"O" as in OPEN HEART

Even Jesus Himself had much trouble in converting many of His listeners. A Scripture in John 12:37 alludes to this: “But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believers.” 

How can we account for this? It was not the fault of Jesus in any way. Here was the master of all knowledge, wisdom, understanding, able to read the minds of others, the greatest teacher in history, God Himself, and yet...

 

The fault was (still is and will be to the world's end) the fault of the listeners. For they had ear trouble and eye trouble. Not physical we mean, but spiritual. This is a most important realization, because understanding God and His will is directly and unequivocally connected to hearing and seeing clearly. It may not be the most critical element in our salvation, but it's hard to find a more important one. 

We almost beg the reader, inside and outside the church, to face the issue head-on, and to examine oneself regularly and frequently to be certain that we are not missing the Lord's message because of impaired hearing and vision. The Scripture itself informs us exactly what the problem was with these early listeners to Christ. In John 12:39, we read “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart and be converted and I heal them.'” (Caution! We should not understand that God caused this to happen; He only allowed it to happen because he doesn't force us to do anything).

 

Isaiah's Scripture comes from chapter 6:9,10. It is such an important Scripture that it is cited no less than four other times in the New Testament: Matt 13:14,15; Mk 4:12; Luke 8:10 (thus appearing in all four gospels) and by the great apostle Paul in his last recorded words as found in Acts 28:25-28. The Matthew and Paul quotations are the fullest. Let's take a moment to look at Isaiah's original prophesy in chapter 6 because it is a little bit different in Hebrew.

 

Verses 9 and 10 read (NASB), “Go and tell the people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive;/Keep on looking, but do not understand./Render the hearts of this people insensitive,/Their ears dull,/And their eyes dim,/Otherwise they might see with their eyes,/Hear with their ears,/Understand with their hearts,/And return and be healed.”

 

Let us zoom in on some of the words Isaiah used. He portrays two kinds of listeners. Note the descriptive words and phrases used for poor listeners —“do not perceive,” “do not understand,” “insensitive hearts,” “dull ears,” “dim eyes.” But the same listeners, with a change of heart, can see plainly, hear plainly, understand well and be healed.

 

Which should we be? Which are we in truth? What kind of listeners do we find mostly in the world? Given that only a small residue return to “be saved and healed,” and get on the narrow path and stay there, the answer has to be that there is a huge and heartbreaking pattern of insensitive hearts and dull senses.

 

What will be very useful to our study and understanding of this “Open Heart” theme is how Jesus applied the Isaiah prophecy to His time and our time. The most complete picture is in Matthew 13. This introduces us to the beginning of Christ's teaching in parables. There are seven parables in this chapter.

 

The first one is the well-known “parable of the sower” (as man calls it), which is probably better described as the parable of the soils. The sower is the same throughout; it is the soils that change. When Jesus begins to explain the parable in the middle verses (verse 18 ff), He starts off by saying, “Hear then the parable.” Then He goes on with His explanation for each type of soil with the words, “When anyone hears the word.” We quickly see that it is the quality of the hearers (which makes all the difference). All of the seven parables in this chapter relate to the “kingdom of God.”

 

After Jesus had presented the parable to the people and then was alone with His disciples, they asked Him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (v. 10). His answer is easily one of the most important passages in all Scripture, one we better examine with an open heart and mind.

 

As He works toward Isaiah's prophecy, He says there is an element of “mystery” in parables and that not everyone will understand the message. In verse 13, He gets very specific, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing, they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Then He exclaims that this is really a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, which He now quotes essentially in full. He ends His explanation with this mighty promise, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.”

 

Verse 34 in the chapter accentuates the reason He spoke in parables: “All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.” This is also a prophecy from the Old Testament, which was a fulfillment of Psalms 78:2, by another “prophet” (Jesus) which reads “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

 

We see in the remarks of Jesus that the message of the Lord will be “hidden” and will remain “mysterious” to those who don't really seek to find it. And this is where an open heart, love of the truth, the right attitude and true seeking come to the fore.

 

We pause to observe that the Lord wants us to find it. God is not hiding it from us maliciously or placing an insurmountable object before us. We are assured in 2 Pet 3:9 that “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (KJV).

 

Rather, what the Lord wants in His kingdom are those who have this attitude: “I want to hear and understand and obey Your will and not my own.” Man has ever gotten into trouble when neglecting this principle. Eve distorted God's message to them when she apparently added “nor touch it” to God's commandment not to “eat it” (Gen 2 and 3).

 

Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because he “struck” the rock at Meribah instead of “speaking” to it as God had commanded (Num 20:8 ff).

 

Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered “strange fire” in worship and perished in the fire they had made because they did not properly hear or understand God's commandment to the contrary (Lev 10:1,2).

 

As to how we can hear and not hear and see without seeing, we refer to the somewhat humorous story of Baalam and his donkey (Num 22). God had told Baalam in verse 20, “only the word which I speak to you shall you do.” God became angry when Baalam went with the leaders of Moab, and He sent the “angel of the Lord” to obstruct the way. The donkey could see the “angel” and turned away, but Baalam didn't see Him. After three such rebellious episodes, Baalam got mad with the donkey and struck him, resulting in a humorous dialogue between them. Then the Lord opened the eyes of Baalam and he saw the angel of the Lord (verse 31). The angel was there the whole time and could be seen by the non-discriminating eyes of the donkey, but not by Baalam's cloudy vision brought on by his disobedience.

 

LORD, OPEN OUR EYES TO THE TRUTH

 

The psalmist said (119:18): “Open my eyes that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.” Proverbs in its wisdom adds, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning” (1:5).

 

In Proverbs 14:6 we read, “A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.” Wisdom and truth are there, but can only be seen by an open mind.

 

Isaiah said it well: “Incline your ear and come to Me, Listen that you may live” (Isa 55:3).

 

Upon the opening of the temple by Solomon (2 Chron 7), the Lord appeared to Solomon (v. 15) and said, “Now My eyes will be open, and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” This depicts receptive seeing and hearing, which is the model for us.

 

One of the very good lessons from New Testament use of Old Testament Scripture and narrative can be found in II Cor 3:13 ff. When Moses came down from the mountain after spending time up there with God, his face reflected God's glory. Moses used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But the minds (ears and eyes) of the Israelites were hardened, and at the reading of the old covenant which was fading away, “a veil [lay] over their heart” (v. 15) and they failed to discover that their Law was being replaced. Paul says in verse 16 that “whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away;” that is, their vision is no longer obstructed. Paul in verse 18 speaks of this as an “unveiled face.”

 

While this example in context referred mainly to the Israelites, the latter part brings the message to all of us and warns against veiled vision.

 

The word “attitude” has been mentioned as a very important component of an open heart. And so it is! Hearing, seeing and understanding are integral parts of attitude. The Scripture addresses this and indicates how our attitude should be formulated. And with it comes great promise.

 

For this, we turn to Matt 7:7,8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

 

Together these are the bases of what should be our attitude and approach to the Lord. And they all reflect and require willingness, desire to know, love of the truth and an open heart to be filled with good things.

 

Seek and find. Find what? Of course, that which is “mysterious” and “hidden.” Luke answers this in his parallel reference (11:13): “the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” The Holy Spirit whose word is truth (2 Tim 2:15). Truth which will make you free (John 8:32). Free from what? Bondage to sin and Satan (John 8:34-36).

 

The seeking must be honest and sincere—an intense desire to find, understand and apply the truth. There must be an open, understanding heart to put it in. That's our part. The Lord will then do His part and give us knowledge, understanding and wisdom. “But seek first His kingdom and His

righteousness, and all things will be added to you.”

 

Let's give God a big “O”: open ears, open eyes, open understanding, and an open heart.


10 Jun 2011

 

Annapolis, MD