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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 47 - Hebrews 5:2 - Dullness of Hearing Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Dullness Of Hearing.


"Seeing ye are dull of hearing."-Hebrews 5:2.



     Much is said in Scripture about 'hearing' and about the 'ear.' The latter word occurs above 300 times, and the former above 1000 times; whereas the words 'eye' and 'seeing' are not found above half this number of times. The ear is the great inlet for truth into the soul. To shut the ear is to shut out wisdom, to exclude the voice of God. In early ages this was peculiarly the case, when all teaching was oral.

     In regard to hearing, we find a great contrast between God and man. God has such an open ear for man; man has such a deaf ear for God. God is ever listening to man,-to his faintest sigh or breathing; man refuses to hear God's loudest, sweetest, and most earnest voice. He is the deaf adder, that shutteth her ear against the charmer.

     God's desire is that we should hear Him. He has given us the ear, and He expects us to hear. He wishes us to be listeners. 'Hearken unto me,' is His entreaty. He mourns when we refuse to listen, knowing not only the guilt of such a refusal, but the blessedness from which we are shutting ourselves out. 'Let every man be swift to hear.' 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.'  The 'hearing ear' is what God looks for.

     We must hear, (1) aright; and (2) we must hear the right things. We too often are deaf to the right, while we listen to the wrong; and we listen to the right in a wrong way. There is a right listening and there is a wrong listening; there is a listening to the right thing, and there is a listening to the wrong thing. As the consequences of hearing are very momentous for good or for evil, we must be careful. 'My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto Him' (Hosea 9:17).

     Let us look now at the whole passage, and see for what purpose the apostle thus speaks.

     He had named Melchisedec, the royal priest of Salem, as type of the Son of God, the greater than angels, or Moses, or Aaron; but he stops short, as if unable to proceed farther. Many and great things (for the word means both) had he to say of this Melchisedec in connection with Christ; but there is a hindrance to his saying them. They were lofty truths, requiring many words of explanation to make them intelligible, and these Hebrews were not 'able to bear it.'  They had become (for this is the force of the word) dull of hearing; their minds had lost their acuteness and sensitiveness; they were not in a state to comprehend him. They once were more acute in their hearing; but they had lost their acuteness, and were becoming like what Isaiah had predicted of their unbelieving brethren (Isaiah 6:9). By this time they might have been teachers; but they had so gone back, that they required to be re-taught the first principles of the divine oracles; to go back to a second childhood, and to be fed once more on children's food. They had not gone so far back as the Galatians, requiring a second birth (Galatians 4:19); but they had at least stopped growing into manhood, or rather had become so weakly, as to be children once more, and to need milk, not strong meat, for their diet. He could not, therefore, present them with the strong meat about the Melchisedec priesthood and kingship; it was too much for them. They could not digest it nor be nourished by it.

     There are two things which our text suggests to us, as the personal and practical bearing of the subject.

     I.  The necessity for progress.-For that word progress suits the Church no less than the world. We are made to grow: we are not iron, nor stone, nor ice, but life; and life makes progress; life does not stand still; when life begins to stagnate, death is at hand. We are by our new nature made for progress; the new creation is ever advancing and rising. We are called to progress; motion onward and upward. God expects us to advance. The path before us is illimitable, and along it we must be ever moving. The evils of standing still are great; our only safety lies in making progress. The truth presented to us by God is meant to produce this: it contains unbounded stores, out of which growth in every sense springs. There is, then, a necessity for progress; the necessity of our new nature, the necessity of our calling, the necessity of the provision made for us in the word. Advance! Forward! This is our watchword. No sloth, no stagnation, no love of ease and rest. Progress, in the highest sense of the word, is our motto. Progress in knowledge, progress in holiness, progress in zeal and love. We have a line of progress, which, if followed out, will more than keep us abreast of the age; and we have a living spring of progress, which impels us onward. The indwelling Spirit is the Spirit of progress; the example of past ages is the example of progress. Necessity is laid on us, yea, woe is unto us if we do not advance.

     II.  The apostolic theory of progress.-Contempt or rejection of the old is not progress, nor love of the new. The mere addition of what is new is not progress. Progress in Scripture is a very definite thing, and the root or spring of which may be summed up in two inspired expressions: 'Increase in the knowledge of God' (Colossians 1:10); 'Growth in the knowledge of Christ' (2 Peter 3:18). By means of these we move onward to perfection. It is Christ, then, especially, whom the apostle presents to us as the fountainhead of all progress. Every new discovery of Him is progress; every fresh participation of His fullness is progress; the knowledge of His Melchisedec glory is progress. It is in studying Christ that we make progress.

     We get this knowledge of Christ by listening to God,-to the Father's voice and testimony concerning His Son Jesus. In regard to this we are to beware of being 'dull of hearing.' Listen, then, to God! Listen to His revelation! Listen to His Spirit! Listen to His apostle!  Listening promotes faith; for faith cometh by hearing. Listening enlightens the understanding; listening quickens the soul: 'Hear, and your soul shall live.' Listening comforts; for the words are the words of the everlasting consolation. Listening heals; for the words are the words of health. Thus, in listening to God, all that produces growth is poured into us. In our day it is especially needful that we should thus listen, seeing there are so many things distracting us, and a thousand earthly voices saying, Listen to me. Science, philosophy, pleasure, literature, all say, Listen to me. But it is the voice which speaks from above, which alone has authority; the voice of that God that made us, says, Listen to me; and again, 'This is my beloved Son, hear him.'