“And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Eze. 33:31).
The Lord was letting Ezekiel know how the hearing of his words by the people was truly being perceived. Outwardly, it appeared that genuine hearing was taking place, but inwardly, the words were falling on materialistic hearts. Jesus would address such hearers in Luke 8:14. How anyone hears the word of God has everything to do with bearing of great fruit or lack thereof. Consider three ways how listening to the word of God can take place.
- To Gainsay the Message. People who are steadfast in unbelief of the truth can listen to preaching and teaching but with an ear to find fault. This is how the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees often heard Jesus. All four gospel accounts reveal such kind of hearing (cf. Matt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35; Mark 10:2; 12:15; Luke 11:16; 20:23; John 8:6). The apostles also faced a similar type of hearer (cf. Acts 13:8, 45; 22:21-22). As long as the words harmonize with what one already believes to be true, hearing tends to be supportive. However, if truth is given that shows the person must make the necessary changes to be right with God, it is not uncommon for a preacher or teacher to hear, “Well, you have quit preaching and gone to meddling.” It is possible for people to visit an assembly and sit to be critical of everything said and done to seek to justify themselves in their own beliefs and practices. Such is tragic for such hearer who will give account (cf. Rom. 14:12).
- To “Get Through It”. Paul wrote to Timothy, “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” (2 Tim. 4:2-3). Is it possible that some today are simply enduring the preaching and teaching? The Old Testament prophet Amos repeated the words of certain people in his day, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?” (Amos 8:5). The law and the prophets were publicly read every sabbath day (cf. Acts 13:27; 15:21). However, “going through the motion” was often the practice of hearing it, for “their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). Amos was told to tell the people who cared little if anything for the word of God, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Such is equally as tragic as the gainsaying hearer.
- To Gladly Apply. Luke wrote of those devout Jews who heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). This is one of many such examples in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 4:4; 8:6; 18:8). The Lord is looking for the diligent, cheerful hearer. While some would not hear this way, such did not stop those who would. Thanks be to God for such.