An Ear To Hear

     Many people know what it means to have diminished ability to hear, particularly as we get older. Some of us get by just fine and others have to get some help. This has been the case at our house as Ginger has tried many hearing aids and is this week having cochlear implant surgery with the good folks at Vanderbilt Hospital. We are optimistic and of course would love to have your prayers. It will be a few weeks before the device is activated and then there is a learning curve to climb, but Ginger is sharp and I think she will be just fine.

     Diminished ability to hear can create serious problems for the hearer as well as those who are attempting to communicate with her. Sometimes you just have to laugh and try again. That’s what we do. But sometimes the matter communicated is so important that special steps have to be taken to make sure that the meaning of the message is conveyed properly. Folks with impaired hearing know this and they work very hard to understand what is going on around them. This work can become so hard that it can wear a person out. But we all know that understanding what is going on around us is important. We don’t like to be in the dark. So we expend the required effort.

     I have been thinking about these things for a while and so a few spiritual applications have some to mind. The importance of hearing in a spiritual sense can be seen by looking in your concordance at the references to the words “hear” and “hearing.”

     We think first of the expression “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This is from Revelation chapters 2 and 3 wherein John uses these words to conclude his comments to the churches of Ephesus (2:7), Smyrna (2:11), Pergamos (2:17), Thyatira (2:29), Sardis (3:6), Philadelphia (3:13), and Laodicea (3:22). Each of these churches would and did receive instruction from the Lord that would help them deal with the persecution they were facing and was to come their way.

     The formulation, “He who has an ear” is compelling. It is obvious that Jesus is not talking about the physical sense of hearing. Understanding is what is meant in this passage. We have all heard words that were not important to us. What did we do in those cases? Well, we ignored them. We did not attempt to understand the message associated with the words because we had already determined that we did not care about it. “Having an ear” in these passages means that the words are to be heard and that the hearers should really want to understand them. The seven churches of Asia Minor to which the letter was written needed not just to hear the words with their ears, they needed to understand them.

     It is evident that John expected some of the recipients of Revelation to have an impaired sense of spiritual hearing. He knew that there were those like some members at Laodicea, who were not adequately interested in doing the will of God. We today can also be guilty of spiritual disinterest. We can fall into a pattern of hearing the Word of God with our ears or reading it with our eyes and not allowing the meaning of the Words to have the proper and beneficial effect for which they were designed.

     Think for a moment about Romans 10:17: “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” When we take a careful look at Paul’s letter to the Romans we see that faith is more than simple intellectual agreement. Faith always includes obedience as is made plain by Romans 6:1-6. The immediate context of Romans 10:17 also makes plain that hearing is not merely becoming aware of the sounds of the Word by use of our ears and brain. To hear in this passage is the same as it is in Revelation. It is to understand. When a person understands he or she can then make an informed decision to obey God.

     “Having an ear to hear” physically is a great blessing. Hearing and understanding the Word of God is the greater blessing.