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!

Popular Idols

Who do you regard as the most popular singing idol of your era?

We are all inclined to have our favourite movie star, sportsman/woman, sports team, singer,  singing group, pastime, whatever. Who or what is your favourite?

The danger arises when we actually idolise that person, that team, that group, that pastime.

In today’s study, Habakkuk speaks about the images the Babylonians idolised.

Habakkuk 2:18 NIrV

‘”If someone carves a statue of a god, what is it worth? What value is there in a god that teaches lies? The one who trusts in another god worships his own creation. He makes statues of gods that can’t speak.

Photo by Chad Kirchoff from Pexels

  • Take a close look at the picture above what do you think is happening?

This could be a photo of a congregation of Christians responding to a Gospel message or worshipping Jesus Christ our Lord.

Alternatively, it could represent folk at a music festival swaying in time with the music coming from the band on the platform.

Maybe even a political gathering.

In effect, one could say that in each situation there is a danger of those gathered worshipping those up front.

Even Christians face the danger of idolizing someone in leadership.

  • I wish I could affect lives as Billy Graham did.
  • If only I was as good at leading a bible study as…….
  • I attend this church because the pastor is so down to earth.

It is so easy for us to become caught up in making idols of performance, publicity, personalities,  personal ability, popularity, pleasure, prosperity.

A created idol

“What you are to a paper airplane, God is to you. Take a sheet of paper and make one  [a paper airplane]. Contrast yourself with your creation. …The thing has no brainwaves. no pulse. It exists only because you formed it and flies only when someone throws it.” (Max Lucado – ‘It’s not about me.’)

No way can an idol created by human hands, be of help to the one who created it. As Max Lucado points out the person who creates is always greater than whatever he has created. It is pure foolishness to believe that a man-made object is able to actively guide and direct humans. Idols cannot speak, so they cannot provide any form of true guidance. 

But then Christians do not make idols and worship them, do they?

  • Do you perhaps have the idol of pagan religion in a prominent place in your home? a little buddha? an African mask?, a Muslim prayer mat? a Koran? I trust you don’t worship that item.
  • But is it wise to even have an object that is worshipped or used by pagans in your home?

“Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love.…” (Exodus 20:3-5a CEV)

Idolised objects

  • What about other items that are worshipped by mankind today?

People are often inclined to worship man-made things like motor cars, houses, boats, jewellery, and art. All of us appreciate beautiful and useful things, but to become so passionate about possessing them makes them the centre of our worship.

If you own something you cannot give away, then you don’t own it, it owns you. (Albert Schweitzer - Share on X

A Human idol

  • As I mentioned at the start of this study, we all have an inclination to indulge in hero worship at times. Who do you tend to idolize? Be honest.

A very real area of idolatry is our inclination to focus our attention and admiration on man rather than on God. Famous people such as politicians, sportsmen and women, the wealthy, and movie stars are so readily idolized.

Popularity, success or a high IQ can all become idols too.

Unfortunately, people we care a lot for can also slip into the category of an idol – boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, child, pastor, team leader, marriage partner to the extent that they take the place that only God should hold.

Self-worth is another dangerous area of ungodly worship. We become so absorbed with our self-worth that it upsets us when others don’t show us the respect that we feel we deserve.

Satanic worship

Our adversary the devil is the chief exponent of this degree of self-worship.

In Isaiah 14:12-14 (CEV) we find reference to Lucifer who is identified with Satan. Lucifer was a fallen angel whom Isaiah calls the ‘son of the morning’. He is accused of having tried to be like God. For this pride-filled ambition, he was cast down to the deep world of the dead (Isaiah 14:15 CEV)

Ever since he has sought to thwart any and all human effort to worship the one true God, Satan has enticed us to focus our attention on things, on people, on ourselves. He even tried to get our Lord to worship him.

The devil said to him (Jesus), “I will give all this to you (all the kingdoms of the earth and their powerMatthew 4:8 CEV) , if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus answered, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ “(Matthew 4:9,10 CEV)

True worship

“Worship humbles the smug and lifts the deflated. Worship adjusts us, lowering the chin of the haughty, straightening the back of the hardened.’ (Spend 365 days reading the Bible with Max Lucado.)

John 4 records how, at a well on the outskirts of the village of Sychar, a woman tried to get into a debate with Jesus over the correct place to worship God.

Jesus response was in effect, the place of worship is not the issue. The important factor is the one who is the focus of your worship. He went on to say,

“But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.” (John 4:23 CEV)

The Babylonian focus for worship was lifeless, worthless, speechless inactive idols.

The focus of our worship as Christians is not on things or personalities or even ourselves, but the living God, through His Son Jesus Christ. As we open our lives to Jesus we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He then orchestrates and focuses our worship on our gracious Heavenly Father.

God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.” (John 4:24 GNB)

Take a look around your home. Do you have any objects that are idols in another faith? Should you discard them?

Invite the Holy Spirit now to enable you to worship God and Him only.

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