguments finally convinced him that Stephen and Christ's followers
were blasphemers and Christ, an imposter. But not without severe trial
did Saul come to this conclusion.
The reason Saul was able to stifle the conviction of the Holy Spirit's
voice to him, was because a voice louder, and more insistent filled
his thoughts. He chose to heed and believe that voice of prejudice,
pride and Pharisaical teaching. Therefore whenever the Holy Spirit
spoke, Saul hardened his heart, and refused to pay attention for he
did not want to hear. As we can see from Acts 9:3-6, it was not until
Christ halted Saul with the revelation and words of Christ Himself,
that he let go of his stubbornness. In relenting, he became willing --
to listen attentively, for there was no competing voice, and eager to
hear, for the words of his Lord and Saviour brought light.
How many of us are walking around in the dark, frustrated with life?
We're pursuing what we think is right, but we're uneasy, as if
something is not quite, well -- right. Perhaps its that in our
choosing, we've listened to the wrong voices and are merely reaping
the consequences of uneasiness to call us to repentance. Its possible
to repent you know, just as Saul did. We don't have to continue
running round and round in the proverbial garden of temptation, as did
our little Peter Rabbit. Yes, there are so many voices which compete
for our attention and resources, and sometimes we don't know which one
to listen to -- yet, "in the stillness of the soul, the voice of the
Saviour is heard speaking."
So the question comes to us today while we are multitasking, "who are
you listening to?" In the case of Peter Rabbit, he chose to listen to
the clamor of his appetite. In the case of Saul before conversion, he
chose to listen to the various members of the Sanhedrin, as well as
his education and pride. Mark 4:24 states: "Take heed how (what) you
hear ... and unto you that hear shall more be given." So, how will
answer the question, "which voice are you listening to?"