Hebrews 5:10-11– “Called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek,’ of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”
The writer to the Hebrews is saying that he’d love to dive into the deeper teaching of the Mechizedekian ministry of Jesus with these folks, but it’s a bit too deep for them to grasp. However, it’s not that the information is too vast, it’s that the listeners were… willingly… too simple. In other words, they chose to be simple.
The term “become dull of hearing” is the word for “ignorant” in the Greek language. But the ignorance spoken of here is not due to never hearing, it’s the result of “ignoring”. In other words, when truth was shared, the response was, “Whatever. I don’t really care what it is that you’re saying, because I’ve got my own views on the subject.”
The writer would go on to say in verse 12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”
Sometimes we’ll hear people say something like, “Man, I’m just not getting anything out of going to church, or Bible study. I read it… I hear it… but nothing really resonates with me.” Why is that? It could be because they are dull of hearing. Perhaps, they’ve ignored God? In other words, God spoke to them once concerning something He wanted them to do, but they ignored it. Why, then, would God keep speaking to them if they refused to do the thing He already had made clear to them?
If we don’t receive the Word of God by obeying it… then we can forfeit truly hearing it in the future.
Contrast these ‘believers’ with those in Thessalonica: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thess. 2:13-14a).
Think about the many times Jesus would say, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 8:8, Mark 7:16, Matt. 11:15, 13:9, etc…). Why did He say that? What does that even mean? The word that means “hear” or “listen”, is the Hebrew word, “shema” (pronounced “shmah”). Jesus was Jewish and His mindset was that of a Hebrew when He taught. This particular word is an excellent example of the difference between Hebrew, which stresses physical action, and Greek and Western culture that stresses mental activity.
Listening, in our culture, is a mental activity, and hearing just means that our ears pick up sounds. But in Hebrew, the word shema describes hearing and also its effects – taking heed, being obedient, doing what is asked. Any parent who yells at their children, “Were you listening?” when they ignore a command to pick up their rooms understands that listening should result in action. In fact, almost every place we see the word “obey” in the Bible, it is translated from the word “shema.”
The word “Shema” is also the name of the “pledge of allegiance” that Jesus and other observant Jews up until this day have said every morning and evening. It is the first word of the first line, “Hear (Shema), O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength… “ (Deut. 6:4-5) By saying this, a Jew would remind himself of his commitment to love God, to dedicate himself to following God and doing His will. Some Jews teach their children the Shema as soon as they learn to talk! It is the central affirmation for a Jewish person of his or her commitment to the Lord. The word “shema” here again means, “take heed!” or “listen and obey!”
This gives us a clue of why Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” He is calling us to put His words into action, not just listening to them. He wants us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. (James 1:22) We as Westerners put all our stress on what is in our minds, and tend to consider action as “dead works.” But Hebrews understood that we have not truly put what we have heard into our hearts until it transforms our lives as well.
May you and I not be those who ‘ignore’ God’s word, but those who are extra sensitive to what He is saying to us. I believe that God has some deeper things He’d love to share with those who are really listening… and ready to obey all that He’s speaking. Are you and I truly hearing Him today?