The Responsibility of Hearers
Psalm 78:1
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

Incline your ears. This psalm is regarded as the first and greatest of the historical psalms. It is "an inspired comment on the sacred history, with an avowed didactic purpose of warning, by a recital of God's repeated mercies, and of Israel's repeated sins. The historical psalms have a double value. They illustrate and confirm the historic record, always giving it vividness, and occasionally adding fresh touches of detail. But their real importance lies in the light which they throw on the religious conception of that history, which, indeed, alone makes it a continual lesson on the eternal will of God, and the unchanging characteristics of humanity." This psalm may be compared to the modern sermon or religious address, which differs from teaching in being an appeal to feeling, emotion, and principle, as well as to intellect. The Hebrew people were, and still are, easily interested in public teachers who can skilfully review the national history. But the point to which attention is now directed is, that there is a double responsibility when the teacher and the taught come together - an effort demanded of the hearer as well as of the teacher. He must "incline his ear." Dr. Clay Trumbull points out, in relation to Sunday school work, that "intelligent, purposeful teaching includes the idea of two persons, both of them active. 'Teaching,' as causing another to know, includes the mutual effort of two persons to the same end. The teacher must endeavour to cause the pupil to learn a particular fact or truth which he wants him to know; the learner must endeavour to learn that particular fact or truth. Until the two are at this common work, the process of teaching has not begun: until the learner has learned, the teacher has not taught." The counsel to "incline our ears," or "our heart," is repeated again and again in Scripture (see Joshua 24:23; 1 Kings 8:58; Psalm 119:36, 112; Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 5:13; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 25:4, etc.). It seems designed to impress on us that we are responsible for malting the effort to hear profitably. Men make effort to listen to music; they make effort to catch every word of the orator; they can and they ought to make effort to heed the religious teacher. The responsibility of hearers may be said to concern four things.

I. CULTIVATING THE HABIT OF LISTENING. Which involves drawing the mind in from other subjects, and fixing it on one. Of some people this praise can be spoken - they are good listeners.

II. HEARING WITH INTELLIGENT ATTENTION. Involving the activity of the mind in relation to what is heard. Thinking as well as listening.

III. HEARING WITH PERSONAL INTEREST. For religious truth is not abstract, but relative to individuals. A man does not bear the right relation to it until he sees how it concerns himself.

IV. HEARING WITH PURPOSE OF OBEDIENCE. For all religious teaching is designed to be, in some way, a guide to conduct. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {Maschil of Asaph.} Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

WEB: Hear my teaching, my people. Turn your ears to the words of my mouth.

The Obligation to Obey God's Law
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