The Fragrance Of His Presence
A Listening Ear
Today’s Study Text:
“And she (Martha) had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching.”
Luke 10: 39
“The first duty of love is to listen.”
Thoughts for Consideration:
What do I believe Mary heard as she listened at Jesus’ feet?
Do I take time to be silent and listen for God’s impressions upon my mind?
“If we do not listen we do not come to truth. If we do not pray we do not even get so far as listening.”
Hubert van Zeller
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
A number of years ago, there was a popular television show on CNN called The Larry King Show. For one hour, viewers were treated to the back and forth discussions between the well-known host, Larry King, and his chosen guest or guests.
I loved the program and I know I was not alone. One particular evening I tuned in to hear a fantastic interview that “Larry” had with Pastor Billy Graham. I wondered to myself how a devout Christian would, with a worldwide following like Dr. Graham, fare in his interview. Fact is that right off the bat Dr. Graham told Larry King that he and his precious wife Ruth loved to listen to the show. And it was from that kind compliment that one of the most revealing and touching interviews took place. Larry King, as was his interview style, let his beloved guest share stories of his many years of ministry and the host didn’t interrupt but listened with his attention focused on the individual sitting across from him.
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen Larry King involved in a discussion which led a viewer like myself to come away from the show with a sense that the reason Larry King was so successful at his trade was that he listened. Indeed, he said as much, when he stated that he learned “by listening.” Interestingly, I never felt as though Larry King had a list of “routine” questions he would ask each guest. Instead his follow-up questions were frequently based on the answers his guest had given. Listening was the skill that provided the host with the ability to inquire further about subjects revealed by the interesting people who visited King’s show.
In a world where talking has often turned into what I call “idle chatter,” it is difficult to find anyone who really listens. Just so you don’t think I’m wagging my finger at you, I’m guilty of not listening way too often myself. In fact, just yesterday I was on the house phone and Jim asked me to get something out of my wallet. Unfortunately, at that very moment, my cell phone rang with a text message. So rather than getting what Jim needed out of my wallet, I closed it and put it into my purse. The look on Jim’s face was priceless. After repeating his request, I realized I hadn’t even heard him the first time. The reason - I wasn’t listening.
While I had a lot of sensory traffic at that particular moment, sad to say, much of all our days are taken up with someone, somewhere trying desperately to gain our attention, even for a minute. And often we are too busy to notice.
It is this problem which our study text today addresses. First we find Dr. Luke tells us that when Jesus arrived at the home of friends in Bethany, as soon as Jesus made Himself comfortable, Mary sat down at His feet. She put a stop to what she was doing. But this is not all Mary did.
Too often in reading about this event in Luke 10, we move quickly to Jesus’ interaction with Martha, the older sister. What a mistake it is that we choose to overlook the fact that not only did Mary sit at Jesus’ feet, but we are told she “heard” as the King James Bible states. Of course I wanted to check out the Greek word “akono” which is used for “heard” to find out the deeper meaning which is: “to give audience; to come into the ears; to understand.” Now I want to ask you please to keep the thought of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet in rapt attention in your mind. Because her focus was on Jesus. She was engrossed by what He said. This is a critical point which we will explore even more in coming chapters. Mary’s behavior before Jesus’ crucifixion serves to prove that unlike the majority of people who surrounded Jesus, which includes even His disciples, it was Mary who really understood what was going to take place in Jesus’ life. Not only that, she wanted her Lord and Master to be well aware that her heart as well as her life were infused by His presence. Author Thomas Merton reveals “just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.”
I believe he is correct for it can be very hard to have a time and place dedicated to focusing on nothing and no one but Jesus. Believe me when I say I’ve struggled with this challenge for years. But in order to get my entire being to really “listen,” I have an off-limits closet. Yes, it is a closet. I don’t bring anything into this room but those spiritually uplifting tools that help me get closer to Jesus. Just to expand on this need for a private place to be with Jesus, I have friends who escape to a seat outside their house or a chair in a garage – it doesn’t matter, for I’ve found that my closet has, for me, become holy ground. When I enter this space, my focus is on my Father’s presence. No phone. No daily work. No “to-do” lists. Just a haven from all on earth that draws my attention away from the heavenly.
This is what Mary found was critical in her life. If she wanted to understand what Jesus was saying and who He was, she needed to immerse herself in His words. As He spoke, her mind was illuminated and it changed her behavior. Being in Jesus’ presence not only lifted her eyes higher but it also changed the way she lived her life day-by-day.
In his ground-breaking book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Steven Covey makes this insightful comment; “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I found this statement opened up a new way of thinking about my daily time with Jesus. What if, as I study and pray I would come to listen with my only goal to understand my Saviour’s amazing love for me. What if I told Him that all I wanted was to have Him reveal more of Himself to me so I could gain a greater revelation of His presence. Like Mary, I believe if we will sit at Jesus’ feet and through the study of His word listen for His voice speaking to our hearts, we will indeed understand the love He has for each of us.
Author Ken Gire in his book Intimate Moments With the Savior pens this prayer which can be the call of each of our lives today:
“Dear Savior at whose feet I now sit, When You knock on the door to my heart, what is it You are looking for? What is it You want? Is it not to come in to dine with me? Is it not for fellowship? And yet, so often, where do You find me? At Your feet? No! How many times have I become distracted and left You there…sitting…waiting…longing?
Forgive me for being so much distracted by my preparations and so little attracted by Your presence. For being so diligent in my duties and so negligent in my devotions. For beings so quick to my feet and so slow to Yours.
Guard my heart this day from the many distractions that vie for my attention. And help me to fix my eyes on You.”
“All is silent
In the still and soundless air,
I fervently bow
To my almighty God.”
“’Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.’”
1 Samuel 3: 10
“O Lord my God, my one hope…
…Lord, give me strength to seek You,
as You have made me to find You,
and given hope of finding You ever
more and more.
My strength and my weakness are in
Your hands; preserve the one,
and remedy the other.
Let me remember You,
Increase in me all these
until You restore me
to Your perfect pattern.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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