When you get a chance I wish you’d watch this brief YouTube clip called “Smart Dog” and then see if it helps to illustrate the following perspective on the Bible. And if you’re wondering whether the dog’s “intelligence” is faked, here’s an in the studio before a live audience angle that is more convincing.
Seems to me that “Smart Dog” illustrates the wonder and joy God wants to share with us when he asks us for “obedience.” When the Old and New Testaments urge us to “obey” God, the first meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words is often “to listen” or “to give attention to.” For instance, the Hebrew word that frequently shows up as “obey” in English Bibles is translated “hear” in the famous, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “obey” means to be persuaded. According to Vine’s Dictionary, the emphasis is not on submission to authority, but on action resulting from being convinced by reason and truth. Letting ourselves be persuaded by the truth is the idea the author of Hebrews is communicating when he says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17).
How could the shift from authority-based thinking affect our response to God? Would it make a difference if, instead of saying, “Obey Me,” Jesus said, “Listen to Me. For your sake, I want your attention. I don’t just want your dutiful compliance. I want you to love Me because I love you.”
What would a life and theology of listening look like? To hear more rather than less of God, what if we asked Him to help us hear more than our moral obligation to Him? What if we stopped talking long enough to hear Him whisper, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). What if, while trying to get His help and favor, we began to listen, really listen, to one another, to our spiritual and political enemies, and even to our own hearts? Would we be more likely to hear Jesus say, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27)?
Even though Jesus has every right to demand our immediate and unqualified obedience, He approaches us gently, appealing not only to our will but to our minds and hearts. In the last chapters of the Bible, He is still saying to His stubborn and distracted family, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
In this light could it be helpful to remember that while the YouTube clip might be more accurately labeled “Obedient Dog” the label “Smart Dog” reminds us of “what’s in it for us” when, in effect, God says, “Be still” and “listen to me.”
Smart Dog Link to paste into Browser if above links don’t work: