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There’s always more to the story. The Bible can never be exhausted. That’s one of the many beautiful aspects of God’s love letter to us. And the Lord has such a lovely way of bringing things full circle. Recently, I was talking with a friend who was dealing with an issue that has also been an ongoing issue in my life for many, many years. Without going into detail, this is something that involved decisions that only I could make for myself and I had to make those decisions according to what God’s Word says. If I’m being honest, those decisions come with lots of overthinking and caring too much that other people will think I’m dumb or foolish. But I know the only thing that matters is what I know the Lord would have me do. So when this conversation happened, all the issues that went into coming to these decisions came back into question. I was pleading with the Lord the next morning to please speak to me and show me, if indeed, we had already settled this. I opened up to Job 2:9-10: “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Then I read the commentary in the ESV study Bible. “Although the reference to Job’s wife is very brief, the context of her speech is very significant for how it relates to the heavenly dialogue and for what this connection reveals about the nature of her comments. Her rhetorical question doubts the sensibility of the very thing God finds commendable about Job. DO YOU STILL HOLD FAST YOUR INTEGRITY? And her suggested response advises Job to take the action Satan was looking to provoke.”


I also read the comment for verse 3, “In the conversation God has with Satan, having asked Satan if he has ‘considered Job,’ He says, ‘He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to destroy him without reason,’ a description referring to the whole of his grief, worship and profession, a faithful response.”

I am thankful that the Lord has taught me to know when He is speaking to me through His Word, so I knew He was speaking to me, and that the reason I had made my decision and I would continue with my decision was to hold fast to the integrity of my heart. All of this is context for the rest of this study, which has to do with the connection of the condition of the heart with ears to hear. I’ve always been intrigued with the phrase Jesus uses in the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” As one of my favorite Bible teachers used to ask, “Do you have an ear? If you do, this is for you.”

I was reading in Mark 4 about the 4 soils in my new ESV study Bible and the notes to verse 9 got me all excited. Here’s what the note said, “Having ears to hear involves surrender of proud self-reliance and submission to God.” (Emphases mine.) I got excited because I knew the Lord was about to take me on a journey. This comment screamed out to me to be the key to understanding having ears to hear. So let’s look at it again. “Having ears to hear involves surrender of proud self-reliance and submission to God.” We'll start by looking at the passage, Mark 4:1-9: “And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: ‘Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.’ And He said to them, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Emphasis mine.)

Let’s start unpacking. The first mention in the New Testament of the phrase, ‘he who has ears to hear, let him hear’ is in Matthew 11:11-15: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

To give the context for this, John the Baptist was in prison and had sent word asking Jesus “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” This is a whole study unto itself on how things had not turned out for John as he had expected. Jesus answers that the blind had received sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised up and the poor have the good news preached to them and “blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Emphasis mine.)

Jesus goes on to talk about John and how he was the one whom it was prophesied would prepare the way for Him. He ends the passage with “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” So what do we need to hear here? Several things, but one sure thing to hear is “blessed is he who is not offended by Me.” When things don’t go the way we expect, when we are disappointed and may even want to give up, that’s the key time to hear what the Lord is saying to us, and to NOT harden our hearts to Him. 

The ESV has a comment that lends to our study: “Jesus responds to John the Baptist’s questions with a mild rebuke and a glowing tribute. He then speaks words of judgment on the unrepentant and words of invitation to those who would find their rest in Him.” Keep this in mind as we go forward.

Now back to Mark 9. The ESV study note says, “Parables are Jesus’ means of communicating truth through a narrative analogy in order to teach a moral lesson. His parables produce very different results in different people: they hide truth from the crowd while they communicate truth to the disciples.”

Another study note says, “His disciples who had come to Him were those who had made a commitment to Jesus as Messiah; the crowds were those who were curious and often astounded by His teaching and ministry, yet for the most part remained neutral and uncommitted.”

Now back to Mark 4, the parable of the soils. With all of this information, it’s easy to see that each soil represents the human heart and the various conditions of a heart. As we pick up in verse 10, it tells how the disciples came and asked Jesus why He spoke to them in parables, and Jesus replied because it has been given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the others it had not been given.

The word mystery here in the Greek is mysterion which we have studied before. It’s something that hasn’t been revealed until now, but now is the time for it to be known.

The mysteries of how the kingdom of heaven would operate are revealed to the disciples, but withheld from the spiritually unresponsive crowd, in particular these secrets of the kingdom of heaven explained its partial and preliminary manifestations in Jesus’ day as it was breaking into the world in advance of its full and final appearing at the end of the age. (ESV study note.)

Jesus continues quoting Isaiah: “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.” As a side note, this Isaiah passage is expanded in the Matthew account of this parable: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn; so that I should heal them.” (Notice the connection between the hearts that have grown dull with the inability to see and to hear.) He then goes on to explain the parable of the four soils and with each soil there is the hearing the word, but the condition of the heart is the connection for what is done with the hearing.

An ESV study note explains the quote from Isaiah: “hear, but not understand—since Isaiah 6: 9-10 describes the hard-heartedness of Israel, its citation here emphasizes the fact that Jesus speaks the parables to outsiders as a form of prophetic warning. Jesus warns of the serious consequences for all, both Gentiles and jews, who do not open their hearts to Him. (open ears need open hearts) And yet there is still room for repentance.” (Emphasis mine.)

ESV study note: “Mark provides several examples of Jesus teaching parables. To the hard hearted, parables are a warning, to those who are open-hearted, parables illustrate principles of the messianic rule of God. A parable consists of a story and its corresponding intended message.”

Further down in Mark, verse 33 says, “with many such parables He spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples He explained everything.” (Emphasis mine.)

My observation is that ears to hear seems to be directly connected to the condition of the heart. If a heart is overcrowded with things that shouldn’t be there, it becomes hard and makes it impossible to hear. Warren Wiersbe says, “Even a disciple of Jesus Christ can develop a hard heart if he fails to respond to the spiritual lessons that must be learned in the course of life and ministry.”

So what does He want us to hear in this passage? If we receive the word with a surrendered heart in submission to God, our hearts are the good soil, able to bear fruit. But we must keep our heart from growing dull.

The next place to study “he who has ears, let him hear” is in Matthew 12 with the parable of the weeds explained. Verses 36-43: “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’”

This sounds so much like what goes on in the church today with the infiltration of New Thought and New Age and Prosperity Gospel. It seems the enemy is always sowing his weeds among the good seed, the sons of the kingdom. While Jesus Christ is building His church, Satan has been building his and infiltrating his into the true church. This will be the way it is until the harvest at the end of the age when there will be judgment—weeping and gnashing of teeth—but the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (ESV study note.)

What to hear: We’re always going to have Satan’s produce among us, but in the end, they will be judged and dealt with and we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father. It will serve us well to pray that we will be able to recognize the truth and not be deceived by Satan’s produce. It looks almost identical to the real stuff. The only way to know for sure is to be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures daily to know what is true.

The next passage with the hearing instructions is found in Mark 7 which tells us what defiles a person: “And he called the people to him again and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.’ And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, ‘Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’” (Emphasis mine.)

The ESV does not include verse 16, because they used different manuscripts, but the New King James and other versions include this verse: “If anyone has ears, let him hear.” Regardless, we definitely need to hear what defiles a person. The Greek word for defile is kohinoo “to make common, to make (Levitically) unclean, render unhallowed, defile, profane.

“The problem of the defiled human heart is much deeper than one might assume. (See Isaiah 29:13-16, Jeremiah 17:9-10) and significantly more serious than mere ceremonial impurity (see Mark 7:14b.) The core problem of defilement is what resides in the human heart (things that come out) not things going into a person. Throughout scripture, the heart refers to the center of one’s being, including the mind, will and emotions.” (ESV study note.)

Isaiah 29:13, “And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.’” ESV study note says, “Outward proper worship offends God if it is a way of evading Him at a deeper level (which is why Jesus quotes verse 13 in Matthew 15:8-9. But God will not be set aside. Wonderful things (i.e. miraculous works) even in the human cleverness that disregards Him, God’s everruling power is accomplishing His own purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:19.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

ESV note: “heart, a metaphor for the human will and emotions. Deceitful—torturous, uneven and crooked like a bad road. Desperately sick, medically incurable (15:18, 30:12, 15; Job 34:6; Isaiah 17:11; Micah 1:9). (The NKJV uses the word wicked for sick.) Who can understand is a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer. However, this strongly negative assessment of the human heart is not intended as a description of the heart of a believer under the new covenant, where God promises to write His law on people’s hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, 32, 40; Ezra 36:26; Romans 5:5, 6, 17; Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 3:21). Heart and mind—God understands (verse 9) the inner recesses of the human motives, thinking and decisions—to give every man. God is a just and merciful judge.”

Before God tells us how deceitful the heart is, He said this in the verses before, Jeremiah 17: 5, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” In other words, the man who turns from God to seek help from man will be beset with negative consequences.

Stay with me here. There’s lots more. We’re going to keep circling around and then come in for the landing.

So back to the original note that started this journey; “Having ears to hear involves surrender of proud self-reliance and submission to God.” Surrender and submission, the cost of discipleship. Luke 14: 25-34 is the passage that tells us the cost and has yet another “he who has ears, let him hear.”

The ESV study notes give three conditions of discipleship: 1.Love family less than you love Christ, 2.Bear the cross and follow Christ, and 3.Relinquish everything. These are complementary ways of describing complete commitment. Taking the cross and following Him: crucifixion is a shocking metaphor for discipleship. A disciple must deny himself (die to self-will), take up his cross (embrace God’s will, no matter the cost) and follow Christ… the goal of self denial and taking up one’s cross is not pathological self-abasement or a martyr complex, but being free to follow the Messiah. Self-denial means letting go of self-determination and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on the Messiah.

We’ve talked before about losing one’s self life, the soulish life of self will and self-centeredness to gain our real life of His life lived in us. That is the only way to find and live the life Christ intends for us to live. If we live in our own fleshly ways, which is still possible after we are saved, then we will lose the life we were meant to live and as a result lose our rewards for our life in the Kingdom.

There’s much more to study, so we will explore the letters to the seven churches and what Jesus says to those who have an ear to hear in part 2. We will also come full circle back to Job for some interesting insights. In the meantime, I’ll close with what Warren Wiersbe says about the soils and the heart: “The human heart is like soil, it must be prepared to receive the seed before that seed can take root and produce a harvest. The hard heart resists the Word of God and makes it easy for Satan (the birds) to snatch it away. Soil becomes hard when too many feet walk on it. Those who recklessly open their hearts to all kinds of people and influences are in danger of developing hard hearts (see Proverbs 4:23.) Hard hearts must be plowed up before they can receive the seed and this can be a painful experience.

Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”



  1. Thank you for this study…. Even as Christains we can be so slow to understand. Our flesh is weak. Recently My eyes have really been opened to the fact that the root of anxiety is pride. 😞 The Lord is so gracious and patient with us, we “work out our salvation” as the scriptures say with grace and truth daily, some things take years to deal with but what a Saviour we have! 😊 Amen 🙏🏼

    1. [1]And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. [2]In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. [3]And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: [4]And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. [5]And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. [6]And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. [7]Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. [8]And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. [9]Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. [10]And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.


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