John J. Blanchard
June 20, 2015 (listen to audio)
Good morning, brethren. You have probably heard that ancient philosophical question, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, does it make a noise? That’s a good question. Everybody is looking at me as if they are confused! Let’s put a different question to you. Picture yourself in a forest hit by a sound wave that you could not hear, yet tree after tree around you was falling down. What would you think of that? Would you be concerned?
SELECTIVE HEARING IN THE CHURCH
Hearing is a strange sense in one way, because it can be selective. You have also heard that phrase, he has selective hearing. In other words, you hear what you want to hear and don’t hear what you don’t want to hear. I believe that the Church today suffers from selective hearing, and the world itself at large is deaf. But the world needs the Church to explain the situation that the world is in and where we are headed. It’s a serious situation when the Church finds itself not hearing what God has to say due to selective hearing.
Conversion starts with hearing the sound of the truth of God. We can go back to nearly the beginning when ancient Israel became God’s people. Let’s go to Deuteronomy chapter 4 where God is speaking to the people. Deuteronomy 4, beginning in verse 9: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.”
People heard God’s voice at Sinai and Mount Horeb, and that’s where they made a covenant with God to do all that He commanded. They agreed once they heard His voice.
Christ came as a preacher as well. Let’s first turn to Romans chapter 10. We do know from our studies that it was the voice of Jesus Christ at Horeb. Romans chapter 10 tells us something about conversion. Romans 10, verse 14: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
In order to be converted and have faith, one must hear. Of course, Jesus Christ brought us the gospel, and He was the tree of life. It seems very few of His generation actually heard Him.
Continuing in verse 18 of Romans 10: “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’ But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.’ But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’ But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’”
We are told here that the people that Jesus Christ talked to as a tree of life heard but did not act, and others acted upon those words. At the end of the age, it appears to be the same thing is going to happen all over again.
DISOBEDIENCE, HARD HEARTS, AND LACK OF FAITH
Why didn’t Christ’s generation hear Him? Was it a lack of faith? Was it disobedience, as we were told here? Or was it hardened hearts? I believe all of these cause our ears to go deaf, so that we do not hear. We may see the lips move, but we don’t comprehend what’s coming out of the mouth.
Hearing in a spiritual sense requires humility, obedience, and a soft heart in order for the words to fall into our lives. Go back to Psalm chapter 95. This is a subject that has been on my mind lately of how it seems that so many don’t grasp and don’t seem to hear what God is saying at this time.
Psalm 95, beginning in verse 6: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: ‘Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation and said, “It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.” So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
We know what happened because of their hardened hearts and their disbelief. The older generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, did not enter the promised land. We see these same words uttered in Hebrews chapter 3 and 4. Go to the New Testament. It is one thing to say, that was for ancient Israel. That does not apply to us. But why would we find the same sentiments expressed in Hebrews if it can’t happen again. God doesn’t waste His word. He puts it in the Bible for our admonition because it is a serious admonition and a warning of something that could actually happen again.
In Hebrews chapter 3, I’m beginning in verse 7: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.”’ Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’”
We can harden our hearts in disbelief, and we are told in chapter 4, we can be kept out of the rest. Let’s go to chapter 4 of Hebrews.
Hebrews 4, beginning in verse 4: “For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works’ [and we know the seventh day represents the Millennium]; and again in this place: ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today,’ after such a long time, as it has been said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”
There is a Millennium coming which is actually the bigger of the two rests. Joshua’s rest was temporary. Those people would not have experienced the Millennium the way God intends at the end of 6,000 years when we will have a thousand years of peace.
This is a very, very important rest that we are about to enter, and we can be kept from entering that rest. That can occur through a hardness of heart, disobedience, and a lack of faith, otherwise God would not have said that. We know what happened to ancient Israel, but it also happened to them when Christ came.
Christ, the tree of life, came preaching to them. They heard His words, and very few believed Him. We are told that if we are wise, we will hear those words and understand. Let’s go to the Book of Proverbs. Back to the Book of Proverbs, chapter 1.
Proverbs 1, beginning in verse 1: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding [in other words, to hear and really hear and comprehend what we are hearing], to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
We need to be wise in order to hear and comprehend what we are hearing when we are listening to the word of God. Then we can comprehend what to many people would be an enigma—a riddle, something confusing. When you think it is a riddle or something confusing, you are likely to pass it off as something you despise and not listen to instruction. That is what we are being told here.
THE SHEPHERD’S VOICE
The sheep should know the voice of the shepherd. The words of the Bible are the voice of our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Let’s go to the gospel of John chapter 10. In the gospel of John chapter 10 Christ tells us we should be able to hear His voice and understand what He is saying if we follow Him.
John 10, verse 1: “‘Mostly assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.”
Now He is speaking to His people, and He is talking to them about hearing His voice and knowing Him. These people He is talking to are waiting for the Messiah, and they did not understand what He was talking about! That can happen again! That’s what we want to guard against. Just listening and getting nowhere in our beliefs and not really comprehending what God is telling us can happen, and to some it will happen. It does not have to happen to you and me if we are humble, teachable, have faith, and have a soft heart.
RECEIVE THE WORD OF GOD
The Parable of the Sower is basically about that. We are not going to go into the entire Parable of the Sower, but I would like to go to Luke chapter 8. Read Luke 8:4-11.
That’s what we are listening to when we listen to the word of God.
Continue in verse 12 of Luke 8: “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
In other words, they hear it willingly and take it in because they want it to make a difference in their lives.
Continuing in 16 of Luke 8: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear.”
How are we hearing? What capacity are we using to listen to God? How soft are we inside? How malleable are we, and how much do we want to change and grow?
He goes on to say in verse 18: “For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
A lot depends on how we hear and how we listen. How much do we want to change and grow? It is incredibly important to have ears to hear. We don’t have time to go into all the Scriptures that talk about hearing, obeying, and ears to hear. We would be here all day. A lot has to do with listening to what we are being taught.
It is also incumbent upon us, how we listen is what we choose to listen to. Do we listen to a harsh message, a judgmental message, or a self-righteous message? That is how we can be confused when hearing someone’s lips move and taking us in the wrong information. They can even be quoting the same Scriptures I am quoting you today. It depends on how one wants to twist it. They call it “spin” today.
You can take statistics, Scriptures, and anything you want and spin it a certain way by throwing in certain comments, going to other Scriptures, and bring them in out of context. God is saying we need to be faithful, obedient, and have a gentle nature in order to take it in properly. If we are listening with a harsh, judgmental attitude, we will find lots of Scriptures to use to condemn other people. It happens all the time. But if we are looking to forgive others and have compassion and grow in mercy and compassion for others, we will hear that from the Scriptures. It is how we choose to listen; what we are choosing to listen to and why.
That’s what is so important because at the end of the age it appears, just like in Christ’s day, people are hearing and not grasping. They are not grasping what God wants for our time. It is important to have ears to hear.
Let’s go over a couple pages to Luke chapter 14. Salt is good, and we know from Matthew 5 that we are considered the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Luke 14, verse 34: “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
God is saying, if you are not listening and taking it in and using it, you are like salt without saltiness. It is good for nothing. It all comes to how we are hearing and what we are doing with our lives in order to listen and grow. It is very, very important.
Let’s go to Revelation for a moment. We are not going to dwell in the Book of Revelation, but I want to show that in this book when Christ is speaking to the churches, He keeps using the phrase, he who has ears to hear, let him hear.
In Revelation 2:7 He says this to the Ephesian Church after He gives His message: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
You are going to be able to listen and then imbibe of the fruit of the tree of life, which is Jesus Christ, if you have ears to hear.
In Revelation 2, verse 17, speaking to the Pergamos Church, it says: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
We will get spiritual food—sustenance—if we have ears to hear what’s coming from the tree of life once again.
In Revelation 2, verse 29 it is speaking to Thyatira: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Once again earlier in verse 27 He says, I will give you a rod. I will give you the right to rule the nations if you have listened and internalized what I want you to learn.
For the rest of the churches it goes on in the same vein in chapter 3 of Revelation. It is speaking to Sardis in Revelation 3, verse 6: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
He says earlier in that message that they are nearly spiritually dead from not hearing.
Going on to verse 13 of Revelation 3 where it is speaking to Philadelphia, once again He says: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
If you read the whole message, He says, do not follow the lie from those who speak from the synagogue of Satan. Listen to the truth of what God has to say.
Of course, after He says to the Laodiceans you are poor, blind, wretched, naked, miserable, and you need good food and good garments, He says in verse 21: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit ways to the churches.”
We need an ear to hear. There really is a lot in our power whether we have that or not. Are we providing God soft soil and a compassionate, gentle nature? Do we have faith? Do we care to grow and repent?
The tree of life is He who kept saying, if you have ears to hear, hear what I am saying. Hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. That’s what Jesus Christ kept saying over and over.
If we go back to the gospel of Matthew, in chapter 11 we will see that Christ indeed taught as the tree of life many wonderful things to people. We are only going to look at a few things here. Matthew 11, verse 1: “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see; the blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’”
He said go tell John what you heard and have seen. That should be enough evidence. And the people of Christ’s generation saw all those things and heard all those things and still did not comprehend what they were witnessing. It sounds impossible, but it’s true! And that’s with Christ the Messiah right there in front of them!
Dropping down to verse 15 of Matthew 11 He says this at the conclusion of this set of Scriptures: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” He says that over and over.
Go into Matthew chapter 13, verse 9 where after explaining once again the Parable of the Sower, He says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
In Luke He said be careful how you hear, and here He says, have ears to hear. It’s really up to us. Are we careful in our hearing or not?
Continuing in verse 10 of Matthew 13: “And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’”
We have been given this marvelous opportunity to understand these great mysteries and to share and teach them to others! But we must have a compassionate, forgiving heart and have faith. No matter how bleak things look in the world, we need to have faith that God is going to do some amazing and wonderful things!
TREES SYMBOLIZE TEACHERS
The tree of life came amidst a forest of spiritual trees. We could go to Mark 8 and show how the twelve disciples were types of trees. When the blind man was healed by Christ, the first thing he saw were men walking as trees. The tree of life was felled amidst the trees, and no one heard the sound of the tree falling! Just a few heard it, and they fled!
When a tree falls in the forest and people are there, could it be that they still do not hear the noise? It can happen. It has happened.
Turn to Matthew chapter 3. Read verses 1-10.
He was warning them that they were the trees teaching people the word of God, and they were not listening. They were not learning. Therefore the ax was ready to chop them down!
Christ came as the tree of life amidst a bunch of trees, amidst a forest of teachers. His tree was felled, and He prophesied that if they did not change and obey, their trees would all be falling. And they did. They did not listen, even though the tree of life was felled right in front of them. They indeed were, for the most part, responsible for it. It is very sad, but is that a precursor of the last days? Yes, it is. We could spend a lot of time looking at that.
A NOISE TO ALL THE EARTH
Let’s go to Jeremiah 25, which is probably the Scripture that inspired this sermon. In Jeremiah chapter 25 there is something very interesting about the Church and the world in this prophesy. It was applicable to, of course, Christ’s generation and to the people of Jeremiah’s generation but also in the last days, because history does repeat itself.
Jeremiah 25, beginning in verse 30: “Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: ‘The Lord will roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will roar mightily against His fold [that’s His Church today and His people back then]. He will give a shout, as those who tread the grapes [you could go to Revelation 14 to see where the grapes are trod], against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise will come to the ends of the earth—for the Lord has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,’ says the Lord.”
Those who will not repent will perish. But He says, I want to make a noise to My people first. I want to shout to my fold in a roar, a warning! Shortly thereafter, He is going to go to the whole world. We know there is an innumerable multitude in Revelation 7. The vast majority of this earth is going to listen. We don’t know exactly how God does that because this is a sound and a roar unlike anything that’s ever happened before.
Christ was here on the earth speaking to the Pharisees and the people of His time, and after His death there were 120 believers. This was after thousands of people had heard Him! They did not have ears to hear.
In the body of Christ, there must be people who are given a voice like in Acts chapter 2 that can be heard by the multitudes! It is God’s voice—His word—that speaks through people. That’s why we are told in Romans how can they understand and be converted unless they hear a preacher preach. Somebody has to understand, somebody has to believe, and somebody has to accept the responsibility to go to the world with the sound that they have heard in their own ears because they had ears to hear. Then they preach it to others. It’s a miracle! We don’t understand every aspect of it, but we know it’s going to happen because it is prophesied to happen.
Let’s go to Isaiah chapter 66. Read verses 5-14.
The world will be comforted by the Church, and the Church is Jerusalem—the city with the temple in it. We know that from the New Testament. Let’s go back to Hebrews once again.
Somehow there is a noise from heaven—from God’s throne—that reverberates through the Church, through the temple, through the congregation of Jesus Christ—His Church—and it goes to the world!
Hebrews chapter 12, beginning in verse 18: “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’ And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)’”
This is speaking of the incident at Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments were uttered by the voice of God.
Continuing in verse 22 of Hebrews 12: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’”
We are responding to the voice that shook the earth from Jesus Christ when we were converted. That voice should continue to reverberate through us until the culmination of all things, when the earth will have its chance to have the deafness removed from their ears, so they can hear.
Verse 27 of Hebrews 12: “Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”
God’s voice started shaking ancient Israel at the changing of the times in Acts chapter 1 and 2 at Pentecost. The first 3,000 baptized were predominantly Jews. It went from there to various parts of the world. It struggled for the last couple thousand years, but at the end of the age another loud shout from heaven reverberates through God’s people and ends up converting the world! But God says, will I find faith? Will I find people with ears to hear? He keeps saying in Revelation, if you have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
We are on the cusp of the whole world getting this message because we are almost out of time for the 6,000 years. We know that. It has to happen. It will happen! But remember we have to have belief. We have to have faith. We have to be obedient. We have to have tender hearts. Then we will have ears to hear. Then we can be among those who preach and teach the world how a loving God is going to save this planet and bring about an awesome Millennium. That truth will convert the world, and there will be an innumerable multitude!
It is up to us, brethren, to make sure we continue to have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.