by Herb Hunter – CBCC Board Member
One of the most powerful tools in the Biblical counselor’s tool box is the ability to listen well. Good counsel begins with good listening. The scriptures even teach us that without good listening, there is no such thing as good counsel. Proverbs 18:13 is the biblical counselor’s friend: If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (ESV).
The scriptures abound with instruction to practice good listening. One of the most memorable instructions occurs in the context of God’s revelation of Himself to Israel. Not only is this instruction repeated as a prayer by pious Jews even to this day, it is also placed inside the Mezuzzah, the small container fixed on the door post in every observant Jewish home. The “Shemah,” (taken from the Hebrew verb “to hear”) is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, The Lord is One.
Imagine being surrounded by constant reminders to listen. Would it surprise you to know that even if you are not an observant Jew, you are surrounded by reminders to listen?
Throughout the Old Testament, the instructions to hear are relentless. The verb “to hear” is one of the most common in the Old Testament. Often God commands His people to listen.
Sometimes those words appear in a Psalm, Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! (81:8)
Sometimes they appear in the words of a pleading prophet, Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. (Jer.10:1)
In the New Testament, the same emphasis is present.
James teaches us that our desire should be to hear, more than to be hear. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19).
Beyond just commanding us to hear, and to hear well, the Bible also provides us with another layer of understanding. The scriptures reveal God as a God who hears. Hebrew writers love a play on words. In Genesis 16:2, Abraham listens to his wife and Ishmael is born (I’m summarizing). When Hagar flees with Ishmael to the wilderness, the Angel of the Lord appears and says to her that she has been heard in her affliction. God is the God who hears (Genesis 16:11). It’s what Ishmael means. In listening, God invites to be as He is. He is a listening God.
Nowadays, it is hard to listen well. So many things distract us from that pursuit. But in counseling, few things are as essential. Do what you can to minimize distractions while you counsel. Turn off the phone. Find an office free from distraction, or a room where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Learning to listen can sometimes be a matter of preparation. We often spend all our time preparing to speak, but seldom prepare ourselves to listen.
Listening is even essential to the gospel because the Father heard the son. Hebrews 5:7 – In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
As you counsel, remember…God hears. He listens. Listening well then, is doing the work of God.
Never underestimate the power of listening.
Biblical Counseling begins with your ears.