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“The Hearing Ear and the Seeing Eye”

Category Articles
Date May 8, 2007

God made everything. His final act of creation was to bring mankind into existence. Like every other part of His work, Adam and Eve were perfect in every respect. “God saw every thing that He had made,” we are told, “and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Adam’s body was perfect; as was Eve’s. And so were their souls.

It is particularly drawn to our attention that “the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them” (Prov. 20:12). This was true of the body’s senses; it was also true of the soul’s – God gave the two original human beings the spiritual capacity to see and to hear, and to do so perfectly. So when God came into the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, as one may assume He did before the Fall, Adam and Eve were able to take in His words with spiritual satisfaction. And as they looked around the Garden, they could appreciate the beauty and the perfection of all they saw. Accordingly, when the Lord spoke and also when they saw the wonder of His works, their pure hearts were without doubt lifted up in the spirit of worship.

Yet although God made man perfect, neither Adam nor Eve continued in that state. In response to the devil’s temptation, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6). When they saw the attractiveness of the fruit, their souls’ eyes were no longer functioning properly; their minds were no longer acting under the influence of God’s holy law; they no longer looked at the world around them as they had done when their hearts were in absolute subjection to God’s will. Then they might have seen the fruit as attractive but, knowing that it was forbidden, they would not have been in any degree tempted to take it and eat it.

Now all was changed. They were fallen creatures. Only as fallen, could they have viewed the tree as desirable to make them wise. After all, God had already given them real wisdom. We might feel tempted to ask how those who had such wisdom could have acted so foolishly, but we must not seek to explore what God has not been pleased to reveal. There is a high degree of mystery in the Fall: perfect creatures, under the devil’s influence, became grossly imperfect; every part of them became defiled by sin.

Similarly the ears of their souls ceased to function properly. Thus, when “they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day … Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). As fallen creatures, they did not expect to find the Lord’s words pleasant; they could only expect His message to be utter condemnation.

So it is with all their descendants while they remain in a state of nature. The words of prophecy: “when we shall see [the Messiah], there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2), were fulfilled when He took human nature and went about the various districts of Judea and Galilee. Many saw Him, but because the eyes of their souls were blinded, they did not welcome Him. And because the ears of their souls did not function, His words had no attraction for them. They heard Him, but they found His message a “hard saying” and they went away. Thus it is today also. Sinners are shown Christ in the preaching of the gospel; He is set before them in the pages of Scripture; but because the eyes of their souls are blinded, they do not see Him. What is more, they do not want to see Him. Likewise, they may hear His words read or spoken but, because the ears of their souls are completely deaf, they do not receive the gospel message. And, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, they never will.

Yet, by the Spirit’s work, some sinners are made able to obey the call: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22). And although they cannot open the eyes of even one sinner, preachers are sent out to give that call. Thus Paul was sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes” (Acts 26:18). Like other gospel messengers, he was powerless to bring one sinner to look to Christ by faith. But many who were spiritually blind when Paul came to their district had their eyes opened to see Jesus through his preaching. What Paul could not do, the Holy Spirit did. He makes the soul able to see – recreates in the soul the seeing eye.

When the soul’s eyes are made to function, so are its ears. Thus Luke writes of how in Philippi “Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14); and she did so because the Lord made her soul able to hear. The Apostle no doubt spoke about sin and salvation, pointing emphatically to the sinner’s need as condemned to a lost eternity and polluted by sin – needing forgiveness and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. But he would have spoken with equal assurance of the perfect provision made for sinners in the work of Christ – “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19).

As he spoke, the Spirit was at work in Lydia’s heart, making it accessible to God’s Word. The ears of her soul were opened so that she could take in what was said. Previously her unopened heart would have rejected the truth; now she was able to receive it. Previously her unopened eyes could not perceive the Saviour whom Paul proclaimed to her; now she saw Him by faith and could say, “He is altogether lovely” (Song of Sol.5:16). Previously she could not discern the truths of the gospel; now she could say of her Saviour: “His mouth is most sweet”, for she had with opened ears heard Him address her through His ambassador and was taken up with Him and the gospel.

Yet, in later life, she would have felt the need again and again to ask the Lord to make the eyes and ears of her soul function more effectually. It was a godly man who prayed: “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Psa. 119:18). His eyes had already been opened, but he felt the need to ask for them to be opened further so that he might understand God’s revelation better. Believers need the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts so that they may “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of [their] Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. Not only does the Lord make both the hearing ear and the seeing eye in the soul; it is He who makes the soul more receptive to the truth and brings it to look to Christ more trustfully.

Though the apostles, like the prophets before them and the preachers of today, had no access to anyone’s heart, yet it was their duty to call on their hearers to believe. Jeremiah cried: “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” (Jer. 5:21). His hearers’ souls were dead – and so were blind and deaf; they could not receive the truth. What, people might then ask, was the point in Jeremiah calling on his hearers to hear and see – in other words, to believe? And what, one might ask today, is the point in a preacher calling on the unconverted to believe in Christ and be saved? None whatever – if there is no power beyond his own. But it is the most reasonable thing in the world if there is reason to believe that the Holy Spirit in sovereign mercy may accompany the truth with power to the hearts of the spiritually dead.

There is every reason to believe that the Spirit will so apply the truth. While sinners cannot themselves open their blind eyes or their deaf ears, they are commanded to look to the Saviour and to hear him. But the “things which are impossible with men are possible with God”. The call of the gospel is the means God has appointed to bring sinners into His kingdom. The Holy Spirit has the power to make the ear of the soul hear, and the eye see. What an encouragement to seek the Lord in the way He has appointed.


The author is the editor of the Free Presbyterian Magazine, from whose May 2007 edition this editorial has been reprinted with permission.

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