Do You Listen? Or Do You Just Hear?

Do you respond to every comment or instruction given to you? Why not?


Do the words, “I talk to the trees but …”
mean anything to you? The songwriters Lerner and Loewe wrote a song containing these words for the musical ‘Paint your wagon”.
These words sum up what Habakkuk is seeking to get across in our verse for this week. Like the trees, the stars, the breeze, dumb idols lack the ability to listen and hear our requests. Our communication with them is all in vain.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Habakkuk 2:19 GNB

‘You are doomed! You say to a piece of wood, “Wake up!” or to a block of stone, “Get up!” Can an idol reveal anything to you? It may be covered with silver and gold, but there is no life in it.’

  • If you have a pet, I am sure that you have taught it some neat tricks. What are some of the things you have taught your pet to do?

I know that there are times when parents of young children feel frustrated. They talk and talk but the kids often never seem to listen. It’s like talking to a tree … and they never hear you.

Dumbstruck idols

Habakkuk focuses on the foolishness of idolatry. We may be able to teach our pets things. Yet in fact, you can’t teach an idol a single thing.

Our text verse highlights the Lord’s announcement of how stupid it is for the Babylonians to expect their dumb idols constructed out of wood or stone to actually speak to them. Even though these idols had either gold or silver overlays that made no difference. Idols, created and/or manufactured by people, remain speechless, unmoving, unresponsive, unseeing, and powerless.

This foolishness is evident in the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  (See Kings 18:26-29).

Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal because they worshipped dumb idols. No matter what these Baal worshipers did in trying to coax their gods to bring down fire from heaven to consume their sacrifices there was no response. Regardless of their appearance or material construction, their idols remained lifeless objects.

The Psalmist and idols

In Psalm 135 we read :

“The gods of the godless nations are mere trinkets, made for quick sale in the markets:
 Chiseled mouths that can’t talk, painted eyes that can’t see,
 Carved ears that can’t hear—dead wood! cold metal!
Those who make and trust them become like them.”(Psalm 135:15-21 The Message)

By contrast with these lifeless idols,

“The LORD will defend his people; he will take pity on his servants.” (Psalm 135:14 GNB)

Who will listen?

  • When you have a serious problem and you are seeking guidance who do you first turn to? Your partner, your friend, a family member, your minister?

The prophet mocks the Babylonians because no matter how they tried there was no way their dumb idols could counsel them.

What answer could the Babylonians possibly expect to get from the dumb idols they had made with their own hands?

An idol will certainly make no effort to correct any of us if we become involved in a sinful lifestyle. 

In other words, it is pointless for anyone to seek lasting happiness in anything made by our own hands—in anything other than our almighty heavenly Father.

Conforming to God’s image

God is who He is. Not who we would like Him to be. He is self-sufficient, self-existent and omnipresent. God has His own standards. Therefore we need to conform to His standards. Yet do we sometimes attempt to get Him to comply with our own ideas?

“I know that the Lord is great. That our Lord is greater than all the gods.” (Psalm 135:5 TNIV)

God listens 

Even if the Babylonians spoke, screamed or shouted until they were blue in the face, their gods would not hear them. They couldn’t! They were idols!

By contrast, we have a God who encourages us to be silent and listen for His voice.

Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. Share on X

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be honored among the nations. I will be honored in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 NIrV)

In John 5:24, Jesus is quoted as saying:

“It’s urgent that you listen carefully to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider.This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.” (The Message)

God hears and answers

Through this step of faith, God promises to hear and answer our requests.

“Everything you ask for in prayer will be yours, if you only have faith.” (Matthew 11:24 CEV)

“Stay joined to me and let my teachings become part of you. Then you can pray for whatever you want, and your prayer will be answered.” (John 15:7 CEV)

“The prayer of an innocent person is powerful, and it can help a lot.” (James 5:16c CEV)

Hallelujah! The God we serve is no handmade idol but a living, loving Father who takes an intimate interest in every one of His children and has promised that He will not only hear our prayer but answer in a way that will be most beneficial to us.

Identify one specific issue you need to hear about from God. Ask Him now to provide you with a clear answer. Then this week, keep listening for an answer!

To end on a lighter note, would you like to sing along to the words of the song I referred to at the beginning of this study? As you sing, see God as the “Someone” you’re talking to, and give thanks that talking to God is not at all like talking to the trees!


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Have a great week!