How many of you in feel like you know someone that has a convenient “hearing” problem? My wife probably thinks I do! She can tell me that the garbage needs to be taken out and I suddenly have the hearing of someone who has ran a jackhammer everyday for 40 years, but then she can tell me that it’s dinner time and she’d will be lucky to count to 5 before I come sliding into the kitchen. Frustrating?
The writer of Hebrews expressed a similar frustration with some fellow Christians and churches in his day. Hebrews 5:11-14 says,
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
That’s not exactly the type of letter I’d want to be on the receiving end of!
In this letter you begin to get the impression that this writer is really concerned about the situation in the churches of his day. A dullness of hearing has seemingly crept in and a spirit of infancy and complacency quickly followed.
You might be asking… what is the dullness of hearing?
First, let’s take a look at the word “dull.” We could describe dull as slow, blunt, or sluggish. It’s used one other time in the New Testament, namely, in Hebrews 6:12. Take a look at Hebrews 6:11–12 and you’ll see the interchangeable word “sluggish” and what the opposite of dullness is,
We desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish [there’s the word for “dull” in our text], but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The opposite of dullness is diligence or earnestness to turn the message of hope into the assurance of hope… to be an imitator! The opposite of dull hearing is the imitation of people that hear the promises of God and then respond out of faith with action or the actual “doing” of the message.
So dull hearing doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your physical ears. It means there is something wrong with your heart.
You’ve heard the message you just weren’t moved enough by it to respond. The heart is not eager and diligent to embrace the promises and turn them obedience through faith. Instead, the Word comes into the ears and goes down to the heart and hits something hard or tough and does nothing to change you or encourage you to press forward in your walk with Christ.
That’s dullness of hearing. It’s the kind of hearing with the ears that is unresponsive in the heart. It doesn’t embrace the Word of God with faith. And therefore, it doesn’t produce the fruit of patience and obedience.
My wife and I live near the airport in Louisville, Kentucky. There are always planes overhead… passenger planes, military planes, UPS planes delivering all of my compulsive middle of the night online purchases. If you were to stay the night in our guest bedroom you’d probably hear those planes. But… I don’t. I have gotten used to the sound, and the sound means nothing to me because there is no action that I need to take attached to it. I haven’t conditioned myself to acknowledge the sound as anything other than background noise. But on the other hand there is a reason cop cars and other emergency vehicles use sirens. When we hear the sound we know there is an action attached to it! MOVE! PULL OVER! We have been conditioned to attach an action to the sound, we hear it and know that because we have heard it there is something immediately required of us.
Let me ask you… Have you gotten to used to hearing the Word of God with no action attached? Have you conditioned yourself through your continual inaction or delayed responses to hear the Word of God only as background noise?
Dullness of hearing is hearing the Word of God the way I hear the airport near my home. You hear it but you really don’t. You have grown dull to the sound, and the sound spurs no action in your life. It does not awaken or produce anything within you.
The most urgent question to ask yourself today is: Do I have this disease, and if so, what am I going to do to make myself well?
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.