The human ear is an extraordinary organ wonderfully designed by our Creator. Together, the ears are stereo receivers responsible for collecting sounds, processing them, and sending signals to the brain in a form that it understands. The ear also plays a critical part in the balance and positioning of the body, as it is the organ of equilibrium.
The ear consists of three different parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The middle ear includes the eardrum, a thin piece of skin stretched tight like a drum. The eardrum separates the outer ear from the middle ear and three of the tiniest bones in the body, referred to as the ossicles. These bones—the hammer, anvil, and stirrup—respond to vibrations in the air and vibrate themselves in response to sound, translating these vibrations to the inner ear.
The chambers of the inner ear are filled with fluid that is jostled into motion by the vibrations coming from the ossicles. Within the inner ear is a bony structure coiled like a snail shell, about the size of a pea, called the cochlea. Within the internal spiral of the cochlea are thousands of specialized nerve endings in the form of tiny hairs that are the true sound receptors. There are some 20,000 of these tiny hairs, and they are super-sensitive to the slightest movement of the fluid in the inner ear, interpreting many different variations of sound. These nerve endings merge at the core of the cochlea and exit the inner ear in a nerve bundle known as the auditory nerve, which leads directly to the brain.
What an amazing instrument that God fashioned so His beloved could hear the sounds of His creation and receive the healing and power in His words!
So is what we hear vital to the health of our hearts? Absolutely! The Bible clearly states the significance and impact on the heart of what we are hearing with our ears. Jesus cried out several times in his teaching, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, nkjv). The Son of God knew the importance of tuning our ears to the voice of the Father that we might increase our knowledge, wisdom, love, and understanding of His Word.
God does not want us to be so careless with our eyes and ears that we become like the children of Israel whom Isaiah rebuked for not seeing and hearing the things of God:
Pay attention! Are you deaf? Open your eyes! Are you blind? You’re my servant and you’re not looking! You’re my messenger and you’re not listening! The very people I depended upon, servants of God, blind as a bat—willfully blind! You’ve seen a lot, but looked at nothing. You’ve heard everything, but listened to nothing. (Isaiah 42:18-20, msg)
God expects us to use our eyes and our ears to glorify Him and strengthen our spiritual health. Jesus exhorted His followers to “consider carefully what you hear” (Mark 4:24). If we are to truly be His disciples, we must carefully guard our ears, being discerning in what we are hearing and the voices we are listening to. Our hearts will never be radically devoted to Him if we are careless with our ears.
Faith Comes by Hearing
Hearing is fundamental to two of the most essential keys to Christian living: faith and obedience. Without hearing there is no faith, and we lose a crucial part of the armor of God, the shield of faith, which protects the heart from the fiery darts of the wicked one. If we do not hear God, we cannot please Him in our character and actions. Indeed, hearing is the prerequisite to faith:
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14, nkjv)
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17, nkjv)
The first step in faith is hearing what God has to say. Therefore we must tune our hearts to hear His voice and His words. And it’s important we get good reception, for our hearing determines the quality, depth, and amount of our faith. Faith does not come from our thoughts or intellect, but faith comes from the heart, for “with the heart, one believes” (Romans 10:10). Without faith, the heart becomes dead to God and His marvelous ways.
Faith always dwells and blossoms in the heart, but it is born and originates in the ear. Faith grasps and holds onto the wonderful promises of God, but His words must first be heard and enter the heart through the gateway of the ear. As we hear the words of God and listen and reflect on their wondrous message, a fire of faith begins to kindle and burn in our hearts.
Faith is fueled by the deepest longing of the heart, which is to hear a word from God that is personal, intimate, and cherished, bringing us into deeper relationship with Him. His precious words build trust, faith, and confidence in the faithfulness and everlasting love of our heavenly Father. The prophet Isaiah said, “For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me” (Isaiah 8:11, esv). When God speaks and we listen to His voice, it is as though He firmly grasps our hand or shoulder and says, “Trust in me. Lean on me. Believe in me. Rest in me. I am who I said I am, and I will do what I said I will do. My words will never fail you.” This is faith, and it always begins with hearing the voice of the Lord. The words of Scripture should both gently whisper to us and boldly sound the true heartbeat of the Almighty in our ears daily, rejuvenating and building our faith as a mighty stronghold in the heart.
In Romans 10:17, the Greek word for “word” is rhema, and it means a spoken word uttered by a living voice with a definite meaning. God is alive, and when He speaks, His words bring life, power, intimacy, and healing. When His words are written on our hearts, faith begins to breathe and send forth a pleasing aroma to God. But it all begins with hearing. Men and women were designed to live, thrive, and flourish by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
Also in Romans 10:17, the Greek word translated “comes by” is ek, and it means “out of” or “out from” and denotes the origin or source of something. Our faith begins to breathe and comes alive from hearing the voice of God. Without hearing His words, there is no faith. Faith never magically appears out of nothing. It’s always rooted in the words of the voice we are listening to.
Few of us ever pay attention to what our ears are tuned to. We are so used to the noise of the world—TV, the Internet, talk radio, pop music, billboards—that we allow it to muddle and drown out the voice of God. As Christians, we must never be careless or indifferent to what we are listening to, because it has an enormous impact on our hearts. We must never forget this critical truth: Hearing is also the source of much of the unbelief, fear, anxiety, doubt, and turmoil that grips the hearts of so many throughout the world. The clamor of the world is extremely loud, almost deafening, and can quickly contaminate the sea of the heart with all kinds of spiritual flotsam and jetsam that can shipwreck our faith. We must make our ears receptive to the words of God if we are to courageously and boldly stand for the truth.
Hear and Obey
A heart’s obedience to God is the one thing the devil fears most. An obedient heart is unstoppable in the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth. When we begin to obey God, the devil knows he’s in trouble because his schemes and strategies melt by the wayside in the fire of holy obedience.
The obedient heart is one that is in optimum health and strength, beating to the rhythm of God’s commandments and protected by a wall of immunity through its devotion to God’s words. Romans 6:17 tells us that obedience comes from the heart. But for the heart to choose obedience, we must tenaciously guard our ears and be wary as to what we listen to.
The words we choose to listen to and reflect upon inform our beliefs, our faith, and the morals we live by. We tend to live our lives according to the words we believe. At the core of all philosophies, religions, ideas, and systems of thought are words that have been heard and taught. People decide which voice they pledge their allegiance, passion, and devotion to. Thus hearing will determine whose altar you build in the throne room of your heart and which god you worship. And it’s this god or idol or beloved object of worship that you will be conditioned to obey through the words you listen to.
Don’t you think the devil understands this? He knows he steal a heart and turn it away from God by bombarding the ear with a subtle and sly use of words designed to cast doubt, indifference, and even contempt toward the character of God and the integrity of His Word. Satan accuses, assaults, and destroys hearts through the use of bitter and condemning words that pour into the heart through the ear. His voice has caused kingdoms to crumble, relationships to shatter, churches to fall, and idols to rise. The devil slyly and deceitfully uses words to enslave men and women by controlling what they hear. His name in the Greek, diabolos, even means “slanderer” and “false accuser.”
As Christians, we are not to be ignorant of the enemy’s devices. We must understand that hearing is an essential ingredient for obedience and keeping vigilant watch over our ears in order to stand against the deception and lies of the devil. Without a disciplined focus on God’s voice, the heart will forever wander aimlessly in a sea of noise without true direction or purpose. The heart will become sick with the diseases of this world and will become broken and polluted if we are reckless in what we listen to.
Once all the layers are peeled away, you are either obeying God or obeying the devil, based upon what you attentively listen to and hear. You must “choose this day,” as Joshua proclaimed, whom you are going to serve! Will it be the Lord God Almighty or the god of this age, the false angel of light, the great enchanter, the prince of fascination, the father of all lies? We all serve something. We all obey something. We all are devoutly following something we have heard. We all have a voice that is directing our lives and controlling our hearts. Whose voice are you listening to? To whom have you committed your loyalty and trust? Whose voice have you chosen to obey? Do you begin to see how important the gateway of the ear is to the condition of your heart?
An examination of the Hebrew and Greek words for “obedience” reveal that “hearing” is foundation stone of obedience. The Hebrew word for “obey” in the Old Testament is shama and means “to hear intelligently, to listen and give heed.” The Greek word translated “obey” or “obedience” in the New Testament is hupakoe, which literally means to “hear under.” This conveys a picture of listening and submitting to, or obeying, what is heard. Obedience is the result of attentive hearing and conscious listening. Jesus Christ summed up this definition when he said “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).
In secular Greek, this word spoke of one who, having heard a knock on the door, stands by the door and listens intently to find out who it is and what they have to say. What an amazing picture of obedience! Both God and the devil are continuously standing at the door of our hearts, knocking and calling out our names. Whose voice will you open the door to?
Incline Your Ears
God’s great plea to men and women throughout history is this: “Listen to me! Hear me! I will give you life if you only will hear my voice and obey my words!” Listen to the plea of God calling for you to turn your ear toward Him:
Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. (Psalm 78:1, nasb)
Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. (Isaiah 55:3, msg)
The Hebrew word rendered here as “incline” is natar, which we studied earlier. Remember, it means to stretch out or extend toward someone or something; to bend or to turn. This word implies an energy and intensity where you are stretching out with everything you have. It’s like a runner straining and stretching to cross the finish line ahead of his competitors. God wants us to have this same intensity and zeal when it comes to stretching our ear out to hear what He has to say. God wants us to run to Him, extending our ears toward Him to receive His instruction, guidance, and loving words. So often we don’t experience God’s love in our daily lives because we have stretched our ear to hear another voice, and so we do not hear what the Lord is saying. Still, God is wonderfully merciful and full of grace so that even when we’ve turned our backs on Him, He is still gently calling us back into His presence, to His heavenly embrace.
If you stray from the path, whether to the right or left, you will hear a voice from behind you sounding in your ears saying, “This is the way, follow it.” (Isaiah 30:21, REV)
Should your heart stray into enemy territory and you begin to wander off of God’s righteous path for your life, God is always speaking and imploring you to come back, even when you’ve turned your back on Him. God is still calling from behind, chasing after you with relentless determination, pleading for you to turn back. He is always knocking at the door of your heart, never giving up, tenderly whispering in your ear of His great love and affection for you, urging you to get back on the path where your God-given destiny lies.
God is always speaking. His voice is always near, no matter where we may wander:
For this commandment I give you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. (Deuteronomy 30:10–14, nkjv)
Even if we venture to the most remote place on earth, God’s voice can still be heard. And when we return to His way, He will break our captivity and set us free from all bondage, burdens, and oppression. His voice is always very near, closer than our breath, speaking to us day and night with gentle whispers, tender calls, firm warnings, loving encouragement, and wise admonishment. His voice commands our attention, our respect, and our obedience.
A.W. Tozer writes in The Pursuit of God:
God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice. …God spoke a Book (Bible) and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years. Our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear. . . . This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. …[But] God says, “Be still and know that I am God,” and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence. The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. …The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.[i]
The voice of the Lord is just as powerful today as it was any time in history. God did not suddenly go silent and quit speaking after the apostles were martyred. Our God is not a silent God. He is the most renowned public speaker in all the heavens and earth! God is called “the Word” in John 1:1. God, by His very nature, is the Great Communicator. He is the very essence of the Word, where He speaks about the glory of His love, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness. The Bible is the voice of God in written words and it speaks the message of the living God to every generation. The Bible is the God-breathed living, powerful Word of God and it is the primary way that God speaks to our hearts daily.
God also speaks to us directly by revelation and through the words of His messengers, prophets, ministers, and brothers and sisters in Christ. He is never limited as to how He speaks, where He speaks, and through whom He speaks. But we must realize and understand the enormous amount of speaking that God does through His written Word. Every word spoken in the Bible has been specially chosen by God and measured by His mighty hand. Every word pulsates with spiritual life and is a thousand times more pure than any substance on earth. His words are the pinnacle of love and the utmost expression of truth. The Word of God is the perfect representation of His voice.
The surest way to hear the voice of God is to sit down in a quiet place with your Bible and let it speak to your heart. Read and meditate upon the words He has spoken in the pages of Scripture. Hear what He is saying. Ask God to give you understanding and insight into His heart, His will, and His purposes, which fill His written Word. Ask Him to give you ears to hear what He is saying—and the courage and heart to obey it. Ask Him to speak to your circumstances, problems, challenges, growth, purpose, and destiny.
Now listen! You can hear His voice! God is speaking to you personally! His Word is like a love letter revealing His passion for you. When you begin to listen for His voice, as you immerse yourself in page after page of His holy Word, He will begin to work a true spiritual transformation of your heart and life. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Indeed He will draw you to Him so close that you can feel the warmth and beauty of His presence as you’re soothed by the tenderness in His voice. But you must make time in your busy life for such intimate communion. Once you do, your life will never be the same.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, writes:
The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love. …Then ponder this word long in your heart until it has gone right into you and taken possession of you.[ii]
The wonderful words of Scripture are the words of a wise Father, instructing, encouraging, disciplining, and admonishing us that we may grow in wisdom and love. They are the words of the Lord of hosts, training, teaching, and preparing us for battle, showing us the tactics and strategies of our enemy and how to overcome him. They are a royal message from the King, declaring our royal position of honor and authority and reminding us of the power He has given us in the name of His Son.
Nothing on earth has more power to change us, heal us, revive us, and restore us than the words of our loving God. The Bible is not just a book of mere stories written by men. The Bible is the heart, the life, the wisdom, the knowledge, the very essence of God expressed in words. No aphorism ever uttered is more trustworthy than the words found in the Bible. In the written Word of God, there is not one lie, falsehood, or deception. Every word spoken in the living pages of Scripture comes directly from the heart of God and is worthy to be heard and believed. The words of God are completely faithful and can never be broken by the power of any circumstance, the reasoning of any intellect, or the changing winds of time. The words of God are the spiritual nourishment and sustenance the heart needs to be vibrant, pure, and free.
The words of Scripture must be sounding in your ears and living in you daily if you are to maintain a healthy heart, so incline your ears towards His Word and listen.
[i] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 75, Kindle.
[ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, Fifth Edition, 1949).
Excerpt from my book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” Available on Amazon, and Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488758382&sr=8-1&keywords=the+heart+the+key+to+everything