Hearing and Ears

Do you listen to God?

I can’t hear.  No, that’s not a metaphor.  Thanks to two ear infections, the noisiest sound I’m hearing these days is the blood splashing around inside my head.  For 2 weeks I’ve been saying “WHAT?!” a lot, and shouting because it sounds like everyone’s whispering.  Yeah, I have some hearing loss that is the curse of the aged–as well as using shop machinery for years without ear protection.  But Betty’s always suspected that some of what I don’t hear, I don’t want to hear.  Of course she’s mistaken.

I’ve always feared losing my eyesight more than my hearing.  But this has been educational.  Last night, as our extended family enjoyed some fun at a local pool, my son said something to my wife and me.  Seeing my face, he came closer and repeated what he’d said–this time, yelling in my ear.  We laughed and he explained, “You had that look that said ‘I have no clue what you’re saying but won’t admit it!'”

How is your hearing?  There is an disturbing and sizable collection of verses in the Bible which describes people who have ears–but can’t hear.  Not a disability due to infections, advancing age, or some accident.  They are the result of a hardened heart.  The Songwriter speaks that way about idols: they have ears, but do not hear (Psalm 115:6).  Of course, inanimate gold, stone, or wood statues won’t hear despite having ears carved on them.  It’s the verses about human beings that are so disturbing.

In judgment, God made the Israelites’ ears “heavy” so they wouldn’t hear from him and repent (Isaiah 6:10).  And then there were the many days when the Israelites themselves stopped listening: You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets… (Jeremiah 25:4).

Jesus warned those listening to him preach: It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile.  It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 14:35).  Clearly he understood there would be those who used their ears, and those who didn’t.  And when Paul had his final recorded discussion with Jewish hearers, he quoted this dire warning from the prophet Isaiah: For this people’s heart has 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. (Acts 28:27).

I called this collection of verses “disturbing” because taken together they seem to say that if we ignore God enough–maybe just listening to him occasionally or when it suits us, God could take our hearing.  The ears will still be there, but hardening our hearts can prompt God to permanently damage our hearing: even if He yells we won’t hear Him.

My friend, are you listening?