Ears to Hear

Rock art at Nampaweap, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona
Rock art at Nampaweap, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona

Jesus said six times in the gospels, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8, and Luke 14:35)  In all but one of those passages, Jesus was telling parables.  (In Matthew 11, Christ was talking about John the Baptist being the Elijah who was to come.)  Jesus repeats these words seven more times in Revelation 2-3 – once for each of the seven churches.  Except that this time, it’s a little different: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)

Reflections in String Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Reflections in String Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

We all have spiritual ears that have the potential to hear.  We can choose to hear, or we can choose not to hear.  In this context, it only makes sense that we would try to hear what God is saying.  But there are reasons we might logically stop up our ears so that we can’t hear what the Spirit is saying.

One of the waterfalls at Deckertown Falls, New York
One of the waterfalls at Deckertown Falls, New York

We might believe that if we keep our ears open, we’ll be open to “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), so we refuse to listen.  We might be so overwhelmed that we don’t have the capacity to hear.  We may also believe things that keep us from hearing what God is saying.

Cliffs near Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Cliffs near Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The same is true when we walk out into the wild places.  We have physical ears that can hear what is happening around us, physical eyes that can see the beauty.  But there may be things that keep us from hearing and seeing.  Stress, refusal to be distracted, and focus on something else robs us of the ability to appreciate, let alone enjoy, the beauty God made for us.

Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

We were made to hear (Proverbs 20:12).  The things that keep us from hearing are just distractions.  But the longer we pay attention to the distractions, the less we will be able to hear.  Our deafness may become so severe that God allows us to simply continue in it.  “But blessed are… your ears for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to… hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17).

Crested Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Crested Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

When life becomes overwhelming, stressful, and distracting, it’s vital for us to continue to hear.  Sometimes the only way through the current situation is through faith, and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  In these moments, we must allow our ears to continue to be open even when we may be afraid that we will hear the wrong thing.

Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington

If you can’t hear, press into the Holy Spirit.  He’s the Helper (John 14:26) who helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).  If we are willing to have open ears, He can help us to hear.

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