Words can build up and pull down. God’s prophets did both when they spoke God’s words (Jer. 1:9-10). Words chosen wisely and spoken properly benefit the “obedient ear” (v. 12). A word fitly spoken is like the adornment of beautiful jewelry. The Lord expects us to give attention to our words (how, when, why, and what we say). He also expects us to give attention to how and why we listen to fitly spoken words (with an obedient ear). The words we utter should be suitable to the moment. They will “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (as the need may be) to warn, convict, save, and strengthen souls (2 Tim. 4:2). A message fitly spoken is not rash but is thoughtful words seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6). Such words are “good for necessary edification” (Eph. 4:29). These words are not bitter, malicious, angry, self-justifying harangues (Eph. 4:31). Fitly spoken words proceed from kind hearts of love (Eph. 4:32). Obedient ears give attention to messages fitly spoken. The obedient ear is committed to personal improvement and spiritual growth. Therefore, it listens to the fitly spoken word and follows God’s truth it promotes. Let us choose our words carefully. They will do great good or great harm. Let us listen carefully to fitly spoken words and obey the truth they advance.
1 And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.” (Mark 4:1–3, NKJV)
People crowded around Jesus to hear Him teach. Indeed, teaching was an integral part of His work (Lk. 4:18-19; Matt. 4:23). Truly, He was the Master Teacher (Lk. 6:40). But people must listen to the teacher if learning is to occur. As Jesus taught the crowds onshore from a boat, He said, “Listen!” This word is in the imperative mood, conveying “a command for someone to perform the action of the verb” (Ancient Greek for Everyone). Jesus commanded them to listen! They needed to pay attention and not miss what He was teaching them. Even so, He commands us to listen to Him. We must do more than casually listen to the teachings of Jesus. We must be cautious not to inject into His teachings what we prefer to hear Him say. Unless we pay close attention to His words, we will not understand them (Jno. 8:43). The wise person hears the words of Jesus and does them (Matt. 7:24-25). Jesus teaches us the truth that frees us from sin, so obey His command to “listen” to Him (Jno. 8:31-32).
18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 24:18–19, NKJV)
At first, Joash, the king of Judah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:2). Yet later, he listened to the leaders of Judah and fell away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Listening to the counsel of men rather than the prophets of God, Joash and Judah turned back to idol worship. Led by the king, they even killed the prophet, Zechariah, in the court of the temple, because he rebuked their sins (2 Chron. 24:20-21; Jesus referred to this in Matt. 23:34-36). Indeed, the prophets of God were “an example of suffering and patience” (Jas. 5:10). Now, God speaks to us “by His Son” through His apostles and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). The choice between listening to the will of men or to the word of God remains. Shall we join with those who cried, “Crucify Him!” and reject His word, or shall we stand with “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” who spoke Christ’s truth (2 Pet. 3:2)? Will you listen to the Lord or men? That depends on whether you want to fulfill the will of God or the devil (Jno. 8:43-44).
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:10–11, NKJV)
When moral and religious disagreements arise we may demand that others hear and understand us. No doubt, good communication skills (like careful listening) are essential to resolving tensions. Yet, there is something even more crucial and fundamental to harmonious resolution. We must listen to Jesus, understand His word, and follow Him. How do I do this? First, I must believe that God speaks to me through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2 says God does). Many Scriptures confirm Jesus speaks to me and you through the inspired words of His apostles and prophets (Jno. 16:8-15; 1 Cor. 2:6-13; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). I must listen to their writings, or I are not listening to Jesus (Jno. 13:20). Secondly, I must commit myself to the principle that God’s word is true (Jno. 17:17; Rom. 3:4). I must yield my will to His on “all things that pertain to life and godliness” to partake of His promises and nature (2 Pet. 1:3-4). Thirdly, I must agree that I can understand the Scriptures. As Jesus exhorted the multitude to comprehend His words, so also we are commanded to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Fourthly, I must follow the word of Jesus (Lk. 6:46). Instead of demanding others focus on understanding me when tensions arise, I should focus on hearing, understanding, and following Jesus.
26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” (John 9:26–27, NKJV)
Some people do not want to believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Put another way, some people do not want to believe the truth even when it is staring them in the face. The blind man whom Jesus healed had already told the Pharisees and Jewish leaders what happened and how he could now see (John 9:8-17). His parents agreed their son, who was born blind, could now see. But, instead of accepting the evidence of a great miracle and believing in Jesus as the Son of God, the Pharisees and Jewish leaders resisted and argued. They were not listening, nor did they care to listen. Their minds were made up. The evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is abundant (John 20:30-31). May it never be that we reach a point where we prefer to defend ourselves and our opinions (which is what they were doing, John 9:14-16) instead of humbly yielding to Jesus Christ and His truth (John 8:31-32). If we do, we have joined hands with the enemies of Jesus, and will die in our sins (John 9:39-41; 8:23-24).
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:7, NKJV)
What the Spirit of God said to the church of Ephesus (by the Lord’s messenger or “angel,” Revelation 2:1) was said to all the churches of Christ. Christians are urged to lend an ear and give careful attention to the divine message. Notice how the Spirit of God communicates with Christians. It is not through your emotions, feelings, and life events. The Bible says God speaks to us all in the same way, through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). The apostolic Scriptures are the mind of God, revealed for us to know (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Also, please see in today’s verse that it is the person “who overcomes” who is given access to the tree of life. Those who prevail will be saved. But, not everyone will eat from the tree of life (Revelation 22:1-5). Some Christians will not listen to Jesus. And so, they will not “fight the good fight of faith” nor “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12). Refuse to be that kind of Christian. Open yourself to the word of God and faithfully follow Jesus by following “what the Spirit says to the churches.”
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 7:14–16, NKJV)
Jesus expects us to listen to Him and to understand His teaching. Just as we listened to our math teacher to understand that 2+2=4, we must listen to the teachings of Christ to learn (properly understand) the truth of God. Divine truth is not an ever-moving target that can only be understood according to each person’s own situation and environment. This relativistic view of divine truth is common, but it not what Jesus taught about the nature of divine truth. Jesus defined His word as truth and said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:31-32). God’s word is truth, not what we feel is truth or what our experiences say is truth (read John 17:17). We do well to conform our view of truth to Christ’s view of truth, and then listen carefully to what His truth says. That is at least part of what it means to have “ears to hear.” By doing so you are equipping yourself to listen to and understand His word (John 8:43).
43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:43–44, NKJV)
Jesus challenged His audience to examine why they argued with Him and opposed His teachings. Why did they refuse to know and abide in the truth (John 8:31-32)? Why couldn’t they understand what He was saying? It was not because His word was unknowable. It was because they were not listening to Him with willing hearts. They were not committed to knowing and following His word (v. 43). Why were their hearts so closed that they would not believe and follow Jesus? Because they desired the sins of the devil instead of the truth of God (v. 44). The devil is a liar who convinces people not to believe the word of God, the Bible. He lies about Jesus, the Son of God. He lies about His gospel, God’s power to save. He lies about Christians when they follow the truth of Christ. At some point, all who reject the word of Jesus must face what is apparent: They are children of the devil and not children of God. That is the hard truth of the matter. What we desire will be reflected in our attitude and actions toward Jesus and His word. Do you want His truth? If so, then believe and follow it. (Reprint with edits of Sword Tips #604)
21 Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ 22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air… (Acts 22:21–23, NKJV)
Paul had told the crowd how Jesus appeared to him, commissioned him to be His apostle, and saved him from his sins (Acts 22:1-16). He told them how Jesus appeared to him again, warning him to flee Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-20). The people of Jerusalem continued listening to Paul until he said the word, “Gentiles” (v. 21). Their hearts were so filled with hatred and contempt that they would not even consider the thought that Gentiles could be in the kingdom of God. Their hearts were closed to the gospel, being hardened by prejudice. They were ready to kill Paul rather than hear the truth he preached. Have you already made up your mind about some Bible teaching without considering what the Scriptures actually have to say? You cannot learn and follow the truth unless your heart is open and receptive to examining the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Be willing to listen and to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:18)
It is not enough simply to listen to what Christ says in the Scriptures, we must hear with understanding to do His will. To achieve this, be careful how you listen to the word of Christ. Be cautious not to listen with your mind already made up about what is right and what is wrong. Such a closed mind will not help you find the truth and accept it. Truth is snatched from the closed mind even as it thinks it knows the truth (the wayside soil, Matt. 13:19). Instead, be like the Bereans and have a ready, willing mind to receive the word of Christ, examine the Scriptures to know the truth, then believe it and do it (Acts 17:11-12). With such a “noble and good heart” you will bear fruit for Christ and increase in His blessings (Lk. 8:8, 15).