Please give my fellow blogger and Word Nerd, Nicol Valentin, a warm welcome as she shares about what hearken means for this week’s edition of Word Nerd Wednesday. This seems like the perfect post to come just on the heels of our hearing God call out to us and hearing His Word and Hiding it in Our Hearts posts!
HEARKEN(v.) To listen; to lend the ear; to attend to what is uttered; to give heed; to hear, in order to obey or comply.
Middle English herknen, from Old English heorcnian; akin to Old High German hōrechen to listen, Old English hīeran to hear. First used before the 12th century.
According to Webster hark, hearken, and harken all have the same meaning, to listen carefully. Harken seems to be the earliest spelling, but then the use of hearken began to dominate. In the US harken came back into use in 1934 thanks to the Chicago Tribune. All three forms have the same Indo-European root: Kous, to hear. Interestingly, the Greek akouein, comes from the same source. This is where we get the word acoustic.
Hearken in Life
The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines Hearken as to hear by listening. That’s ridiculous, we can’t hear without listening, can we? Well, if you’re a mom, then you know we most certainly can. It goes something like this:
Mom: “Hey, isn’t it your day to take out the trash?”
Son (while playing a game on the computer): “Oh yeah, that’s right.”
twenty minutes later . . .
Mom: “Hey-my trash didn’t go out!”
Son (still on the computer): “Oops, I forgot.”
Now you know as well as I do he heard me just fine. He just didn’t hearken. He heard me sure enough, but he didn’t hear in order to obey or comply.
I can point my finger at the children, but unfortunately, I’m just as guilty. Focused on my own tasks, consumed in my own problems, I can hear all the noise and chatter that surrounds me, but I don’t give heed to any of it. I hear a child complain about the sibling that’s being a nuisance, my husband discuss his issues at work, a friend complain about the strained relationship with her mother. I can hear all of it, but my mind is somewhere else. It’s on the bills that have to be paid, or the article I’m writing, or the mess in the kitchen. I’m not relating to or feeling the pain behind any of it.
And this is just the secular side.
Hearken in the Bible
“Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.”
“Oh, that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!”
“And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them,
rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.”
“If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve him, and hearken unto his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of Jehovah, and both ye and also the king that reigneth over you be followers of Jehovah your God, well: but if ye will not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah, but rebel against the commandment of Jehovah, then will the hand of Jehovah be against you, as it was against your fathers.”
1 Samuel 12;14
It’s clear what will happen if God’s people refuse to hearken to his voice. Things are not going to go well.
Unfortunately, just like we sometimes tune out those around us, we tend to do the same to God. Trials come our way, we feel neglected, overwhelmed, agitated and we yell out to God:
ENOUGH! This is too much, more than I can bear.
Perhaps we would be better off finding a quiet place where we can put aside our anger and frustration and say to God, What are you trying to tell me, Lord? And be ready, not just to hear, but to give heed, to hear in order to obey and comply.
Speaking on John 6 41:42 “The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the Bread which came down from heaven; and they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, I came down from heaven?” St. John Chrysostom points out the Jews ability to harken to Our Lord on some occasions and not others. In this passage, when he told them he was the Bread which came down from Heaven, they refused to listen. It was nonsense, after all, everyone knew he was the son of Joseph, who did he think he was fooling anyway? Yet they hearkened well enough when he gave them earthly bread to fill their empty stomachs. In fact, they called him a prophet and sought to make him a king. Fix our problems for us Jesus, and we’ll harken till our ears fall off. Talk about spiritual things that might make us squirm and cause us discomfort . . .well, let’s just say our ability to hear in order to obey or comply might be dampened.Like the Jews, we're all too willing to listen when Jesus promises to fix our problems, but when He wants to discuss difficult things we grow hard of hearing pretty quickly. @NicolValentin #wordnerdwednesday #hearken Click To Tweet
God Hearkens Unto Us
Well, what about us? Is this a one-sided game? Does God ever hearken to us? Of course, he does!
“And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.”
“And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.”
“And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.”
2 Chronicles 30:20
“And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bore Jacob the fifth son.”
Now, there’s one more use of hearken we might want to consider, in the form of hearken back, as in hearken back to the good old days. Interestingly enough the phrase started with hunting. If the hounds lost the scent of their prey, the hunters would tell them to harken back. Retrace your steps, find where you went wrong, they were telling them, yet it was more than that. In literal terms, it means to listen back. We can apply this to our own spiritual lives. If we mess up, if we hear without intending to obey or comply, all is not lost. We can confess or mistake, go back to God and listen again—this time with the determination to obey and comply. We can apply this to our secular lives as well. If we tend not to hearken to our family and friends, we can ask God to help us pay better attention—to hearken to the needs of others more than our own. Surely God will hearken to a prayer like that.Are you hearkening unto God, or just hoping to hear what makes you feel good? @nicolvaltentin #hearken #wordnerdwednesday Click To Tweet
Nicol Valentin is a homeschooling mother of 10. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry piles or dinner dishes she writes on Medium, where she is a top writer in History, and on her blog. She and her family are blessed to be able to attend the Tridentine Catholic Mass near their home in Smithfield, Va.