Three Ears – Acts 7:54-58

 

This is not the first time that I have preached on the subject of the human ear. I’ve done that in two sermons before, but the last time was many years ago. I thought about starting with an object lessons for tonight, but I think that we’re familiar enough with ears that it won’t be unnecessary. I was thinking about bringing an ear of sweet corn, an ear of Indian corn, and perhaps some feed corn. There are a great variety of ears in this world.

The human ear is one of the most faithful and least appreciated parts of our bodies. Most of us don’t give our ears the least little thought until we get water in them. The exceptions, of course, are those who are losing their hearing for one reason or another, and then when we get either an infection or a tickle in them. So there they are, and speaking for myself, I actually look directly at them at least once a year. Of course I don’t wear earrings, and I don’t have to see if my ears match my tie or shoes. To further make my point, I have a little book in my library called “God’s Masterpiece, Man’s Body.” It has forty-four chapters on forty-four parts of the body, but there isn’t one chapter on the ear. And that is a shame because, it really is another of the great marvels of God’s creation.

Whether or not man gives a lot of thought to ears, the Lord certainly does. Would you be surprised to learn that the words “ear” and “ears” are found over 250 times in the Bible. Now I have to admit that some of them are referring to ears of corn. But there somewhere around 220 references to human ears. And then there are hundreds of other verses which speak about hearing and listening – “giving ear.” The occasions are so common that they are found in every book of the Bible except I Thessalonians. The Bible says that often it is through the ear that the Word of God finds entrance into the heart. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” It says that it was the perfect plan of God to spread the gospel through speaking and hearing. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Isn’t one of the most pleasant of all things, time spent in conversation with good friends? And then what about the beauties of good music or the sounds of nature? Ears are used in a thousand and one different ways.

So the ear is a blessing of God, but it has also been a recipient of the curse. Thinking back and thanking God, my life has not had many periods of severe pain. When my appendix went bad, I went for several days before going to the doctor, because I had Sunday services to preach. I knew what was going on and mentioned it to several people, but it wasn’t a pain that I couldn’t handle. And when my leg was crushed by a car, I went into shock and didn’t feel anything for some time. But one of my worst periods of pain was an ear problem that required surgery. While saying that it is not ear infections, deafness or mastoid problems that are the worst part of the curse. Far worse are the sinful things that we either allow ourselves to hear or which are forced upon us: Heresies, temptations, lies, slander, blasphemy and gossip. Ungodly music, poetry and the vocabulary of the wicked around us. The sins of the ears are worse than the pains of the ears. Wasn’t it Hamlet’s father who was poisoned through his ear? In a sense that is true of all of us to some degree.

I’ve said all that as an introduction to a brief study of three different kinds of ears.

One kind of problem-ears are the STOPPED UP EARS.

Please turn to Zechariah 7:8-14 – “And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts: But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.” The scripture from Acts 7 with which we began this evening is an illustration of what the Lord was condemning there in Zechariah.

Here is a question for leisurely discussion: ‘What sins most clearly characterize our society?” There might be a bunch of really good answers, like “the love of money” – after all it is the root of all evil. Someone else might say something about the love of pleasure, or immorality, or deceit. But how does I Corinthians 2:14 fit into our discussion of that question? “The natural man RECEIVETH not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” How is it that people do receive the things of God? Isn’t it through hearing? During my years in the pulpit, I have seen hundreds of people on hundreds of occasions doing all that they could to find a diversion for their thoughts during the message, “lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted.” Isn’t one of the very worst of all sins, a deafness towards the Word of the Lord? I place it close to the top because an ignorance of God and His will is the foundation of all the other sins. Stephen was preaching history to the judges at his trial, and they could tolerate that, but finally he started using the Word of God to pick at the scabs of their sins. “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and STOPPED their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.”

Refusing to listen to the Word of the Lord is demonic, dangerous and damning. The Lord said to Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

Jeremiah 6 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets. To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.”

Paul exhorted Timothy – “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” The person who turns his ears from the truth of God’s Word is susceptible to fables.

Romans 1:20-22 describes people who reject the voice of the Lord in creation. Every square foot of this globe testifies to the existence of God – and to His character and power. Evolution is an attempt of man to stop his ears to the testimony of God in nature. Men even stop their ears to the message of Jehovah through providence and history. Did you know that nearly every civilization used to believe that humanity started with one man. And they almost all have a tradition of a world-wide flood. The Grand Canyon is archeological proof of the destruction of the world, but we stop our ears. Mount St. Helens is more proof of the veracity of the Bible, but not when men get it sufficiently twisted. How did 2 to 3 million people survive 40 years in the Sinai wilderness? Of these things and a multitude of others the world is willingly ignorant – or perhaps I should say – “deaf.”

But why? Why do we stop our ears to the truth – especially the truth of God? First of all, because it is natural to do so – no one really enjoys hearing things that they don’t want to hear. “There is none that seeketh after God” or after the truth of God. Why have so many cults done away with the doctrine of Hell? Wishful thinking? Why do some people suffer from various forms of amnesia? Psychological principles are often involved. It is natural to stop our ears to the truth – and yet it is unnatural as well. Paul said, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” It actually takes the miracle of God’s grace to open deaf ears. The problem is that once the Lord opens them and Christians begin to hear, they still have a tendency to close them when a subject comes along that doesn’t please them.

But it doesn’t matter if we are children of God or children of Hell, stopped ears bring the chastisement of God.

Another kind of ear is the TICKLISH variety.

Have you ever gotten an itch deep down in your ear, tormenting you almost to the point of temporary insanity? The same thing can happen spiritually. Someone a few years ago coined the phrase “audio addiction.” It is something very real. There are millions of people who cannot stay in a sound vacuum very long. They have to have some sort of noise in the room with them. For many it is one type of music or another. Some need the sound of a parakeet to break the silence. For others it is the chatter of talk, or talk radio. Many people are somewhat proud that they are not addicted to drugs, or aspirin, or coffee, or pornography. But they are addicted to noise or rock music, or country music, or even classical music.

Do you remember in Greek mythology the adventures of Odysseus, trying to get home after the battle at Troy. What situations that guy got himself into. One of them involved the Sirens, the sweet singing sea nymphs who lured mariners to their deaths on the rocks just off their island, using nothing but the pleasant sound of their voices. Our radios, air waves, iPods, TVs and other modes of media are filled with modern sirens. The Bible tells us to flee those youthful lusts and touch not the unclean thing.

II Timothy 4:1-4 is a good text to burn into the lintel over the doorway of every Baptist church. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

Why are some churches more popular than others? Isn’t it because they give to people only what they are hungry for? Maybe it is entertainment, plays, parties and outings. Maybe is it rock music, rap music or other kinds of music with far too much of the world in it. Maybe it is preaching that makes sinners feel comfortable. Our society can hire any kind of preacher that it wants – and it usually does. But as we look back on the society of Israel, we see that usually the popular prophets were not the prophets that they needed.

The Bible tells you what to do when the false teacher comes to you door and tries to tickle your ear. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” Withdraw thyself; turn away; do not keep company with such people. In other words – don’t listen to them.

Beware when your ear begins to get hungry for a bit of tickling.

Biblically speaking, the best kind of ear is the PIERCED EAR.

I realize that I’m much alone in this, but I don’t understand why little girls want to have their ears stabbed. Even more confusing to me are that moms are hungry to see the ears of their little one’s pierced. It seems that at an early age, little girls want to have objects dangling from their earlobes, but why? Some of it isn’t much different from the lip-piercing and neck stretching of some of the African tribes. Maybe it’s because I’m a male that I don’t understand these things. But on the other hand, more and more men are wearing feminine jewelry, including earrings.

Despite my own peculiarities, I would be happy to see a new, slightly different, fashion trend, involving the ear. I think that, if it was genuine, we all should have a great big hole cut into one ear lobe. Not both ears, but just one. Not just a little hole, but one big enough to drive a truck through it. And then I’m not sure that we should wear anything in that hole.

Turn to Deuteronomy 15:12-17 “And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.”

What a story this paints. There is a wise and kind master, talking with a slave whom he has chosen to free. That man might have first become a servant to this master, because he had first been a slave to debt. Now the debt has been paid, and he has the opportunity to become a free man once again. But instead of taking that opportunity and to risk becoming enslaved to someone else he chooses to remain an indentured servant to this saintly man of God.

As you read through the Scriptures you will find Christian after Christian, who calls himself “God’s servant.” The Bible says that Christians are not God’s slaves, but sons and daughters. And yet, the happiest child is the one who makes himself a servant to the Lord.

The word “slave” cannot be found in the New Testament. Revelation 18 mentions the word in the plural, but it is used in it’s worst possible form – trafficking in human bodies and souls. Even though the word “slave” is not to be found in our New Testament, the Greek word “doulos” (doo’-los) is quite common. That word is translated “servant” and “bondman.” But Strong’s definitions are these: “A slave, bondman, or a man of servile condition. Metaphorically, one who gives himself up to another’s will. Someone devoted to another – to the disregard of one’s own interests. A servant or attendant.” As I read Strong’s definition of the New Testament servant, I picture the Old Testament slave; The one who has learned to love his kind and generous master, and who makes the deliberate and willing choice to become his full-time and life-time servant. I can picture Paul or Stephen, Philip or John asking Christ Jesus to take him to the door of the upper room, and asking him to drive an awl through his earlobe into the door-jam. I picture these servants of God enduring that pain in order to become bond-slaves to the Lord for ever.

In a sense, this is the best kind of ear there could possibly be. It speaks about an ear that listens for, and hears, the voice of its Master. And it is an ear which clearly shows the Lord’s ownership.

Among others, the Bible describes the stopped ear, the ticklish ear and the pierced ear. Do you have any of these three? Which?