The DEEP

Listening In

His voice.

John 8:37–43

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.”

Abraham is the father of many nations—that’s what his name means—but he’s also the father of faith. That’s what Jesus is driving at when He says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.

Their problem is lack of faith. This gets back to the distinction that we discussed earlier. Their belief in Jesus isn’t faith. Most importantly, faith is a gift from God. That’s why Jesus says, “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

It’s not a choice; it’s an inability.


This jumps right to the root of reformed doctrine—total inability. We aren’t able to accept the gospel on our own. We can’t even listen to it.

There’s a distinction in Hebrew that makes this a bit clearer. Remember, even though this was recorded in Greek, Jesus was saying this in Aramaic, which is close to Hebrew.

Hebrew distinguishes between listing to someone’s voice and listening in someone’s voice. This might translate to English as the distinction between hearing and listening, but the distinction in Hebrew is stronger. Listening in someone’s voice implies acceptance.

Of course, we can’t be certain how Jesus actually phrased this, but he had to say it one way or the other and “listening in” fits best.

When Jesus said, “Because you are not able to listen to My word,” He’s saying that they need a miracle.

Nothing less will do.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Saturday DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.