Selective deafness

2 09 2011

If we are called to “Pay Attention”, it is because something important is coming our way – whether it’s a loud hailer in New York warning of an approaching storm, or a teacher flagging up that she’s about to divulge a test question.  There’s also something about the credibility of the speaker who wants to convey information to us – who are they; do I trust them? – and a responsibility passed to us to listen and take action.

At the beginning of the book of Micah in the Old Testament section of the Bible, the call comes to God’s people in the 8th century BC – “Attention!  Look!” 

There follows a warning of imminent exile for the people because they have abandoned God’s ways.  I’m shouting at them – “Pay attention!  You’re being warned.”

How do they react?

“‘Don’t say such things,’ the people respond.  ‘Don’t prophesy like that.  Such disasters will never come our way!'”…

And Micah’s rejoinder?

“Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you, ‘I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!’    That’s just the kind of prophet you would like!”

It seems like they only hear what they want to hear, and that despite the urgency of the situation, they prefer to go their own way rather  than pay attention to God’s warning.

Micah’s themes of oppression, injustice, right to land, corrupt leaders and selective deafness are ancient, yet modern…and post-modern.  And the call to “Pay attention” rings through the centuries.


So who is this Micah?  Should his 8th century audience trust him?  Should we?

Micah was a prophet and his role was to speak the word of God to his people, partly as a wake up call warning of judgement, and partly reminding them of God’s mercy.  He claimed to speak with God’s authority, so if the people were committed to their God, they would listen.  The fact that they didn’t reflects their true posture of heart.

Prophecy in the Bible is much broader than ‘prediction’.  Prophets were people who proclaimed truth, truth that God gave them. That was sometimes a risky business; truth is often difficult to speak and difficult to listen to.

So what about us?

Well, it depends on how we view the Bible – is it God’s truth or not?  If it is, we do well to pay attention; if not, we’re off the hook.




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