Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          May 19, 2013                                                                                                                            NO. 16


"...EARS TO HEAR..."

Jesus said, on a few occasions, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt. 11:15;13:9,43); He also made a similar statement when addressing the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6, 13,22). At first glance, this may seem like an odd thing to say since all men have ears [unless born with some sort of physical abnormality] and all ears are made for hearing. But Jesus was using this as a way of saying, "Pay attention!" The things that He had spoken were extremely important and the hearers needed to pay close attention to what was said because it was information that was for their own spiritual good. Therefore, one who has "ears to hear" is one who is attuned to what Jesus or the inspired writers have spoken with a readiness to not only listen, but to do what is said. Remember, Jesus has told us that we are wise only if we hear His words and do them (Matt. 7:24-25).

On the flip side, there are those who have ears that "do not hear" (Matt. 13:13) and are "hard of hearing" (v. 15) not a good thing. Why is it some hear and others do not? It is not a physical impediment or deficiency that makes the difference; it's in the heart, or mind. Jesus plainly told those who were unwilling to hear His words, "He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God" (John 8:47). Simply put, one who does not want to hear the truth will not hear the truth - he will not admit it or recognize it as truth. That is not to say he will be held blameless because he did not hear [i.e., he did not obey]; on the contrary, Jesus said to those who would reject His words, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:47-48). "Hearing" Jesus is more than listening to the preacher once or twice a year [or even once a week] and is more than simply reading your Bible and being able to quote Scripture. "Hearing" means we read or listen to what is said and have a heart that is prepared to willingly obey those same words.

But how do we manifest a willingness to hear what God has spoken? How can we prove that we have "ears to hear"? Consider the following examples of those whom I believe demonstrate this willingness to hear and let us see how we compare, shall we? Let us examine ourselves to see if we have "ears to hear".

The Bereans. (Acts 17:11) You probably could have guessed that the Bereans would be mentioned as an example of those who were willing to hear, but why is that? What did they do that demonstrated a willingness to hear? It may not be what you think! Some people sort of gloss over the passage and note that it is said that the Bereans "received the word with all readiness," but that is only the most obvious thing that spoke of their willingness to hear. Note that Luke also recorded the fact they "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." "Ears to hear" are not ears that blithely accept whatever is spoken as long as the speaker claims it is truth; "ears to hear" will also investigate and compare what is spoken against the verified truth of Scripture to see if it is what it claims to be! Far too many have ears to hear anything that claims to be truth and they never investigate what is spoken and never compare it with what God has already revealed in the written Word, and they end up following error instead of truth! These are not "ears to hear" but "ears that are easily deceived"!

John sternly warns us, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Do we do that, or do we take a man at his word and refuse to open up our Bibles to see what God has actually said? Far too many religious people today keep their Bibles closed and refuse to discuss differences, acting like this is somehow a "noble" thing to do! If we care at all about truth, then we should be opening up our Bibles and we should be willing to take on any challenges to our faith. If we have truth, it will be evident; if we don't, that, too, will be evident. It seems many are afraid to open up their Bible lest their faith be exposed as false and they "hear" something they really don't want to hear! Do we have "ears to hear"?

Samuel. (1 Sam. 3:10) When Samuel was just a boy, God called to him one night and after the third time of confusing God's call for Eli, Samuel was told by Eli that he should reply, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears" (v. 8), and when God called again, that is how Samuel answered. Though this may sound simple [and it is], it demonstrates a willingness to hear! And as Samuel did indeed listen to the Lord, he did not interrupt with his opinions, did not argue for another way, and did not turn away. Samuel meant what he said!

How unlike the "hard of hearing" Samuel was! Samuel not only said he wanted to hear [i.e., heed] the Lord, he actually went with the intent of listening and obeying. The same cannot be said about God's own people sometimes! Once, the people of God came to Jeremiah and said, "Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God, for all this remnant [since we are left but a few of many, as you can see], that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do" (Jer. 42:2-3). Sounds good, right? But when the message of God came, they accused Jeremiah of lying and they refused to heed God's warning and did what they had intended all along (43:2-4).

How many people today, even amongst those who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ, say and do the same thing today? How many say they want to have God lead them in the right way, but when someone shows them God's way, they deny it is God's way and accuse the speaker of lying? How many people are like those Israelites, whom Jeremiah said were hypocrites in their hearts (42:20) because they never really wanted to hear what God had to say? Friends and brethren, the number is simply staggering! Take a look around at the religious world and it is clear that while many talk a good talk, very, very few are willing to walk the walk. The vast majority of the world doesn't even make a pretense of wanting to follow Jesus, but even amongst the smaller number who proclaim to be His followers, the actual number who are doing that is minuscule. All one has to do is open up the Bible and read the words of Jesus and the words of the inspired writers, compare it against what is being taught and practiced in the churches, and question some of these teachings and practices, and you will see just how "sincere" they are!

But, friends and brethren, don't think it cannot happen to you or to us. Right now [and as has been the case for many years] there are teachings and practices existing in churches and among the brethren across this country that are without authority, yet when brethren are challenged, it becomes evident that many do not have "ears to hear"!

Saul. (Acts 9:6; NKJV) Most of us would have never seen Saul, the main persecutor of the first century church, as a prime candidate for conversion, but when Jesus confronted him, Saul simply said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" He didn't argue with the Lord, he did not appeal to what his parents had done, he did not appeal to what "tradition" taught, and he did not delay; Saul wanted to know what to do and when he was told (Acts 22:16), he obeyed the Lord because he meant what he said! Could the same be said of us? Of me?

Friends and brethren, let us not be Christians in name only or in word only; let us be true disciples who are willing to not only hear what Jesus and the inspired writers have said, but willing also to heed those words, even the difficult commands. Obedience is what matters (1 Cor. 7:19b), so let us right now determine within ourselves that we will have "ears to hear" and hearts to obey.

---Stephen Harper

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