“And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.” — Acts 21:30 NKJV
“And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!’” — Acts 22:2, 21-22 NKJV
It was in my early 40s that my family began to think I was always preoccupied and didn’t listen to them like I once had. Sometimes when we began to commence on a family plan, we would discover that often everyone was on the same page except me. ... I had misunderstood something somewhere because I didn’t know this was the plan. I would ask questions like, “When did we decide that?”
Everybody said that I had selective hearing ... you know, the accusation that you only hear what you want to hear.
At 49, I experienced a drastic and sudden hearing loss that turned my world upside down. Suddenly I was struggling to understand phone conversations or hear and understand public prayer requests being shared in prayer meeting. All of this and more made it a real challenge to continue to pastor at the performance level that I required of myself.
I purchased hearing aids and regained some ability over the next year or two, but eventually went deaf in one ear and had 16% word recognition in the other. It was in the spring of 2020 that my hearing suddenly dwindled to 4% word recognition. That means out of 100 words spoken, I could understand only four on average. At that point, I could no longer have phone conversations, even with those closest to me. I was devastated, scared, angry and feeling unproductive.
Technology tried to rescue me. I have a closed caption phone at home and a CC app on my cell ... cool, huh? It’s far from perfection; in fact, frustration abounds when the caption operator is not available, or they don’t understand “southern English.” They will be typing away and I’m reading what the person on the other end is saying then all of a sudden they will type (indiscernible) and a few more words then (indiscernible). Sometimes I wonder if the caption operator has “selective hearing.”
I think today’s passage indicates that we all, from time to time have selective hearing. We hear what we want to hear and refuse to hear what we don’t want to hear. From the multifaceted messages surrounding patriotism, National history or professional sports and the national anthem. Most of us have a viewpoint and we aren’t about to hear any arguments supporting an opposing view. After all, we all believe we are right. Right?
We choose what not to hear.
Look at today’s scripture focus and examine the context.
Acts 21:30 — “And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.”
They decided that Paul was bad and had to be dealt with harshly.
When they noticed Paul speaking to them in Hebrew, they decided to listen. They listened quietly as Paul told them about his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. They listen intently as he explained how he could not see and how God planned each step to make him a useful servant. They listened as he confessed to orchestrating the arrest of Christ followers and even the illegal execution of Stephen. They were listening to every detail as Paul explained how God himself had called him to minister. They were hearing ... until.
“Then God said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!’” — Acts 22:2, 21-22 NKJV
First they rejected him, seized him and dragged him out into the streets to beat on him. Then, as some order was restored, they listened because the apostle spoke their language. They were now considering accepting him. Then when he announced that God was sending him to the Gentiles, they rejected him again. They only heard what they wanted to hear. They rejected what they didn’t want to hear. All because they had ... you guessed it ... SELECTIVE HEARING!
I want to ask you a question, but think about your response. It’s a simple yes or no question but the difference in yes or no is infinite. Ready? OK. Does God ever have selective hearing? Well? Does He? The question is simple, but the answer may not be.
Think about this. For the person who has never been born again, there is only one prayer they can pray that God will respond to. That is the prayer, “Lord save me, I’m a sinner.” Selective hearing? I guess so. We know that Satan is the accuser of the members of the family of God. He wants to focus only on that which is condemning, even past sins that have been paid for with the precious blood of Christ and repented of by me. Do you think God listens to Satan’s accusations in such instances? You better hope God uses some selective hearing.
I think the saddest and happiest words we could ever hear God speak are a result of selective hearing. We will hear him say one or the other.
The happiest would be, “Welcome my child! Enter into the joys of the Lord.”
The saddest, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Then there is that lonely description as the books are searched without success and the statement is made, “there was no place found for them.”
As a modern church, I fear that we have been conditioned to think that we are somehow deserving or even entitled that when we make a request of God that He is somehow obligated to accommodate that request. Listen my friend, that mentality puts us in the god-seat and puts God in the servant seat. The truth is we have an obligation to accommodate the commands of scripture as well as the requests that the Holy Spirit makes. Oh, by the way, those two will NEVER contradict each other ... unless you have that thing called selective hearing. I pray that the church will hear God’s voice again and accommodate His desire for us.