God commands in no uncertain terms that we “diligently keep” His words and commandments so that we can love the Lord with all our heart, walk in all His ways and cleave to Him (Deuteronomy 11:22, KJV). We cannot love God if His words have no place in our hearts. We cannot walk with God if our hearts are empty and void of His words. The Hebrew phrase translated as “diligently keep” is shama, shama. God emphasizes the supreme importance of this truth by saying it twice. When God repeats a word in close and immediate succession in the Bible, this indicates something that is vital for us to understand. E. W. Bullinger, in Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, says:
It is a common and powerful way of emphasizing a particular word, by thus marking it and calling attention to it. In writing, one might accomplish this by putting the word in large letters, or by underlining it two or three times. In speaking it is easy to mark it by expressing it with increased emphasis or vehemence. How important for us to notice, in the Scriptures, the words and impressions which the Holy Spirit has thus marked and emphasizes in order to impress us with their importance.[i]
God is sounding out the clarion call to every heart: “Hear! Hear! Listen! Listen! Obey! Obey!” He spoke the word twice so we would never forget just how important the ears are to our hearts. In the Hebrew culture, hearing was not merely a passive act. You were not considered to have heard something unless you responded and took action on what was heard. To hear God is to act upon His words so a transformation of the heart can take place. If my life is not changing and becoming a reflection of these words, then I have not really heard them. When God says to hear Him, He does not mean to simply hear the sound waves hitting our ears, but also to carefully listen, pay attention, and do what He instructs us to do. Every day it is our sacred duty and responsibility before God to hear, listen, pay attention, and obey. This is the formula for a healthy heart. Yet this simple formula has been so hard for the heart to follow because of the amazing levels of deception that are present in the world. This is perfectly illustrated in the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. In one of the most critical moments of all history, God repeated a word twice to the human heart in Eden. The destiny of the entire human race depended upon whether Adam and Eve would hear, listen and obey.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat of any tree in the garden; But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you shall surely (muwth) die (muwth).” (Genesis 2:16–17, ESV)
God could not emphasize the importance of this truth any more forcefully. Adam listen to me, hear me, pay attention and above all obey these words for if you do not you shall die! Die! Not soon after this strong command and warning from God, the devil, the master of deceit, came into the Garden of Eden and captured Eve’s ear and smoothly uttered the same word twice to the human heart.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely (muwth) die (muwth).” (Genesis 3:4, ESV)
Satan was also forcefully emphasizing his lie and, in a sense, mocking God’s words as he sugarcoated his lie, crooning to Eve, “Listen to me! Pay attention! Hear what I have to say, for I know what is best for you more than God does. I’m not sure why God said those words to you or why He’s not telling you the truth. I am here for your benefit to make you better! You absolutely will not die, die! Trust me!” Eve had to decide whether God’s words or the devil’s words would take root in her heart. This decision affected every human that has since lived upon the earth. The most monumental decision in all of human history and was the result of a battle of words.
Whenever God’s words are rejected, it brings death in some way, shape, or form to the human heart. Words of life and words of death were set before Eve, and she had to choose which words she would believe.
John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” God and His words cannot be separated, for they are one. God is His Word. God speaks out who He is, and His words are an expression of the very essence of His being. John 1:4 says, “That in Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind.” God is life, and His words are life, and His words bring life and light to all mankind. God lives in His words; God breathes in His words; God moves in His words. God’s words always bring transforming life and power and never have one ounce of death in them.
Death, by the most basic definition, is the absence of life. The devil’s words are full of death, but they masquerade as words of life and light. In John 8:44, Jesus tells us, “When [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and father of lies.” The devil’s words are an expression of the very essence of his being, and the devil lives, breathes and moves in His words. He is always speaking the lie, the untruth, and the deceitful tale. His lies are extremely alluring, yet when all the layers are peeled away, all that is left is death and separation from the heart of God.
But oh, how the human heart loves a lie and wraps itself in it! O how Eve loved the lie more than the truth! A lie is sweet music welcomed by the ear of most of the human race. This is sadly illustrated in the lyrics of a popular song of the hour:
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? But that’s all right, because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry? But that’s all right, because I love the way you lie.[ii]
We have fallen in love with lies in our culture. Lying has become the native language and doublespeak for the entire world. It is the terrible transaction described in Romans 1:25 where the world exchanges the truth of God for a lie. The devil makes his lies glimmer and shine so that the ear gladly receives them. Then he stands back and watches the heart burn in bitterness, disappointment, disillusionment, and destruction. The lie is the great weapon of Satan’s deception and the grand message of His kingdom. His lies always distort the truth about the heart of God and His awesome purposes and plans.
Deuteronomy 11 sets forth God’s great cry to every generation: “Take heed to yourselves that your heart not be deceived and you turn from me and serve other gods.” The words “take heed” are the same Hebrew word “shamar” that we studied earlier, and it means to exercise great care to watch over, to preserve, guard, keep an eye on, pay close attention and protect. The Hebrew word translated as “deceive” means to be persuaded, enticed, deceived and deluded by words. Its basic root means “to be opened and to spread out.” We must diligently protect and guard our hearts from Satan’s deception by not allowing ourselves to be enticed and persuaded by his words. We cannot open our ears to any of his words, for they will spread like cancer in our hearts.
The heart can be taken out by deception so quickly that it boggles the mind. How quickly the heart can turned away from God. Eve’s heart was taken out in a matter of minutes, and the consequences of her failing to take heed to the words of God and instead trusting the words of the serpent were disastrous for the entire human race. King Solomon’s beautiful heart was turned away from God to serve other gods by listening to the words of his pagan wives, and it had devastating consequences for the kingdom of Israel for generations. Samson’s mighty heart for God was taken out by listening to the sincere and deceitful words of Delilah, and it cost him his life and destroyed a mighty judge and warrior for God. Judas’s heart, as a friend and disciple of Jesus, was turned and destroyed by listening to the political and religious ideas of the age about money, power and the nature of the Messiah. These are sobering lessons in Scripture. We must be vigilant like a trained soldier, monitoring what is coming into the heart through the gateway of the ear, for the ears are the beginning point of all deception.
Test Every Word
But we don’t have to be deceived! The Bible declares that we are to test every word we hear to determine whether it is worthy to enter our hearts:
Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning. For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. (Job 34:2–3, NIV)
The Hebrew word rendered as “test” in this passage means to search out, examine, try, and prove. The noun form of this word refers to a garrisoned watchtower from which the people were to guard their fields and cities. It’s the same word used in the Scriptures when God tests and examines the heart or when precious metals like gold or silver are tested or proved as to their purity.
We are to examine and test every word we hear to determine whether or not it meets God’s standard of purity, integrity, and truth. Our ear is to be like a watchtower, and no word should be allowed to enter the heart without going through this testing process to see if we should open the gate and give it entry.
Do the words you are listening to originate from the heart of God or the heart of the devil? Should the words be believed or trusted or followed? Do these words bring glory to God? Do they advance the kingdom of God or the realm of darkness? Does the word promote the will, purposes, and desires of God or the devil?
So many words enter our ears, and we must not let any sneak past completely unaware. Don’t allow the words of the enemy to circumvent the gate and begin to take root and residence in your heart. Instead, seek the voice of God and the words He is speaking. Otherwise, your heart will soon be ripe for rebellion against the Almighty. These words are still being said for our ears to hear: “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” Hebrews 3:15 (PHILLIPS).
The Closing of Israel’s Ears
From the first time that God’s covenant people Israel breathed life as a nation, their ears did not hear and their hearts did not understand their awesome God. Their ears were shut like an iron gate to the words of the Lord:
To whom shall I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. From the least to the greatest all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. (Jeremiah 6:10, 13, NIV)
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? (Jeremiah 23:18, NIV)
But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. (Zechariah 7:11, ESV)
This was their distinguishing mark as a people and a nation, that they were rebels in disobedience to the message and words of their covenant God.
Barnes Notes on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah says, “To open the ear, denotes a prompt and ready attention to what God says and to close the ear denotes an unwillingness to listen to what is spoken by Him.”[iii] It’s amazing that any person would voluntarily close his ears to the voice of God. Yet even though God taught what was best for Israel in every circumstance and dilemma in life and had promised to always lead them in the way they should go, they were unwilling to listen and turned their backs on Him. They were essentially telling the Creator of the heavens and earth to “shut up,” for they didn’t want to hear or understand what He had to say. God Almighty dwelt in their midst, but they paid no attention. This was the immeasurable, infinite, eternal, all-knowing, fathomless God! How could they not hang on His every word?! They had forgotten the words of David:
Therefore, you are great O Lord God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all we have heard with our ears. (2 Samuel 7:22, NRSV)
Because they would not listen, and because they would not hear, God’s own people allowed their hearts to turn ice cold against Him and defied Him with rebellion and deceit:
“You have neither heard or understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.” (Isaiah 48:8, NIV)
What’s even more amazing about this rebellion of Israel that the prophets and priests were leading the way! The prophets and priests were supposed to shepherd and nurture God’s flock, helping them to grow more intimate in their relationship with the Lord. Yet they led God’s people astray. God could not trust His spiritual leadership for their ears were dead to His words. O how they forsook their calling to represent the heart of God to His beloved children! O how they broke the heart of God and caused Him endless sorrow! All because they would not hear! All because they would not listen! They refused to allow God to enter their heart by closing, like a massive steel door, the gate of their ear to His words.
The Priest’s Ear: Set Apart for God
God set up the ministry of the priest in such a beautiful way to minister the heart of God to the needs of His people. The priest was the doorkeeper of the tabernacle and was supposed to tend to both God and His people in his sacred duties. The priests were to help restore the hearts of His people to the ways of God and keep them on the path of His righteousness. They were to teach the words of God to the nation of Israel so these words could take root and grow into fruit in the heart of His children. They were the great guardians of the heart for every Israelite. Not only were they to abide in the presence of God every precious moment that they drew breath upon the earth, but the glory of God was to rest upon their every work and every word from their mouths.
No one in Israel should have understood the heart of God more than the priests! No one should have been more completely devoted to God. The priests were chosen by God to minister to Him, pronounce His blessings on the people, and to resolve every controversy or dispute in Israel. What an awesome and humbling privilege to be a priest of God who created the heavens and earth whose greatness there is no end!
The heart of the priest was to be pure, radically loyal, and committed to God. The priest’s ear was to be always open and awake to His tender whisper. This is why the ears of the priest were to be consecrated to the Lord:
“Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar.” (Exodus 29:19–20, NIV)
The ear of the priest was to be stained with the blood of sacrifice and cleansed from the impurity of sin and the control of the selfish, idolatrous sin nature. The priest’s ear was set apart for God and set above the world. The priest was to hear differently than the world, for he was to be attuned to the Spirit of God and receptive to His voice rather than the deceptive melody of the world.
The ear represents the priest’s intimate relationship with God, and the ability to hear from God and converse with Him. He had the covenant legal right to hear from God, to talk with Him and commune with Him. His ear was dedicated, consecrated, and sanctified, thus prepared to hear the voice of God first above any other word or noise he might hear. The priest’s ear was to be sensitive to hear God’s calling, and he was to always follow God’s voice in loyal obedience.
What an unbelievable tragedy occurred when God’s own priests were offended by His voice and stopped their ears from hearing His words! The priests refused to listen and took no delight or pleasure in an intimate relationship with God. Their hearts became like a barren wilderness without the waters of the Spirit to sustain it. The priests became the opposite of everything God intended them to be simply because they failed to give their ears to the Almighty.
The Prophets’ Downfall
Were the prophets any better? No one on earth should have had an ear more tuned to God’s words than the prophet. He was God’s spokesman, mouthpiece, and messenger. A prophet was never to speak his own words but only that which he divinely heard from the heart of God. They were to declare God’s will in no uncertain terms. To have the breathtaking and awesome honor to speak to men and woman on behalf of God is the highest service a person could ever render to the human race.
The prophet’s ministry was birthed and brought to light in the glorious presence of the Lord where he heard the words that describe the heart of God to His people. His ear was to be synchronized to the heartbeat of God, to be finely tuned to His voice. The prophet was to be ready at any moment to hear the sovereign Lord speak.
The Word of the Lord burned in the prophet’s heart like a flame, and by that word he would admonish, warn, encourage, exhort, reprove, and rebuke, urging the people to turn back to God and forsake their foolish ways. “Thus saith the Lord” was the great cry of the prophet, and his message would change the destiny of individuals, families, cities, and nations.
The prophet grieved over the sin of God’s people. He was zealous for God with a burning passion, and he fervently prayed to God with endless devotion. He saw the people and the nations from God’s perspective and felt God’s anger and pain. The prophet was uncompromising on truth and did not budge one inch from the Word of God. His soul would not rest until God’s word was proclaimed from the mountaintops to all who would listen. The prophet laid siege to the hearts of God’s people, and his words were like sword that pierced the callous layers of the heart or like molten lava that would melt away at their hardness. The prophet was a mighty man on the earth and a great warrior for the Lord of Hosts. O how the earth would shake and the nations tremble at the word of the prophet.
But the prophets of Israel and Judah, like the priests, became defiled and turned against God, rejecting his words as they closed their ears like an iron door to His voice. O what mourning echoed the halls of heaven when God’s passionate mouthpiece rejected the Almighty and ran after the ways of the world! O how could God’s flame of fire and zealous advocate forsake Him and run from His voice? Instead of speaking the thundering words of truth, they wrapped themselves in religious deceit.
From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. (Jeremiah 6:13, NIV)
Rebellion was never to enter the heart of the prophet, for above all people he was to be courageous and uncontaminated by the idolatry that runs rampant on the earth. Yet God saw the great folly of the prophets of Judah and Israel, whose hearts rebelled against the Him. In Jeremiah 23, God sounds out the severe indictment against them. These are some of the most somber and heart-wrenching verses in Scripture and stand as a grave warning to all who refuse to listen to the Lord:
My heart within me is broken because of the prophets … I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal and caused My people Israel to err. Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah. (Jeremiah 23:9, 13–14, NKJV)
How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart … Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:26, 30, NKJV)
What a chilling statement as to what can happen to the heart when the ears go astray! The prophets had allowed their hearts to become full of idolatry, lies, and wickedness. And by their actions, they had strengthened evil in the hearts of God’s chosen. God looked at their hearts and called them “the prophets of deceit” and made the somber declaration that He was against them.
With the prophets and priests falling away from God into the depths of idolatry, a severe famine struck the land. This was not a famine of food or water, but was a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. (Amos 8:11–12, NIV)
This is the most destructive form of famine because it strikes at the heart and causes the fabric of society to unravel. Sin and disobedience flourish when God’s words are not heard, and so Israel and Judah were plunged into darkness. The heart is blind without the light and guidance of the words of the Lord and is cursed to an existence of stumbling about, wandering aimlessly in the dark.
The priests and prophets brought about this famine because they despised the voice of the Lord. They fed the hearts of the people with words devised from their own imaginations and deceptive reasoning. But these words utterly failed to quench the people’s thirst or satisfy their hunger.
Only hearing the words of the Lord and obeying them out of a heart of love, awe and thankfulness can truly satisfy the hunger and thirst of the human heart. But if the heart continues in its folly, Amos 8:14 pronounces its ultimate end: “Even they shall fall, and never rise again.” How vital it is that we listen to and heed the words of the living God!
The religious leaders in the time of Christ followed the tragic example of the priests and prophets of the Old Testament, as they did not have ears to hear what God was saying through His written Word and, ultimately, through His Son, the Living Word. Jesus made the astounding statement that the Pharisees had no room in their hearts for His word (John 8:37). It is like the words of the Lord showed up on the doorstep of these men and were met with cries of “No vacancy! No room available! We are completely full!” What an indictment against those who call themselves God’s priests and elders!
Their hearts wallowed in spiritual desolation and darkness, completely void of life and light because they refused to allow the words of the Lord occupancy in their hearts. Their hearts were full of so much religious junk and prideful arrogance that they refused to give God any space there. Not even the smallest piece of their hearts was dedicated to God, and they simply didn’t want to hear what He had to say.
Do you have room in your heart for the words of the Lord, or is it just too crowded with other things? Is there a “No Vacancy” or a “Welcome” sign hanging on the door to your heart when the Lord comes calling? God wants to write on the tablet of your heart, and He earnestly desires that you lay up His words in your heart (Job 22:22); that you would hide His words in your heart so that you do not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11); that you bind the words of God to your heart so that when you walk they will lead you, when you sleep they will watch over you, and when you wake they will talk to you (Proverbs 6:21–22); and that the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).
This cannot happen if you are not listening. This cannot happen if you are not spending time in His Word. This cannot happen if your heart is honoring someone else’s words above the words of the Lord. The heart is not a vacuum. It is always being filled with someone’s words, ideas, beliefs, desires, and values. What words does your heart treasure? What sign hangs on the door of your heart?
The Two Spiritual Languages
Jesus answers this question for us concerning the Pharisees, who were tuning their ears to the wrong spiritual father:
“I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you go what you have heard from your father. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire … When he lies, he speaks his native language … Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:37-38, 43-44, 47, NIV)
Jesus Christ spoke God’s beautiful language that was spoken into his heart during the times he spent in sweet fellowship with the Father and the Word. This language brings the very life of God into the heart, mending, restoring and healing it. Yet the Pharisees, the top religious order of the day, could not hear God’s language because they had sold out their ears to another father. They had tuned their ears to the language proceeding from the heart of the archenemy of God, the devil. They thought they were serving God, but their hearts did not belong to God. They thought they were devoted to God, but their ears betrayed them and showed that their commitment to the true God was just a visual show and a sham.
Our heart desires the things that our ear most attentively listens to. So whom are we listening to? There are two spiritual languages in life, God’s and the devil’s, and our ears are devoted to either one or the other. The desires of the heart are birthed from the spiritual language we are listening to.
The ear is a critical instrument to keep the flame for God burning in the heart. In order to keep a great longing and desire for God, the ear must be tuned to His voice and be attentively listening to His words. Fervent desire for anything in life is funneled into the furnace of the heart through the ear. Once desire for something is birthed in the heart, then the heart begins to bend towards its passion and produces works, actions, words, and habits arising from the heart’s desires. Desire is essential to all of life, including a life that is devoted to God.
The priest, prophet, and Pharisee were to be passionate for God above all else, and this flame was to be kept burning by the words God spoke into their hearts. But if the ear is not tuned to God, there can be no passion for God. Desire for God dies quickly and is replaced by a desire for the things of the world. Jesus exposed the hearts of these men who claimed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel and showed what trouble their ears got them into. Their ears had turned the desires and passions of their hearts to the devil and not to God. This is a profound and sobering truth to think about. These men, who claimed to represent God, willed and desired with great emotion to do the will of the devil. Satan’s words had given birth to the cravings, yearnings, aspirations, and passions in their hearts. They had become the children of a new father in word and deed. The devil was spreading his seed of death, destruction, and chaos through these children, these Pharisees, who had listened to his deceptive words and reasoning.
Your Life is Molded by Your Ear
God was forever crying out to His prophets, priests, and people, “Hear, O Israel” (Deuteronomy 6:4). God cries out to all generations: “Hear my words, hear my truth, hear my instructions, hear my warnings, hear my encouragement, hear my voice and hear my heart!” The great characteristic of a child of God is that he or she hears what God says (John 10:27). The ear is the beginning of a relentless passion and devotion for God in the heart. What you are is directly related to what you hear and obey. Our life is molded and shaped by our ear. Our great work and service for the kingdom of God starts with hearing and obeying the voice of the Shepherd. We will always fail in our divine calling if we listen to and follow another.
Indeed, one of the worst maladies that has plagued mankind since the beginning of the world is deafness to the voice of God:
For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. (Job 33:14, NLT)
When I called, why was there no one to answer? (Isaiah 50:2, NKJV)
For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard or perceived by the ear (Isaiah 64:4, NKJV)
When I spoke they did not listen. (Isaiah 66:4, NLT)
God is always calling out to the world to behold His majesty, His glory, and His love, but no one is listening. People cannot stir and arouse their hearts to take hold of God and cleave unto Him if they cannot hear His words. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Their hearts are swept away by sin and made hard to the will of God when we do not listen for His voice. This fatal heart disease is at the center of every rebellion against God in the history of the heavens and earth. God cannot revive, restore and purify the heart that has no ears to hear, because it refuses to be fed, nourished and transformed by His life-giving words. God gives the formula for a healthy spiritual heart in Proverbs: “Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health” (Proverbs 4:20–22, MSG). Our hearts will burst with health when we tune our ears to His voice!
[i] E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), 189.
[ii] Eminem, “Love the Way You Lie,” Recovery, 2010, CD.
[iii] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Volume II (New York: Leavitt and Allen, 1853), 194.
Excerpt from: The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499477494&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+key+to+everything