In the fourth chapter of Marks account it occurs twice, in verses 9 and 23, before and after the interpretation of the parable of the Sower, which as we know, typifies the Word of God as the Seed, Christ Himself as the Sower, and the resultant crop shows the result of Gods Word in the lives of men. The usual trinity of evil, the Adversary, the Flesh and the World, hinder its progress towards fruitfulness, and only one class out of the four described, represented by His disciples, were really fruitful, and only a few of these in abundant measure. The average farmer would regard this as a poor crop, indeed, so far as the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven is concerned, it had failed to produce the effect necessary to its realisation. Israel had rejected its Messiah, and the great harvest of God has yet to await His time--but the Great Sower shall yet reap where He has sown and gather where He has strawed!
But since men reject Him, the bulk of the Seed in all the earth is "wasted" as we say--much more is wasted than ever comes to fruition. The sowing, and the effect of the sowing, is very closely connected with the phrase "If any man hath an ear to hear, let him hear!"
The formula is very significant, for though openly and apparently He speaks to all, He speaks in such language that only those who have spiritual perception will apprehend what He is saying. The rest hear the words, but do not grasp the meaning; the multitude have no ears to hear, all will be wasted upon them.
Like so many of the teachings of our Lord, this saying of His illustrates a general truth, equally valid today; only those who have ears to hear will understand what He says through His word, the world in general is deaf to the appeals of the crucified One, it does not want to hear.
And (let it be whispered) quite a few of those who have heard His appeal fail to listen to His further revelations intelligently, often being too busy bickering amongst themselves over some fragmentary portion which they have heard, and misconstrued!
Those to whom God has granted a degree of spiritual perception will hear Him as He speaks through His Word, and it is them He addresses Himself. If you have got an ear, listen! We have a saying," A word is enough for a wise man," and if he is a wise man one word is enough, but if he is not wise a whole volume will be wasted on him. There is another Scripture which says "Take heed what ye hear!"
In Psalm 94 we have a verse which speaks of the human ear. We read "He that planted the ear, shall He not hear?" This is a very significant expression, for the ear is one of the most wonderful of all human organs. It consists of the ear-trumpet, the drum of the ear, and underneath that, secreted among the bones, the inner ear which does the hearing, transmitting outside sounds to the brain. The inner ear is made of what is called a hammer-and-anvil and a stirrup. When sound comes to the ear through the trumpet, the hammer starts tapping the anvil, and at once the nerves set to work and send the sounds down to the true ear, which is immersed in fluid. As soon as the ear-trumpet brings the sound to the drum, and the drum transmits it to the fluid, thousands of telephones are at work--in fact, in a rightly constructed ear there are as many telephones as there are sounds in the universe. When these come into action, then the mind hears. All this happens before we become aware of a sound. No wonder the Psalmist wrote "He that planted the ear It is not only a delicate instrument, but you must be very careful about getting anything into it, both physically and otherwise. What enters into the ear enters into the mind, the brain, and proceeds to the heart and the spirit.
Modem research is discovering some remarkable things regarding sight, and the fact emerges that all of us have to learn to see, since it is not a natural function to see and interpret
automatically what we see. Perception is a function of the mind, and it can be demonstrated that the mind plays peculiar tricks with the images that the eye conveys to it. It is only through hearing and learning that we can understand what we are seeing, and a limit is set upon our understanding of the visual message by the training and quality of the mind. In the Ephesian Epistle Paul prays that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened, the quickening of the inner vision through the agency of the things which have been heard and stored in the mind. Man by nature is deaf--the Spirit by means of the Word gives him light and life and bearing, so that those who have been brought to a consciousness of sin and the saving grace in Christ Jesus have the understanding enlightened.
We should be careful of what we allow to come into our ears, because although it is a marvelous organ, capable of great good, it can be used to cause us great harm. "Faith cometh by hearing" we are told, and faith comes and is increased that way, but faith is also decreased through the same organ. We should be on guard against this--to repeat the words of our Lord, "take heed what ye hear!"
In the first book of the Scriptures we find the classic illustration of this truth. Eve was poisoned and the whole race has been paralysed and poisoned ever since, because she listened to a voice which destroyed her faith, and ever since that day-- and especially today--the same voice sounds in the ears of men, saying the same things, adopting the same course, and with the same result.
In the beautiful surroundings in which they had been set Adam and Eve had been granted all its treasures to enjoy, subject to one prohibition ; they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said so, plainly--" you shall not eat." But there comes the Shining One, the Bright Messenger, as the Hebrew would have it, a being much too slick, much too wily to be met by human wisdom, and Eve was beguiled. Faith takes God at His Word. Unbelief takes Gods Word and messes it up to suit itself, and this the Adversary proceeds to do with Eve. He questions Gods Word--is it really true that God has not given you an entirely free hand? Have I heard correctly? I cannot believe it, surely there is nothing here which you dare not taste? Hath God said? Oh, Eve take heed what you hear!
But the seed of doubt has been planted, and Eve claims the equivalent of the modem "right to doubt" and in the few words she spoke she did all the damage to Gods word that any of her children ever did, although it might be said to her credit that she did it in less space than most of her offspring. She did not need to be as smart as the Adversary (and neither do we) all she needed to do was to rely on what God had said, but all that reliance she bad given up in favour of the "advanced thought" of the" more progressive minds," God had provided lavishly, and they were to eat freely, but she had an ear to hear this brilliant and dapper stranger, and to her the voice of God had lost its sweetness and His love had lost its charm.
Will the reader be saying--but this is back in the kindergarten, we are advanced students and well know these things? Have patience, for this early story is extremely relevant, and many of us need its lesson still. Look at the method of destruction--The Adversary first QUESTIONS Gods Word, then DENIES Gods Word, and then AFFIRMS A FALSEHOOD in the place of Gods Word. NOTHING NEW HAS BEEN DONE SINCE THAT TIME; no new line of attack has been necessary, as the old one works so well. The outward transgression by Eve and by Adam was only an amplification of what had already taken place in Eves inner attitude towards Gods Word. The Adversarys questions planted the seed, his denial cultivated the growth, and his affirmation fertilized it, and so Eve plucked and ate the forbidden thing-- and so it happened, the dreadful thing, sin.
It is not merely the eating of the fruit that matters, but much more--the bond of love and confidence which held man to Jehovah, man abruptly sunders; he strikes a blow in the face of his Father; he believes God to be a liar; he doubts His goodness and thinks He wishes to set bounds to his blessings. And watch how Eve slowly succumbs--she stands and listens until her conscience grows confused, she enters into discussion and argument, and lends her ear to the tempters flattering voice. Ever sweeter sounds that voice, and ever sharper and more strident clangs the voice of God, while His lovely and gracious countenance transforms itself into the face of a cold and envious tyrant, in her mind. She looks at the fruit, the forbidden fruit, and lovelier and more fragrant and more to be desired and ever more to be desired becomes that fruit. Impossible, she cannot refrain--there, it is done!
And angels hide their faces.
And then comes Adam, type of Christ, who, realising what had happened and the implication of it, also ate, and identified himself with her in her sin, as the Second Adam identified Himself with all the race, and bore that sin away.
If we analyse what happened within the mind of Eve we shall see that she listened to one who altered the Word of God to suit his purpose, and then mangled and garbled and added to that Word herself. She did not do as Paul exhorts us to do, to" have a form of sound words." And we, today, are still not sufficiently careful WHAT we hear, we too are guilty in that we often ignore the pattern of sound words, even if we do resist the modern tendency to doubt and glory in it. Paul well knew the aim of the enemy would always be the same, for he says to the
"For I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled
Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be
corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
It is indeed true that the trouble and error which mars and spoils comes by hearing, that amazing channel; how intensely important therefore it is that we should take heed what we hear. For to the Colossians again Paul utters a similar warning, "Beware," he says, " lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
Words may sound most attractive, and be so interesting, there will always be need of careful hearing. The Adversary can appear brilliantly beautiful, and utterly plausible, and by no means wearing hoofs and horns; he changes his apparel more quickly than any snake can change its skin, and today he appears as an angel of light, his ministers preaching righteousness and claiming to be servants of God. His beautiful and enticing words were known to the Psalmist, who wrote:
"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords. Cast thy burden upon the Lord."
Let us take heed what we hear, whoever be the speaker. Let us beware of what, in any teaching, omits a part (especially a gracious part) of Gods Word, what encrusts it with tradition, what warps and twists it, changing a certainty to a contingency.
What is missing is sure to be important truth, what is added is sure to be obscure, and what is twisted is sure to produce deformity, all stemming from the original tactics of negative, positive and substitutionary error.
Our every need is met in Christ; all completeness is in Him. Therefore, says the Apostle:
"henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive us."
We should not be ignorant of the Adversarys devices, for we have had warning enough, from Eve all down through mans history. He is a master of the craft, with cunning and plausibility, and fair speech, and every device to get us away from the truth; our minds preoccupied, engrossed with the world, the flesh or the Devil himself, anything so that we might not give attention to the words of Him who said "Take heed what ye hear."
Our approval or disapproval is not the test of the truth or otherwise of what we hear; we must have knowledge of the Scriptures, so that we may check everything by Gods declarations; only then can we discern both good and evil. Have we been given spiritual ears? Do we have understanding of these things? If any man have an ear, let him hear, listen, and take heed what be hears.
We so often forget that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (far too many of Gods people still engage upon this unedifying pursuit, even among themselves) but against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked celestial spirits. Their intention is to defeat us, and we can only prevail as we use the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, and stand in His might, and resist in His strength.
More than anything we need His protection and overshadowing love. And we might do well to repeat this prayer, written long ago :--
"0 Lord, seek us -- 0 Lord, find us
In Thy patient care;
Be Thy love before, behind us,
Round us, everywhere.
Lest the god of this world blind us,
Lest he speak us fair,
Lest he forge a chain to bind us,
Lest he bait a snare.
Turn not from us, call to mind us,
Find, embrace us, bear;
Be Thy love before, behind us,
Round us, everywhere.
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