One of the more challenging aspects of raising small children is when you tell them not to do something, and they do it anyway. As parents we often say, "Are you listening to me?" The Amplified Version of this verse says that the people of Israel "did not listen to the voice of the Lord." They heard what God said, but they refused to take heed and obey. I can almost imagine God, similar to a frustrated parent of toddlers, saying, "Are you listening to me?"
It is easy to read of the complaining, wayward Israelites and think, "What was wrong with them?" They continually got into trouble because they did not "hearken" to what God told them to do. Yet, are we not more like those Israelites than we would like to admit? When God impresses on us something to lay aside, do we procrastinate or find reasons for why we do not need to? When God asks us to do something, do we "murmur" (complain) in our homes about how hard it is or how it does not make sense?
Jeremiah described this as failing to "incline their ear." To incline one's ear brings to mind leaning in as close as possible to the person speaking so you do not miss a word they are saying. When we fail to "hearken," when we fail to lean in close to the Lord to hear what He is saying, Jeremiah warns that we will go "backward, and not forward" (Jeremiah 7:24).
Help us, Lord, to be more attentive to what You're saying to us, to lean in closer so as not to miss a word, and to give heed to those words of life.
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