A missionary working on Bible translation in Africa had difficulty finding a word in the local dialect for “obedience”. One day as the missionary was walking through a village his dog wandered off. When the missionary noticed the dog’s absence he whistled for it to come to him and, hearing the whistle, the dog rushed to his side. An elderly local who was sitting by the roadside was impressed by the dog’s obedience and exclaimed, “Mui adem delegau ge!” which literally translated means, “Dog yours, ear is only”. In other words, “Your dog is all ear”. This gave the translator the word he needed for obedience, i.e. “To be all ear”.
Some folk believe if they hear a good sermon or attend a Bible study it’s all they need to grow in maturity and please God. Wrong! It’s not enough to receive the Word – we must act on the Word! Any response to the Word other than unqualified obedience is inadequate. Hearing is not the same as doing. The bottom line: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV).
Strictly speaking, Bible reading is not Bible engagement. While Bible reading is a necessary first step in Bible engagement, true Bible engagement hasn’t occurred until there is evidence of the Word being practically applied. The psalmist says, “Blessed are they . . . who walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1 NIV) and Jesus states that we are only his disciples if we keep on obeying His teachings (cf. John 8:31 and Luke 8:21).
Here’s an enigma: There are people who say they’ve made a profession of faith in Christ Jesus yet they don’t hunger and thirst for His Word. Are they Christians? The distinctive trait of the real Christian is someone who is daily living his/her life according to the Word. As the apostle says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” 1 John 2:3-6 (NIV).
To be all ear . . . We may hear the Word, read the Word or say we’ve placed our faith in the One who is the Word, but if we’re not authentically and consistently living the Word, we haven’t engaged the Word. Engagement and obedience go together. As Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 7:21 (NIV).
[Based on “To Be All Ear”, Seize the Day: Meditations for the Year, 2002 by Lawson Murray]
© Scripture Union Canada 2013