Ears are very common devices. There are over seven billion people on our planet, so that means there are over 14 billion ears. You almost certainly have one on each side of your head, as I do. Even though we seldom think about them, they are vital parts of our bodies and our daily lives.
According to the popular book by J.D. Ratcliff, Your Body and How it Works, we usually think of our eyes as our most important sensory organs. Yet, without our ears, we would be “doomed to solitary sonic confinement—far more emotionally disabling than blindness.”
Author Ratcliff imagines an ear speaking. It is the right ear of a 47 year-old man named Joe. “I [Joe’s ear] have enough electrical circuits to provide phone service for a good-sized city. I am also a kind of automatic pilot, keeping Joe from toppling over.” In the ear canal—a one-inch twisted channel connecting the outer ear to the eardrum—“a profusion of hairs and 4,000 wax glands act as a flypaper trap for insects, dust and other potential irritants.”
“My eardrum…is where the intricate business of hearing starts. Sound-bearing airwaves strike it—like a stick beating a drum. Even faint vibrations from a whisper can push it inward—but ever so little, perhaps only a billionth of a centimeter. [A centimeter is about four-tenths of an inch.] This minute displacement is then changed, in an awe-inspiring chain of events … into meaningful sound for Joe. … Thus, Joe hears with me, but in his brain.”
God has ears too. While God’s ears are not physical organs, they are also very finely tuned, only infinitely more so than ours. If even a whisper may move a human eardrum a billionth of a centimeter, how much more does the slightest prayer affect the “eardrum” and “brain” of God!
A highly encouraging section of the Bible, attributed to King David, is Psalm 34:
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
For some 3,000 years the people of God have been heartened by these remarkable assurances: God hears their cries, delivers them, is close to them, and saves them.
But these are not unconditional promises. God does these things for “the righteous”—those who are serious about doing right and being right in their hearts in the light of God’s revealed truth. Even those who have not yet been made righteous by the transforming grace of God in salvation—even those, if they hunger and thirst for righteousness—will be heard by God and filled with him.
These all need to “cry out” to him, however. God expects us to bring our requests to him in faith, whether we cry out outwardly or deep within our hearts only.
But who are “the brokenhearted” and “those who are crushed in spirit”? It seems to me that these are ones who are hurting so deeply that whatever hopes and positive expectations they once had concerning their problems, these have now been shattered. Such ones may be broken and crushed due to circumstances such as severed relationships, serious health issues, crippling financial setbacks, job and career disappointments, or the terrible pain of sin—their own or that of others.
When we who desire to do right and to be right cry out to God for mercy and hope, “his ears are attentive to [our] cry,” and he hears us and sustains us in ways that we may not sense at the time. As David wrote elsewhere, “a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17; see also Psalm 130: 1-2; Hebrews 4:16; James 5:4).
While our circumstances may not be as crushing as those of others, it is likely that everyone reading this is burdened in some way or ways. Yes, life has its more serene times, but quite often it has its turbulent times. Our heartaches are sometimes known only to ourselves or to one or two others. They are always, however, known to God. His ears are always attentive to our cries.
But what about our ears? Jesus and the prophets spoke often about those who have ears but do not hear, and those who have stopped their ears so that they cannot hear.
Remember Joe’s right ear? He has more to say. “Joe’s hearing started declining almost the moment he was born. It is now going down each year as my tissues lose elasticity, hair cells degenerate and calcium deposits invade critical spots. When Joe was a baby he had a hearing range of 16 to 30,000 cycles per second (vibrations). … Now [at age 47] he hears nothing above 8000, and if he reaches the age of 80, that will be down to about 4000. He will then hear conversation reasonably well in a quiet place, but may have difficulty in a noisy area.
“Perhaps the biggest thing Joe should be worrying about right now is noise pollution.” According to Joe’s ear, some things that will wreck him are loud rock music, the whine of jets, the rat-a-tat-tat of riveting machines and the repeated burst of a shotgun.
“Joe has his eyes examined regularly, and I would like the same attention. If Joe only knew how limited and lonely the world of silence is, he would take all possible steps to preserve my partner [Joe’s left ear] and me.”
With our spiritual ears, we too must guard against noise pollution. The noises and voices of the world, the flesh and the devil will surely, over time, decrease our ability to hear the voice of God.
We may even become spiritually deaf, just as people become spiritually blind. And so Jesus repeatedly warned his listeners: “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”