Have you heard of the Whispering Gallery in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London? Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral includes a gallery 30 meters above the floor, under the large dome. Even when the gallery is crowded, when a person places their cheek again the wall and whispers, if there is another person leaning against the opposite wall 33 meters away, that person will be able to hear the whisper. I learned this story from Lectio 365, which I will talk about further below. The story reminds us that, like Elijah who heard the whisper of God, though our lives are packed with busyness and distraction, we can still learn to listen for God. That is precisely what God called Ezekiel to do. So if you’ve ever wondered how to hear God speak, keep reading!
As we continue our study of Ezekiel 3:16-27, notice in verse 17 how the Lord describes the job of the watchman that he is giving to Ezekiel. First, the watchman is to hear the word God gives him. Second, he is to speak that word to the house of Israel. Hear. And Speak. These are the two main tasks of the watchman prophet. In this post we look at “Hear.” The next post will cover “Speak.”
Ezekiel must hear as God will speak his word. In other words, the watchman must be paying attention. They must be listening. This is like the scout who is using both senses of sight and sound to learn what is coming. A wise enemy tries to be stealthy, to avoid being seen and heard. Though the enemy is far off, the watchman places their ear to the ground to try to hear the sound waves traveling through the ground. Or high up on the wall, the watchman looks for dust clouds indicating troop movement. In like manner, the watchman prophet listens to God, seeking to discern the word of God. For Christians we have the privilege of having the Bible, the written word of God. Do we acknowledge that privilege and sit with it, read, listen, ask for the Holy Spirit to help us discern what we are reading?
How much of the written word of God Ezekiel had access to, I don’t know. We already learned in chapter 1 that Ezekiel was a son of a priest who was about to become a priest himself, as the story so far takes place in Ezekiel’s 30th year, which is when sons of priests become priests. That means he had been studying, learning, and likely memorizing large sections of the written word of God, which at that time was primarily the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. I suspect Ezekiel knew that section of the word of God quite well. He may have even had access to scrolls. So one way he could listen to the word of God was through the written word.
We aren’t all prophets, as Ezekiel was, but we do have the same living and active God loving us that loved him. And, if we are followers of Jesus, we will have a heart desire to know more and more about Jesus and to have our lives look more and more like the ways of his Kingdom and his heart. One way to fulfill that desire is to hear God speak through his written word. Thankfully, we have easy access to the written word of God. Just open the Bible or pull it up on the app, and there it is. It would be a tragedy, then, if we chose not to engage with the word of God. Two ways I have recently started trying to have more exposure with God’s word are through a phone app and a podcast.
The phone app is called Lectio 365, and it guides you every day through a short discussion of a passage of Scripture. I love how it asks you to be like a watchman, actually listening to hear the word. It reads the passage slowly, then asks questions of you, helping you to think deeply about how to apply God’s word to your life.
In the Bible, this is called meditation (see Psalm 1, for example). Meditation is a deep listening to the word of God. As Christians, we will want to hear and interact with the Word of God, and meditation is a biblical way to accomplish this. Biblical meditation is not like Eastern meditation. In Eastern meditation the person empties themselves of all thought. In biblical mediation we fill our hearts and minds with the word of God, listening, hearing it, and applying it to our lives. I practice that kind of meditation when I use the Lectio 365 app, and when I listen the podcast I mentioned, Common Prayer Daily, which guides you through readings from the Old and New Testament.
But as God called Ezekiel to the task of being a watchman prophet, it was not primarily to listen to and communicate the written word of God to the people. Ezekiel had to wait until God spoke to him. That’s an entirely different kind of listening. When we read that “the word of the Lord came” to Ezekiel, I wonder if it was in an audible voice. That is what it seems like, God speaking audibly to Ezekiel. But it could be that God spoke to him inwardly, through his thoughts. No matter, Ezekiel had to listen. He had to be attentive to communication from God.
Remember a few weeks ago in the Colossians series when we talked about watchful prayer? In Colossians 4:2, the apostle Paul writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” In that post I mentioned listening prayer, which is prayer that asks God, by his Spirit who lives within us, to speak to us. The word of God says that his word is living and active. And we know that the Holy Spirit lives within us. Are we listening for him?