Humility as a hearing aid

Psalm 34 is attributed to David as his response to God after he played the madman before the king of Gath.  One distich in the Psalm caught my attention in a new way: “My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.”  I take it that David was aligning himself with the humble—those whom he was inviting to hear his boasts about God.

Here’s what came to mind: when I’m full of myself I don’t listen to others.  It’s an awkward truth and it exposes the disabling curse of pride.  When I don’t listen I find it impossible to learn.  If I don’t learn I don’t grow.  And if I don’t grow I start to die.

I know I am not the only person with this disorder.  At times when I get to hear someone offer some compelling truth I can’t help but notice that some in the same audience may be texting or snoozing—evidently, not listening.  Of course they might have very good reasons: a sleep deficit for the one and a small emergency that calls for the texting by the other.  But what of the many people who are oblivious to truth—not ready to listen—because of their pride?  Who are bored by others because of self-love?  Call it an affective dissonance—with desires so misaligned with God’s desires that there is no capacity for the selfish heart to hear God’s heart.

Pride—as a self-blinding quality—may be best cured by things that humiliate us.  Our old ways of life—our old vision of self in particular—must be shattered to the degree that they take us away from God rather than towards him.  In David’s case he was fleeing the certain death that awaited him in his home region as King Saul was out to kill him.  Then as David fled Saul by going to Gath he faced another threat of death—as a warrior known for killing thousands of Philistines—by trying to find refuge in a Philistine town.  A rock and a hard place.

Pride comes in having success in our aspirations: in gaining and maintaining our own status and security.  When we have success our pride tells us we deserve it.   And others need to respect our high standing in the pyramid of life.  Those who don’t measure up are no longer worthy of our time and devotion.  Status and pride go together: they inflate the self so that we see selflessness is a weakness—something shared by the poor, the lame, the puny, and the undeserving.

David, in writing his psalm, had neither success nor security.  He had justifiable fears and doubts.  Yet he also had a bond with Yahweh who had anointed him to replace Saul.  So David’s humility came in this: his sole hope was in his heartfelt dependence on God, and God‘s roadmap for security invited him into a deep humility.  David’s humility—ever recalling his roots as the family runt who was left to watch over sheep—also found a heart-to-heart connection with God, the good Shepherd.  A God humble enough to sacrifice his beloved Son for the sake of others who are humble enough to respond to him.

God, it turns out, loves the poor, the lame, the puny, and the undeserving.   And he grieves over the refusal to listen that comes with the pride of the successful, the wise, the wealthy, and the great.  He was and is ever ready to talk to them, but as Paul put it in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, “they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  And that is not a good place to live, even if it is in a lovely gated community supplied with every pleasure and privilege a soul could desire.

So how do we improve our spiritual hearing?  One place to begin is by blessing and thanking God for his care.  And by asking him to share more of himself with us so that we can, with David (in verse 8), “taste and see that the LORD is good!”  Humility is a simple dispositional shift of delighting in God rather than in ourselves.

3 Responses to Humility as a hearing aid

  1. Peter Mead August 24, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    Great point, Ron. I think that many of us may be hiding behind a false humility . . . for instance, since I am constantly admitting my weakness, it is acceptable to be consumed with myself. Or since I don’t think highly of myself, it is okay that the frequency is high at which I think of myself.

  2. Tom Lyman August 26, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Great thoughts. There are few who really engage in a conversation. The pride of which you speaks drives them to be thinking how to respond rather than how to listen respectfully. It is akin to taking ownership of who I may think or do think I am. When I take ownership the Lord takes me out of the game to which He calls me.

  3. Lloyd Roalsen September 15, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Thank you Ron.
    You know where I am coming from. In the past 4 weeks there has been a gradual turnaround for the better. I am starting to remember things. If I am seen as puny, weak or poor, so be it. For when I am weak our great God and His Son Jesus Christ is made strong. Experiencing God’s love is the only thing that has kept me for the past 6 1/2 years. He is our Victor and shares His victories with us and in us when we hear Him and run to Him. Lloyd

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