Book Review: Ears to Hear
Posted November 4, 2014on:
Ears to Hear: Recognizing and Responding to God’s Call, Edward S. Little, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA, 2003, 154 pp.
As I have written here before, I can’t resist a good looking book about God’s call. It’s one of those topics that I spend a lot of time contemplating, and I am always hungry for new perspectives. According to a note on the title page, I purchased this one back in 2006, and it has been resting on my “to-be-read” shelf until it called out to me just a few weeks ago. It was just what I needed right now.
Little’s approach to the topic of call is through a scriptural study of various call stories in the Hebrew Bible. I appreciated Little’s opening definition of call, which immediately expands not only beyond ordained ministry, but beyond individuals and beyond roles within the church.
God’s call is this: God’s sovereign invitation to individuals and communities in which he bids them to new life and service. (4)
How can I be holy in my workplace? How can I be holy in my neighborhood? How can I be holy in my home, where my spouse and children see me as I really am? Holiness is not a vague, unfocused “goodness.” It involves being Jesus’ person wherever we are. This is both a call and a challenge. (6)
The book contains sixteen chapters, each a case study of a biblical call story. Little covers the typical stories of Abraham, Moses, Samuel and Isaiah, but reaches far beyond them to more obscure figures like Hosea, Amos, Zerubbabel, and even Bezalel and Oholiab. From each, Little draws observations and conclusions about how God’s call works in different kinds of circumstances. While some of his bullet points were a bit too pithy for me, the analysis and perspective he reads into the various stories moved me.
I loved this passage from the chapter on Abraham, titled “Called to Insecurity.”
God called Abraham to move from security to insecurity, from the known to the unknown, from the predictable to the unpredictable, singling him out to be the model of obedient and costly faith. (14)
I was especially touched by the chapters on Joshua, Jeremiah and Zerubbabel, because they addressed “dry times,” burnout and “fade out,” which speak to the kind of renewal of call I am currently seeking. Reading this reflection on burnout through the story of Jeremiah, I found my heart saying, “yes, yes, yes!”
His question–and ours–isn’t How can I avoid burnout? We cannot! Rather, the question is, What does the Lord do to help me survive it and come through with my faith and obedience intact. (129)
The same thing applied to his naming of “fade out” in Zerubbabel’s story as “when the tyranny of immediate concerns places God’s call on the back burner.” (138) Those were exactly the concerns in my own spirit that prompted me to pull this one off the shelf, and his words were a gift. I can imagine other times in my life when I would respond more powerfully to other chapters and other stories.
This book is well-designed for a small group study, although 16 sessions is a lot to arrange. There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter for that purpose. I can imagine returning to this book as a resource when I teach or preach another series on God’s call, or when I again need some spiritual uplift about my own call from God, as I often do (which is why I keep buying and reading books on this topic.)