The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
We often think of Jesus as the world’s greatest teacher. The multitudes flocked to hear Him, hanging on His every word. Even those who had been sent to arrest Him reported back that “Never has anyone spoken like this!” (John 7:46). Who can forget the stories Jesus told, His apt metaphors, and His word for the weary!
But we miss something critical if we miss this: Jesus was the world’s greatest teacher because He was first the world’s greatest listener. Before He ever opened His mouth, He had first opened His ears to listen to the Father. Jesus often reminded people of the source of all His stories and words: “I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49).
We find here the secret of how Jesus always had just the right word. Here is how Jesus knew what to say to the woman caught in adultery, the faltering Peter, or a questioning Nicodemus. Jesus had first listened to His Father.
Let’s we ourselves listen now, listen to today’s Scripture text. Here is a Messianic prophecy given 700 years before Jesus’ coming. In this the prophet Isaiah paints Jesus Messiah as one who listens to the Father. It is the Father who gives him “the tongue of a teacher” so that He knows “how to sustain the weary with a word”.
The Son of God surrendered His infinite knowledge when He humbled Himself to become one of us. So, just like you and me, Jesus had to “morning by morning” listen to His Father. The adult Jesus was taught by the Father and, just like the boy Jesus, “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52).
The Father wakened Jesus every morning to hear God’s lessons. “Morning by morning” the sacred classroom was opened. Jesus never forgot that He was a learner as well as a teacher. So He made this priority time for listening to His Father: “In the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Before Jesus had anything to say He had to listen. Jesus never stopped listening to His Father, and spoke the life-changing words He had heard.
Here is a vital point in Biblical truth: it is the ear that is the seat of intelligence (Jacque B. Doukhan, Hebrew for Theologians: A Textbook for the Study of Biblical Hebrew in Relation to Hebrew Thinking). True intelligence is the ability to listen. Wisdom is not something we are born with, something intrinsic to us. We must listen for it! It comes from outside us and must be daily learned from God.
Just as Father God opens Messiah’s ears to listen, so the Psalmist says that it is God who opens his ears to listen: “You have given me an open ear” (Psalm 40:6). If you look at this phrase in a study Bible, or refer to your Bible’s margin notes, you will see the phrase is literally “ears you have dug for me.” The psalmist pictures God “swinging a pickax, digging ears in our granite blockheads so that we can hear, really hear, what he speaks to us” (Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading).
God give us the grace to listen! Having the right words to say is not a matter of IQ or smarts, but a matter of listening to God. This “morning by morning” digging ears into our blockheads is not just for the psalmist or for Jesus. It is vital for all who would live for God!
So let’s listen, listen to Jesus: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15)
Grace and peace,
photo by The U.S. National Archives