The most frequently recorded exhortation of Jesus involves using one’s ears to hear. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” is found eight times and “He who has an ear, let him hear” is found seven times in the New Testament. As demonstrated in the Old and New Testaments (Isaiah 6:9-10; Ezekiel 12:2; Zechariah 7:11; Matthew 13:14-15), it is possible—spiritually speaking—to have ears which do not hear or heed what is said.
As stated by David (Psalm 40:6) and perfectly exemplified by Christ (Hebrews 10:5), an essential prerequisite for obedience is ears that are constantly used to listen to God’s word. They are to be prized above great sacrifices and offerings. Consider the words of Psalm 40:6—”Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.”
There is some disagreement over how exactly “My ears You have opened” is to be understood in the context of David’s day. The Hebrew word rendered “opened” can also be accurately translated “bored” or “dug”. Which shade of meaning was intended here is open to discussion. Thoughtfully considering both shades of meaning is beneficial.
If the intended meaning here is “bored”, then David’s reference is to the piercing of one’s ear when a slave voluntarily chose to remain a slave. It is described as follows: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever” (Exodus 21:2-6).
If the intended meaning here is “dug”, then David’s reference is to the idea of having all spiritual earwax removed from his ears so that the word of God has complete and unhindered reception in his heart. Consider how this idea permeates this prophecy of Jesus—”The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:5-6).
These two shades of meaning are far more similar than they may first appear. Listening to God’s word without any spiritual earwax to hinder it, then prizing it so that it alone is authoritative in my life are both essential if, like David, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).
Are your ears open?