February 15, 2015

Ears That Do Not Hear

But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets

(Zechariah 7:11‑12).


How do we account for the fact that many do not "hear" the message of God? Out of all the thousands who personally heard Jesus speak, for example, relatively few believed Him to be speaking the truth, and out of those few even fewer actually did anything about what they said they believed. All heard the same words, but not all responded in the same way. Was the message not clear enough? Was it not sufficiently convincing? Are some individuals by nature simply incapable of understanding?

These are ancient questions that go far back into the history of our world, and they have to do with the freedom of our will. The long and short of the matter is simply that we sometimes abuse our freedom in such a way that our "hearing" ceases to function. We decline to hear God because God’s word is not agreeable to us.

To one of His less-than-receptive audiences Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. . . . I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you” (John 5:39,40,42). Some of these individuals were lifelong experts in the contents of the Scriptures, yet for all their detailed searching of the Scriptures they had not found the correct answers to their questions. They had not really “heard” what they had studied so scrupulously, and Jesus did not mince words as to the reason why: Their intent was not honest.

But before we criticize people who fit this description, we need to ask whether our own hearing is as honest as it needs to be. If we fail to keep ourselves open to God’s message and to listen with a real intent to obey, then we will lose the ability to recognize the truth even when it is clearly and convincingly presented to us. “Therefore,” said Jesus, “take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18).


O my God, how does it happen in this poor world that you are so great and yet nobody finds you, that you call so loudly and yet nobody hears you, that you are so near and yet nobody feels you, that you give yourself to everybody and yet nobody knows your name? Men flee from you and say they cannot find you; they turn their backs and say they cannot see you; they stop their ears and say they cannot hear you.

...Hans Denck