HAVING EARS TO HEAR, Part 2

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As we begin part 2 of this study of “Having Ears to Hear,” I noticed that throughout the Gospels when Jesus was on the earth and face to face with the disciples, He used the phrase “he who has ears to hear,” but when He had ascended into heaven after the resurrection and wrote the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation, He said, “he who has an ear to hear.” I wonder why the difference? Could it be that by that time, we, the Church, had already turned away a bit, so that we are just listening with one ear?

Ear - ous - 1. An ear, 2. metaph. The faculty of perceiving with the mind, the faculty of understanding and knowing.

We will begin this continuation with Matthew 13:13. Jesus tells His disciples after He has given them the parable of the soils, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, their case of the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says, You will indeed hear, but never understand; and you will indeed see, but never perceive. For this people’s hearts have grown dull, and with their ears, they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it. Hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown among the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and then tribulation or persecutions arises on account of the word immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Emphasis mine)

For background on this, let’s look at Isaiah’s commission in Isaiah 6:8-10: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?'  Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.' And He said, ‘Go, and say to this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand, keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’”

An ESV study note explains: “God declares that the prophet’s ministry will have a hardening effect on his own generation, whose character was laid bare in chapter 1-5. The New Testament quotes this text to explain why some reject the good news of the gospel…The openness of faith is a gift of grace, but the unresponsive hearer finds the message only hardens him to God’s gracious purposes.”

John 12:37-43: “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

ESV study note says, “John cites Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10 to indicate that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah was predicted by Scripture and thus serves to confirm (rather than thwart) God’s sovereign plan. Isaiah 53:1 refers to the Servant of the Lord, who was rejected by the people, but exalted by God; Isaiah 6:10 attributes peoples’ hardenings ultimately to God Himself (similar to Pharoah’s — see Romans 9:17-18). The present verses are the first in a series of fulfillment quotations in the second half of John’s gospel. Seen here is John’s emphasis on divine sovereignty and human responsibility. On the one hand, the people should have believed and are held guilty for not believing (“they still did not believe in Him” John 12:37) — on the other hand, God blinded their eyes so they did not have the spiritual ability to believe, see 1:13, 6:44). (Emphasis mine)

There are tensions running throughout the Bible. One is seen here with the tension of divine sovereignty with human responsibility. God wants our participation.

Now let’s look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 where Jesus uses the phrase "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."  Notice He’s speaking to all the churches. For the church of Ephesus, He says to repent from abandoning their First love. He says that they hate the works of the Nicolaitans (which is a good thing) and encourages them that the one who conquers will get to eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of God. (Emphasis mine)

To the church of Smyrna, the persecuted church (one of the two churches of which Jesus has nothing bad to say), He encourages them to be faithful unto death for the crown of life. One who conquers is not hurt by the second death. We all must keep in mind that our life in glory is what we are living for. The kingdom, not this life.

To the church of Pergamon, He opens with the phrase “He who has the sharp two-edged sword,” which is the Word of God. It seems there has been compromise and it's a stumbling block, and also teaching of Nicolaitans. He tells them to repent! The conqueror will have hidden manna and a white stone with a new name. (Emphasis mine)

To Thyatira, who was tolerating Jezebel to teach immorality and eat sacrificed foods, He tells them they will be cast into a sickbed and great tribulation unless they repent. He says, “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. (Emphasis mine)

To Sardis, Jesus writes that they are dead. He exhorts them to wake up and strengthen what is about to die, because their works are not complete. He tells them to hold fast and repent and to be watching. That He is coming as a thief in the night. He says there are a few in Sardis who have not defiled their garments and He will confess their name before the Father in heaven and the angels. (Emphasis mine)

To the church of Philadelphia, the only other church of which Jesus had nothing bad to say, He says they have kept His Word and not denied it, they have kept the command to endure, so He will keep them from the hour of trial. He is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell on the earth. He says to hold fast to what they have, that no one may take their crown. (Emphasis mine). “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” There is no mention of the word repent in this letter.

To the church in Laodecia, the lukewarm church, Jesus says He will vomit them out. They think they are rich and are not, prosperous and need nothing, but are instead wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. He still loves them because He reproves and disciplines them. He tells them to repent. (Emphasis mine). He then speaks to the individual, “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. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 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. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Now back to the heart. The first mention of the heart is the Old Testament is in Genesis 6:5,  “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously.”

The Hebrew word for intent is yeser - form, framework, purpose. Form, pottery, graven image, imagination, mind, work.

The Hebrew word for thoughts is mahasaba - a contrivance, a texture, machine - intention, plan, cunning work, curious work, imaginative means, purpose, thought.

The Hebrew word for heart is leb - inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding. Inner part, midst (of things), heart (of man), mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory. As seat of appetites, as seat of emotions and passions.

One thing significant here is “thoughts of his heart.” With that in mind, let’s look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Emphasis mine)

If we look at the word heart in Exodus where God tells Moses He will harden Pharaoh's heart, we then see the progression of Pharaoh's heart growing hard, becoming hard, and was hard.

The ESV study note for Ex. 4:21 says, “I will harden his heart —The heart refers to the whole of the intellect, will and emotions from which a person acts. The various Hebrew verbs used to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart all refer to a desire to act contrary to the Lord rather than in accord with Him. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is referred throughout chapters 4-14 with the implication that Pharaoh is answerable to his own actions (eg. 8:15). However, the Lord states here that it is His sovereign hand that ultimately governs the events. This is also indicated ‘as the Lord has said.’ Though one might conclude that if God hardens someone’s heart the latter is not answerable for his actions, this is not the biblical view and certainly here the narrative is also careful to point out that Pharaoh also hardened his own heart (8:15, 22; 9:34). The sinner remains responsible for his own sin (Romans 9:16-18).

A look at some of the Proverbs would be appropriate here.

“Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14

“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:5

“There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel — that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21

“Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart.” Proverbs 20:30

Okay, now as promised, we are going full circle back to Job.

I have always found much comfort in reading the last chapter in Job knowing it is the chapter of restoration. It’s where Job says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, and I will speak; I will question You and You make it known to me. I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You; therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Emphasis mine)

An ESV note says, “Job’s response: submission. In response to the Lord’s reproof, Job confesses that the Lord’s power and purposes will not fail, and that he spoke of things beyond his knowledge. In the presence of the Lord who is speaking and appearing to him, Job repents of what in the dialogue he was wildly blurting out.”

What really stood out to me was the note for verse 6, “The Lord had already embodied His mercy to Job in the way He graciously reproved and questioned Job, for his good. I despised myself, that is, I recognize my ignorance behind my own words. God’s mercy is pictured further in the humble posture of Job, who in dust and ashes finally enjoys the comfort of relational peace that had been withheld from him by his friends. Repent translates a form from the same root used of the friends “intention to ‘comfort’ Job in 2:11. The translation of the ESV footnote ‘I despise myself and am comforted in dust and ashes,’ finds support in the way it corresponds to Job’s search for comfort that runs through the book, and is confident with God’s declaration that what Job has spoken is right.” (42:7)

Observation: We know that Job’s suffering was not a consequence of sin (1:1-2:13) Yet, Job needed repentance.

Observation: The ESV says Job’s friends had been so sure they were defending wisdom against Job’s folly, only to find out they were totally mistaken. The conclusion is also a picture of God’s mercy and Job’s faithfulness. Job has a chance to intercede on behalf of the people who had brought him further suffering rather than the comfort he needed and should have received from them.

Observation: How we can comfort with truth—the truth of who God is. Truth that we must suffer to learn who He is.

Suffering reveals things about ourselves. Hidden things we believe. And suffering reveals things about God’s governing of the world.

So to wrap this all up, we see a connection with hearing and the condition of our hearts, what we think in our minds and repentance. We see how divine sovereignty and human responsibility exists together and are not in conflict, even though we may not be able to understand how they work to fulfill God’s will. But because we are responsible, let us make sure our hearts are soft and pliable and immediately repentant, lest we grieve the Holy Spirit. Lord give us hearts to receive Your Word and ears to hear.

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