Dull of hearing


A.W. Pink

“And hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” [Hebrews 5:11]

“To be ‘dull of hearing’ is descriptive of that state of mind in which statements may be made without producing any corresponding impression, without being attended to, without being understood, without being felt. In a word, it is descriptive of mental listlessness. To a person in this state, it is very difficult to explain anything; for, nothing, however simple in itself, can be understood if it be not attended to” (Dr. J. Brown).

The Revised Version is again preferable here; “ye are become dull of hearing.” They were not always so. Time was when these Hebrews had listened to the Word with eagerness, and had made diligent application thereof. “When the Gospel was first preached to them, it aroused their attention, it exercised their thoughts; but now with many of them it had become a common thing. They flattered themselves that they knew all about it. It had become to them like a sound to which the ear had been long accustomed—the person is not conscious of it, pays no attention to it” (Dr. J. Brown).

The Greek word for “dull” is translated “slothful” in Hebrews 6:12. It signifies a state of heaviness or inertia. These Hebrews had become mentally and spiritually what loafers are in the natural world—too indolent to bestir themselves, too lazy to make any effort at improvement. They were spiritual sluggards; slothful. Let the reader turn to Proverbs 12:27, 19:24, 21:25, 24:30-34, 26:13-16, and remember these passages all have a spiritual application.

To become, “dull of hearing” or “slothful,” is the reverse of “giving diligence” in 2 Peter 1:5, 10. In such a condition of soul, the apostle found it difficult to lead the Hebrews on to the apprehension of higher truth. He had many things to say unto them, but their coldness, lethargy, prejudice, restrained him. And this is recorded for our learning; it has a voice for us; may the Spirit grant us a hearing ear.

“Ye are become dull of hearing.” Of how many Christians is this true today! “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?” (Gal. 5:7). This is a cause of mourning unto all the true servants of God. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. Affections are set upon things below, rather than upon things above. Many who are deluded into thinking their eternal salvation is secure, evidence no concern over their present relationship to God. And Christians who mingle with these lifeless professors are injuriously affected, for “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). There is little “reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13) and, consequently, little growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. By the very law of our constitution, if we do not move forward, we slip backward.

There are few who seem to realize that truth has to be “bought” (Prov. 23:23), purchased at the cost of subordinating temporal interests to spiritual ones. If the Christian is to “increase in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10), he has to give himself whole-heartedly to the things of God. It is impossible to serve God and mammon. If the heart of the professing Christian be set, as the heart of the nominal professor is, upon earthly comforts, worldly prosperity, temporal riches, then the “true riches” will be missed—sold for “a mess of pottage” (Heb. 12:16).

But if, by Divine grace, through the possession of a new nature, there is a longing and a hungering for spiritual things, that longing can only be attained and that hunger satisfied by giving ourselves entirely to their ceaseless quest. “The loins of our minds” (1 Pet. 1:13) have to be girded, the Word has to be “studied” (2 Tim. 2:15), the means of grace have to be used with “all diligence” (2 Pet. 1:5). It is the diligent soul which “shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4).

How many who sit under the ministry of a true servant of God are “dull of hearing!” There is little waiting upon God, little real exercise of heart, before the service, to prepare them for receiving His message. Instead, the average hearer comes up to the house of God with a mind full of worldly concerns. We have to “lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” if we are to “receive with meekness the engrafted Word” (James 1:21).

We have to listen unto God’s Word with a right motive; not out of idle curiosity, not merely to fulfill a duty, still less for the purpose of criticizing; but that we “may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2)—grow in practical godliness. And, if what we have heard is not to be forgotten, if it is really to profit the soul, it must be meditated upon (Ps. 1:2), and accompanied with earnest prayer for grace to enable us to “heed” what has been heard.

“If people really loved and cherished what they so fondly called ‘the simple gospel,’ their knowledge and Christian character would deepen, and all the truths which are centered in Christ crucified would become the object of their investigation and delight, and enrich and elevate their experience There are no doctrines more profound than those which are proclaimed when Christ’s salvation is declared. All our progress consists in learning more fully the doctrine which at first is preached unto us” (Adolph Saphir).

It is using the light we already have, putting into practice the truth already received, which fits us for more. Unless this is done, we retrograde, and the light which is in us becomes darkness. Manna not used breeds worms (Ex. 16:20)! Milk undigested—not taken up into our system—ferments. A backslidden state deprives us of a sound judgment. The secret of “senses trained to discern good and evil” is revealed in Hosea 6:3, “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” May His grace stir us up so to do.


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