Malachi 3:16. Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
Whether your favorite is the classic cartoon, the book, the Jim Carrey version, or the live-action remake, a favorite tale of any Christmas season is that of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The plot is simple—a green character tries to steal Christmas by stealing all the holiday “stuff” in a town called Whoville. But there’s another Seuss story that tells the tale of Whoville itself— the story of “Horton Hears a Who.” An elephant named Horton finds a speck of dust floating in the jungle, and upon hearing voices, he soon discovers the tiny city of Who-ville and its residents, the Whos, who call the dust-speck their home. What follows is a plot about valuing and protecting all people-- made possible all because Horton was the first one to listen.
It’s said that there is so much about being human that is associated with being listened to. Love, empathy, belonging, acceptance - some of the biggest things in life - all start with listening. Science even tells us that “being listened to is so close to being loved that sometimes your brain can’t tell the difference.” It’s as if we were designed with the value of listening in mind—for us to listen to God, but also that God actually listens to us.
The Book of Malachi, written in the 5th century BC and the last of the Hebrew Scriptures, is designed as a series of disputes between God and the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem after exile. Needless to say, things weren’t going well after their return, and the book describes a series of disputes between them and God. The people come to the misguided conclusion that it is pointless to serve God. But God’s response to them is not a speech but a story—a story about a “faithful remnant” of those who honor God. Though they may be unnoticed by many, God notices. The text says he hears them. He listens. And he gives them his words to remember what he has done in the past, to encourage them to be faithful in the present. These words they would cling to for the next 400 years, until the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Being listened to makes a difference.
Even if nothing is fixed, or nothing changes, it can mean the world to know he listens. He hears. He cares. There are times in life that we may wonder if anybody’s out there, if perhaps we are floating on an unnoticed speck of dust somewhere while the world around us has gone crazy. We may debate if it’s worth it to pray, to carry on, to be faithful. But in those times, we are reminded that yes, God listens. Though he might not speak loudly, he hears.
And he whispers because he is near.
Are you listening?