WORD STUDY – IN HARMONY WITH GOD – נטח
Jeremiah 7:24: “But they harkened not nor inclined their ear.”
I get the part of not harkening unto the Word of God which is the context here. I mean God spells out in his Word what we are to do and not to do. The Bible tells us not to steal, so if I steal I am not harkening unto the Word of God.
But this matter of not inclining one’s ear has me a bit baffled. This is to suggest that God is speaking to us and we are not inclining our ear to hear him. Hey, let me tell you, if God is speaking to me, I am inclining my ears to hear Him. My problem is that he does not speak to me audibly so I actually hear nothing. I mean how does He speak to us? Does he speak audibly? There may be an occasion when He does, but it is not his standard way of speaking. I believe I audibly heard God’s voice two times in my life, each created a life changing event. But for day to day living, I hear nothing audibly. Are we talking of a strong impression, a specific feeling or does God speak to us in events? Many times I feel a need to pray for someone. I pray for them. Is that God speaking to me? Sometimes I feel a need to pray for someone I never met. I pray. I am not sure it is God speaking to me, but what have I to lose and besides a little chat time with God is quite refreshing and if I am impressed to pray for a total stranger, it might be my imagination but it is a good excuse to approach the throne. Sometime I actually see a picture in my mind of someone I never met and feel a need to pray for that person. I do it, a little more chat time with God. To my amazement a month later or so I actually meet this stranger I pictured in my mind who tells a story of time he needed prayer. Is it God speaking to me or just mere coincidence? Actually, I don’t care, I had my chat time with God and I did pray for an actual person. You want to explain it away as my imagination, go right ahead, but I am going to keep praying and inclining my ear to God, so to speak.
Let’s take a look at this expression in the Hebrew. We find the word incline to be natah. The word really has the idea of stretching out, it is used for the tightening of the bow strings on a bow to shoot an arrow or the tightening of the strings on a musical instrument. We call this tuning an instrument. This involves tightening the strings of an instrument to get just the right tension so when the strings are struck they will be in tune or in harmony with all the other instruments. The word ear is ’azan which means ear, but it is also a word that is sometimes used for a musical instrument.
I wonder if maybe inclining one’s ear is a picture of tuning an musical instrument. Could hearing the voice of God be illustrated with the tuning of instruments, or even the playing of musical instruments? Some time ago I went to a Farmer’s Market in Oak Park. Off in one area were a group of amateur musicians playing various musical instruments. They appeared to be just jamming, playing various musical riffs. There were guitars, banjos, an accordion, some sort of drum, a violin an oversized violin etc. Yet they were all in harmony, all playing the same chords with the same rhythm. When they came to a stopping point one of the members mentioned a favorite song, In the Sweet Bye and Bye only this was a different rhythm and melody. All appeared interested and encouraged her to play a few bars. As she did I noticed the others gradually picking up on the tune. Some were quietly picking away at their instrument, some strumming a few chords, and after about a minute or two all were playing the melody as if they had rehearsed it for days. As they got into it many were adding creative little runs or riffs. In a way all were doing their own thing, but all the time were keeping in tune and in time with each other. It was almost as if each could go solo and play their own version of the melody while the others played softly in the background as a back up. They all were as one yet each with their own creative identity. It was as if they could anticipated each other’s moves and sounds. Yet, they all just sat back and played as if they were playing from some gut feeling.
I was discussing Psalms 66:1 the other day: “To the chief musician, a Psalm, a song.” In the Hebrew that is lamenatsecha sir mizemor. The word for chief musician is lamenatsecha which comes from the root word natsech is simply means a leader. Its origin lies within the Akkadian language for the victor of a fight. In the Assyrian army the leadership went to the guy who could beat any challenger. He would be the victor, the natsech. The word for Psalm is not your Hebrew word for Psalm but is the word mizemor which comes from the root word zamar which is the word for a threshing instrument or a pruning. The word for song, sir, is either a love song or a song of victory. Translators are not wrong to translate it as “To the chief musician a Psalm, a song” except we are not sure just how developed the music was in ancient Israel at the time of David. We know they had instruments and a choir, but did they really have a director who applied a mathematical formula and brought all the instruments and singers together? Or were they just jamming, so to speak, like I saw at the Farmers Market where each individual was performing from their passion but in harmony with everyone else. For my money I would bet it was the latter. Gifted musicians were performing from their heart, not from the direction of a leader. When one had a personal experience with God, a testimony, they would lead out and the others would join in playing as they felt from their heart, but yet in harmony with everyone else. That would mean that I would not render lamenatsecha as chief musician but the victor in a struggle. Hence I would render this as “To the victor in a struggle who has been pruned or threshed about – a song of victory.”
I wondered if this is not what Jeremiah meant in inclining our ears to God. We stay in tune with God and follow his rhythm and then whatever we do we do in accordance to that tune and rhythm, we can even create our own version of the tune so long as it stays in tune with God. Hearing God’s voice and following God’s voice should be as free and flowing as following another musical instrument. Could hearing God’s voice be just a matter of staying in tune with Him.
So what does this have to do with inclining one’s ear? Simply this. Inclining your hear is getting in tune with God. When you seek to be in harmony with God, you just play your instrument of prayer, witnessing or service and it will be in harmony with God. Like those musicians at the Farmer’s Market. Once they brought themselves in tune with each they went off and did their own thing, they played just what came naturally to them while still being in tune and the result was something beautiful. Incline your ear to God, bring yourself into harmony with Him and then do just what comes naturally, prayer, witnessing, service whatever you feel comfortable doing and you will produce something beautiful.