The following excerpt is from a book I am reading that I pray will be helpful as you read common passages in Genesis this week. The premise of the chapter is that reading and listening are not necessarily the same action, and that we very much need to hear the word of God.

In summary, “Listening and reading are not the same thing. They involve different senses. IN listening we use our ears; in reading we use our eyes… These differences are significant and have profound consequences. Listening is an interpersonal act; it involves two or more people in fairly close proximity. Reading involves one person with a book written by someone who can be miles away or centuries dead, or both. The listener is required to be attentive to the speaker and is more or less at the speakers mercy. For the reader it is quite different, since the book is at the reader’s mercy…”

The author goes on to illustrate the importance of hearing with the following passage…

“A brilliantly conceived metaphor in Psalm 40:6 provides a pivot on which to turn the corner; literally it reads: “ears thou hast dug for me” (check the Hebrew word here). It is puzzling that no translator renders the sentence into English just that way. They all prefer to paraphrase at this point, presenting the meaning adequately but losing the metaphor: “thou hast given me an open ear” (RSV). But to lose the metaphor in this instance is not to be countenanced; the Hebrew verb is “dug.”

“Imagine a human head with no ears. A blockhead. Eyes, nose, and mouth, but no ears. Where ears are usually found there is only a smooth, impenetrable surface, granitic bone. God speaks. No response. The metaphor occurs in the context of a bustling religious activity deaf to the voice of God: “sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire…burnt offering and sin offering” (40:6). How did these people know about these offerings and how to make them? They had read the prescriptions in Exodus and Leviticus and followed instructions. They had become religious…They had read the Scripture words accurately and gotten the ritual right. How did it happen that they had missed the message “not required”? There must be something more involved than following directions for unblemished animals, a stone altar, and a sacrificial fire. There is: God is speaking and must be listened to. But what good is a speaking God without listening human ears? So God gets a pick and shovel and digs through the cranial granite, opening a passage that will give access to the interior depths, into the mind and heart. Or – maybe we are not to imagine a smooth expanse of skull but something like wells that have been stopped up with refuse: culture noise, throw-away gossip, garbage chatter. Our ears are so clogged that we cannot hear God speak….

“The result is a restoration of Scripture: eyes turn into ears.”

This excerpt is from Eugene Peterson’s book on Working the Angles.

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