The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
One important thing about following the Shepherd is being able to hear His voice so I know where He wants me to go and what He wants me to say and do. Learning to listen is as great a challenge as learning to obey. It makes no sense to not listen; after all, this is the Creator God of the universe who died for me and now speaks to me. But since I tend to be inattentive, He often uses experiences in difficult places to teach those lessons and also test my grasp of them.
The Old Testament says Joseph was tested when, “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.” (Psalm 105:18–19) Joseph listened and God blessed him.
The New Testament says of Jesus, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil . . . . And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee . . . .” (Luke 4:1–14) Satan tempted, but God was testing. This was His plan, and Jesus passed each test by listening to God’s Word and using it in response.
Times of isolation and hardship teach me to listen. If I do not learn to hear Him in silence and when my ears are straining, then I will never hear His guidance in the marketplace, or when talking with family and friends, or when life is busy, noisy, filled with stresses and responsibilities.
But learning to listen is a challenge. It is best perfected when praying alone. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
I sometimes chafe at my wilderness experiences, but mostly am thankful for them. So many of God’s people find themselves alone and in that solitude or difficulty our ears become more finely tuned so we can . . .
Give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! (Psalm 105:1–6)
As the psalmist says, listening helps me remember the wonderful things He has done, His miracles, and His judgments. Best of all, listening builds my intimacy with Him.