The deaf and hard of hearing account for the single largest group of disabled Americans (28 of 49 million). Twenty-eight million is more than all those with heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, blindness, tuberculosis, and kidney disease combined. Approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population suffers from hearing loss. Only 9.7 percent of people over 65 have normal hearing.
The Bible speaks often of ears and hearing. Solomon said, “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them” (Proverbs 20:12). God wanted Israel to “give ear to his commandments” (Exodus 15:26), and Israel pleaded with God to “give ear” unto their prayers (Psalm 86:6). The Jewish Shema begins, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The Bible also speaks of hearing loss. Jesus healed a deaf man (Mark 7:31–37), but He was unable to help some whose spiritual ears were “dull of hearing” (Matthew 13:15). He did not force them to hear His saving message, but He did encourage them to listen: “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:9).
What about us? How is our hearing?
The Parable of the Sower is found in the first three Gospel accounts (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). It is interesting that each rendition of the parable has the same basic story but each uses a different closing admonition about hearing. Placed together, in summary, the Parable of the Sower suggests three attitudes: “Take heed that you hear (Matthew 13:9), take heed what you hear (Mark 4:24), and take heed how you hear (Luke 8:18).”
Take heed that you hear
Why did God give man ears in the first place? Certainly He had many purposes, but the primary reason that you have ears on the side of your head is so you can hear God’s saving message before you die. Your ears will never serve a more important purpose than the day they enable your mind to grasp God’s plan of salvation.
Hearing is essential to initial salvation. One cannot be saved without faith in Jesus (John 3:16; Hebrews 11:6) and one cannot gain faith without hearing the gospel. Paul explained, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17–18). Hearing is also necessary to remain saved as a Christian (Galatians 5:4; 2 Peter 2:20–22; Revelation 2:7). Paul wrote, “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain” (Philippians 2:16).
We must take time to put ourselves in contact with God’s Word under favorable learning conditions. A jeweler displays gold necklaces on black velvet. The contrast heightens appreciation, and removes distractions from view. To gain fresh insight from God’s Word, it often helps to see it under favorable circumstances.
Experts call interfering sounds around those hard of hearing white noise. Those with good hearing do not notice the sounds of passing traffic, air conditioners, other conversations, televisions, and beeping elevators, but the hearing-impaired have difficulty separating these background noises from what they want to hear. In our private devotionals, we should remove as much of external noise (TV, children) and internal noise (stress, anticipation of the ball game) as possible. Favorable public conditions would be a sound congregation and knowledgeable teachers. It might also include finding a place in the assembly with as few distractions as possible.
Take heed what you hear
There are many voices vying for attention in this culture. There is the voice of political correctness, the voice of Hollywood, the voice of the media, the voice of Wall Street, the voice of tolerance, and the voice of academia. There are bits of truth and wisdom in each, to be sure, but the only voice that is always in perfect pitch is God’s.
God speaks today through His Son. He says, simply, “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Mark 9:7). In the past, God has spoken through a burning bush (Exodus 3:1–4), audible voice (Genesis 22; Acts 8:26–29), a prophet (2 Samuel 12), a donkey (Numbers 22:21–30), visions (Acts 10:9–16; 16:9), and dreams (Daniel 4). “God . . . spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,” but “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2).
Jesus speaks today through His Spirit. Before He went back to heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into “all truth” (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). The Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets to leave the written record of that truth for all succeeding generations (2 Peter 1:20–21). Thus, today the Spirit speaks through His written Word (Ephesians 6:17). Many confuse the inner voice of the conscience with the voice of the Spirit, but the Spirit uses only the objective written Word to guide us today and not subjective promptings (John 12:48; Jude 1:3). Paul taught that the Bible is sufficient for leading us (2 Timothy 3:16–17; cf. 2 Peter 3:1).
We will not learn what God wants us to do in any way other than simply opening up the Holy Bible and listening to what it has to say. In almost all cases, a Christian will help us in understanding and obeying the Bible (Acts 8:30–31; Mark 16:15), but it is God’s Word that saves us. If what you are hearing from your preacher, church, or religious reading material is not what you are reading in your Bible, keep searching for a preacher and church that stands completely—and only—upon the Bible.
Take heed how you hear
One who is hard of hearing—physically and spiritually—can take steps to improve his hearing:
Turn and face the speaker. The design of the ear allows it to catch additional sound vibrations from the front, but hinders catching those from behind. Paul wrote of some who would turn away their ears from the truth (2 Timothy 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 30:17), but delighted in those who obeyed the truth (2 Corinthians 7:14–16).
Focus single attention. One should put down the newspaper or mute the television and focus on a speaker’s facial expressions, what he looks at, and/or the gestures she makes. We must look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Reduce distance. Proximity of hearer to speaker is key. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).
Responsibility shifts from preacher to listener during a sermon. Once we hear it, we become responsible for doing it. James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
A Japanese legend tells of a man touring heaven. He came upon a room with boxes full of what looked like mushrooms. Upon closer examination, he found that they were human ears! He asked an angel why heaven had boxes and boxes of ears. The angel replied, “They listened but did not do, so only their ears were saved.”
“He that hath ears, let him hear.”