Reading to listen – seems like a silly thing to say, doesn’t it? What in the world am I talking about? When we are reading a novel or other fiction, we are reading simply for the enjoyment. For our imaginations to take a little walk away from reality. When we are reading a textbook, we are reading to learn something, like math or history. Adding knowledge to the file drawers in our brain. When we read just for the sake of reading, we are checking the box. Completing an assignment, not retaining anything. When we read to listen, we are reading to absorb. To experience the story, to be part of it. So – this blog is about my recent realization about reading to listen.
I mentioned in a previous post that I am reading the Bible from Genesis through to Revelation, a suggestion from our pastor during a recent sermon. I’ve read to Psalm 119 so far. For those of you who are not familiar, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is an acrostic poem, meaning that there is a section for each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each verse in that section begins with that specific letter. So, for example, each verse of the first stanza begins with Aleph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Of course the poetry of that doesn’t translate into the English, but having only eight verses makes each section it’s own message in a way, because they each have a different topic or approach.
I began reading this Psalm three days ago, but I haven’t gotten past verse 72! I have been so struck by how powerful these words are, how full of truth and praise, hope and love, faith and trust! I keep rereading sections multiple times and out loud. It struck me this morning that I didn’t have this reaction the first time I read this Psalm, and I realized I had been reading simply to read.
Revelation 1:3 says that the one who reads that prophecy aloud, and those who hear it and take it to heart, are blessed. I don’t know if this is theologically correct or not, but I think that verse can be used for the entire Bible because when I read and hear the words, I am reading to listen. I understand more from the verses and when I close my Bible have been truly blessed by the Word.
I have read nine stanzas in those three days; three stanzas a day. This wasn’t planned, but happened because after three stanzas I am so overwhelmed with the peace and joy of these scriptures I simply can’t handle any more. I find I need to reread, meditate, breathe, pray and simply absorb the message.
This morning I read verses 49-72, the stanzas for Zayin, Heth and Teth. As I listened to the words of these verses, my heart was filled with peace. I felt God’s love surround me, and I too cried out to the LORD – teach me!
Reading to listen takes practice. When I started reading in Genesis, I read a few verses here and there aloud. Certain passages that called to me from the page, but not every word. I read the entire book of Job aloud, and all of the chapters of Psalms up to now. It was strange at first, reading to no one, until I remembered I was reading to ME. Then I started reading the words as if I was reading to one of my grandchildren. I added inflection, used different voices for each of Job’s friends, I told the story so that I could listen with interest. I read to listen – and now I don’t want to read silently any more! I challenge you to read these three stanzas aloud like you would if you were telling a story to a child – and I’d love to hear your thoughts when you’ve finished!
49 Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.
57 You are my portion, Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you for everything you have given each of us as we’ve traveled our lives. I ask that your will be done in my life, the lives of those reading this blog, and the lives of those I love. Teach us, Lord! In Jesus name, Amen.