Keys to Developing a Hearing Ear - Part I: The Key Parable

If you think about how the world operates, security is an important issue whenever you deal with things of great value. In matters of warfare, access to certain kinds of information must be strictly limited for protection from the enemy. For such reasons, access to the valuable item or information is provided to some people and denied to others based upon their relative trustworthiness. Secured transmissions require the ability to encode and decode along with a means of determining authenticity. In our culture, keys and passwords and signatures are familiar and common means of securing and authenticating. From ages past, such methodologies as the sealing of a scroll or a tomb and the use of a signet ring have served to secure items of importance. The realm of cryptography utilized by man merely imitates what the Almighty God does.

The fact that the Lord has restricted access to his word is easily noted. The Lord Jesus Christ is the one through whom access is given. Consider the accounts of Joseph and Daniel interpreting dreams, our Lord's appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, etc.

He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."

Isaiah 6:9-10

Encryption techniques such as Hebrew letter sequence codes, gematria and other numerical devices and architectural structures are merely some of the technical means. The "veil," however, describes what I think is the dominant means.

Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them!

Lamentations 3:65

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:13-18

This veil I write of is not a single veil, which, when taken away, reveals all there is to be seen. It is a layered veiling, a matter of limits and degrees. In a military or a corporate environment there are various levels of security access that are monitored very closely. The grant of access to a particular place or thing to only the right people at the right time is the critical feature of an appropriate security system. Access to knowledge is a special privilege granted to the trustworthy on a "need to know" basis.

And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2 Kings 6:17

The Key Parable

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."

Matthew 13:34-35 (See Psalm 78:2)

Being that there are important truths which are taught in the form of parables, we should seek to understand what they mean. There is a perspective from which our Lord taught that there was one parable that was the basis for understanding other parables.

Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?

Mark 4:13

He was speaking about what is commonly known as the parable of the sower and the seed. We are going to investigate the depths of this remarkable parable from the account given in the eighth chapter of the gospel of Luke to learn the keys to developing a hearing ear, the ability to understand any parable.

Although the parable is usually called the sower and the seed, and, it is a common text for sermonizing, I'm going to take a different approach here. There are three Gospel records that tell similar parables of a sower and the seed. If you examine the events surrounding this parable in the three gospels, it becomes obvious that they are not the same telling or the same parable. The parables themselves have important differences. For example, in Luke 8:18, the Lord says; "Therefore consider carefully HOW you listen." But, in Mark 4:24, the Lord says; "Consider carefully WHAT you hear". "How" and "what" are two different things. In this study we are concerned with the matter of How to listen and we shall be focusing upon the account given in the eighth chapter of the gospel of Luke. Luke's record is unique and generally thought to have been given prior to the parables recorded in Matthew 13 and in Mark 4.

The parable as given in Luke appears to teach three levels of truth. We'll begin with the first level, which is the familiar telling of the parable with the explanation of its symbolism.

Level One

Here is the telling of the parable in verses 5-8a.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. {6} Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. {7} Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. {8} Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.

Luke 8:5-8a

Jesus explains the symbolism in verses 11b-15. I want you to notice that the explanation begins with the symbolism of the seed. No explanation is given about who the farmer is. I'll give my opinion as to why this is so later in this teaching. This parable is an example of the harvest allegory found throughout the Bible, a means by which spiritual truths are taught by comparison with farming.

The seed is the word of God. {12} Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. {13} Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. {14} The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. {15} But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Luke 8:11b-15

There are four categories of ground described. The first, those along the path, hear the word, but the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts. On this first level of truth, we must observe that the heart of a person is likened to soil in which the seed, God's word is sown. In this first category, the word is sown in their hearts but then is taken from their hearts before any growth happens. Result - no crop! The seed didn't even germinate. It fell along the path and was trampled. That's not good for seed. The farmer probably didn't sow it on the path expecting it to grow, but some fell on the path. Then, the parable teaches that the birds of the air eat it up. The birds of the air are clearly said to represent the devil, teaching us how to interpret the symbolism. Because the explanation of the parable says that the category of people represented as "along the path" don't believe unto salvation, this word represented by the seed sown must therefore be the word which leads to salvation when the crop is produced. Keep this in mind.

Those in the second category are those on the rock. They receive the word with joy when they hear it and believe for a while. But, because they have no root, the plants wither; they fall away in the time of testing.

Now, we have a theological issue to deal with before we can go any further. What kind of salvation are we talking about in this parable? Is this some kind of salvation you can fall away from?

Theologians have argued about this subject of salvation for hundreds and hundreds of years and denominations have risen and fallen over the debate. If I may be allowed to address this subject in brief, I believe that if there is only one kind of salvation, the Bible just will not fit and we have a dilemma which cannot be resolved. It seems to me that the only reasonable solution is simple enough, though.

In a nutshell, there are different kinds of salvation which relate to the different parts of man to be saved. Man has the potential to be a three part creature with a body (made of dust and water - an abode like a house or a container like a clay pot) plus something which animates that body (soul life) plus something intangible (spirit life) which isn't directly perceivable in the physical realm. As I understand it, the three facets of a complete man relate to three different types of salvation in three tenses. For a complete man, the body will be (future) saved when it is redeemed, the soul is being (present) saved according to one's works and the spirit has been saved (past) from that moment when a person first believed. The expression "once saved, always saved" is valid with regard to the salvation of the spirit. There is no backsliding or falling away from that. The salvation of the soul, however, is another matter. The salvation of the body would seem to be dependent upon the salvations of the spirit and the soul. So that we can move on to the main subject at hand, let me say simply say that this parable concerns the salvation of the soul life, salvation which can either be gained or lost based upon works. As we have now discussed the salvation, the soul and the soil in which seeds grow, the marvelous correlation with Isaiah 61 can be noted.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Isaiah 61:10-11

Returning now to the parable of Luke 8 and the third category of soil, those who receive the seed have the word choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures and don't mature. Once again, no crop is produced!

Those in the fourth category are the only ones who produce a crop. The seed produces the intended crop of salvation. These people hear the word, retain it and persevere. These have a noble and good heart. This is good soil in which the seed will prosper. This crop is a hundred times more than what is sown.

There is, in this parable's first level of truth, the inference that we, on a personal level, are somehow able to influence the crop. The identities of the sower and of who or what might be represented by the kinds of soil are left open. Let's briefly explore some of the possible interpretations on this level.

First, let me point out that we can not interpret the field in which the seed is sown as the life of one person at various stages of life because this parable is explained as relating to people, plural, more than one. Do you follow me? OK. We need to accurately read what's written and this is what is written in Luke.

I had mentioned that the farmer isn't identified in the parable's explanation, but you can see that the Lord himself is the number one candidate. From another perspective, the word is also sown by the Lord when his people obediently preach. As a fellow laborer with the Lord in this sowing, you can observe the factors revealed in the parable that produce or fail to produce a crop and learn how to become more effective in the work. I think that is a valuable lesson. The crop which is salvation of the soul is valuable for both the soil and for the sower. Can you see how knowledge of the factors that effect the production of the crop applies to you personally as one who wants to be found in the category of the good soil and how it further applies to helping produce the crop in others?

Have you ever watched a field that's been left fallow, which is to have its soil plowed but left unplanted? (A field is left fallow so that the soil can rest, so it may in subsequent seasons become more productive.) After a few months, what did you see? If there was any water present and the season was appropriate, the soil quickly produced growth. It is the natural tendency for soil to prosper some growth whether tended or not, but what grows is largely what we consider weeds, plants which are undesirable and of little value. Just as with a field, our hearts must be stewarded properly in order to receive the seed fruitfully. We must maintain the conditions required for the word of God to bear the intended fruit, removing the rocks from the field and watchfully removing the "thorns" that might choke God's word. Doing this requires that you hear the word, retain it, and persevere. Amen?

In Genesis 2:15, God says that He put the man, Adam, in the Garden to work it and take care of it. Now, in this garden in which the soil is the heart, like Adam, we are required to work it and take care of it so that God's word will prosper and produce a crop, the salvation of the soul! To learn more "secrets of soil conditioning" we move on to what I consider the second level.

Level Two

The theme of what appears to be the next level of truth in Luke 8 is the revealing of the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God to those whose ears will hear. This is where we find tremendously valuable keys - the Keys to Developing a Hearing Ear!

The Meaning of the Parable

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, {2} and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; {3} Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. {4} While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:

Luke 8:1-4

Then He tells the parable, after which we read:

When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." {9} His disciples asked him what this parable meant. {10} he said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.' {11} "This is the meaning of the parable:

Luke 8:8-11a

Then, Jesus explains the symbolism, after which we read:

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. {17} For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. {18} Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.

Luke 8:16-18

Verses 10 and 11 reveal the theme of this level of truth. Verse 11 begins with the phrase, "This is the meaning of the parable." Although it is usually understood as introducing the section which follows it, it also a declaration that what had just been said was the meaning of the parable. The meaning of the parable of the soils is about the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God being given to some and not to others. On this level, the symbolic meaning of the seed seems somewhat different from that of the first level. It is specifically the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God. This is the word that is intended to lead to salvation. The phrase "knowledge of the secrets" is from the Greek "musterion" - mysteries. Secret or hidden things. Secret knowledge. To some of you, what I'm writing may sound like gnosticism or arrogance. Bear with me and hear me out, if you would. What I'm sharing with you is right there in your Bible.

How is the parable of the soils about the secret knowledge of the kingdom of God being given to some and not others? The way I see it, the first three categories of people produced no crop because they were denied access to the secret knowledge. Either the birds of the air take the seed, the young plant has no root or moisture and withers or, it is choked out by weeds. Whatever is required to receive the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God does not exist in those conditions. However, the fourth-soil people produce a crop, being specially qualified to hear and understand the secrets! They are the people with a noble and good heart who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Verse 10 gives us this deeper level of meaning of the parable of the soils.

The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'

Luke 8:10

Let me suggest to you that, without this secret knowledge, those of the first three soil conditions could not produce the crop. The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God is required for the plant to come to maturity and to bear the intended fruit of salvation.

Given to Some but Not to Others

In verse 9, note that the disciples don't ask why Jesus spoke in parables but rather, what this parable means.

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. {10} He said, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'"

Luke 8:9-10

Although it looks like Jesus might have misunderstood their question by his telling them why he spoke in parables, I submit to you that he understood their question and answered appropriately. This actually means that He has given the knowledge to them, but not to others. There's a very important distinction being made in this matter. Consider carefully how that the parables were actually spoken to everyone but the ability to understand was given only to some. A parable is a "cloaking device." By means of parables, the truth is conveyed as an encrypted message. The Lord holds the encryption key and gives it to some, withholding it from others. The messages which are hidden are esoteric; which means they are not intended for everyone to understand.

So, this parable that holds the key to understanding every parable teaches us that people are distinguished one from another based upon this matter of hearing. Division is a great work of the word of God and it is accomplished with perfect justice. In Luke 12 our Lord made a declaration about one of the reasons he came.

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

Luke 12:51

The dividing line is sharp. Paul knew what was going on when he recorded the following for our instruction in I Corinthians.

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.

I Corinthians 11:19

You will find that, as you develop an ear that hears, people who do not understand hidden things will take offense at you. Most will have a fit when you try to share the secrets with them, perhaps throwing around words like "elitism" and "gnosticism" and accusing you of evil. You will wish that a mute mouth went along with a deaf ear! But, take comfort in remembering that this is an indication that you have God's approval.

Let me bend your ear for a moment in this regard. As we approach the close of this age and perhaps its most trying hour, the word of God which is specifically intended for this time is being broadcast over a variety of media. It has been hidden from ages past but is being revealed at a rapidly increasing rate. As this message goes out into the world, a special opportunity comes to every hearer, but it comes with a very grave responsibility.

Consider it as you would a sharp knife in the silverware drawer. Don't allow yourself to grope and fumble around in the dark. Turn up the "light" and pay close attention. If you see and hear the urgent messages of our day, act and do not delay.

When the familiar emergency broadcast message we've all heard comes on the radio or TV, we hear an annoying tone which accompanies the announcement. We also hear something like the following: "This is a test, this is only a test," and, "If this had been a real emergency...." The call to participate in the Lord's plan for your life in these last days is a test - but don't consider for a moment that it is "only" a test. I want to say to you that the reality of the present moment is such that this is not only a test but that it is becoming a real emergency! Lives are at stake - yours included! The warning signals from heaven have been sounding for some time. Mercy is about to be withdrawn, my friend. This is a time given for preparation and we should be about the Lord's urgent business. If you haven't heard the warning signals, may I suggest that you take this book's instruction to heart and develop an ear that can hear them? You do not want to be disqualified for the prize mentioned by Paul.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I Corinthians 9:24-27

The Lord wants to open his secrets to you, taking you into his confidence. They are required in order to produce the crop, remember? As you learn to trust and obey him, he will entrust his secrets to you. Let me encourage you with this wonderful promise.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Proverbs 25:2

His Disciples Asked Him

Jesus made the following announcement.

When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Luke 8:8b

Did you ever think about what this expression means? Could this be a command from the Lord for people to listen up, to pay close attention to what He was saying? Maybe. Is He calling to His Father in Heaven to open the ears of some of the people present so that they can understand the mysteries of His kingdom? I think so! Since Jesus wasn't in the habit of yakking, this announcement must have been necessary and important. Do you want to see what effect this had upon those present who had ears to hear? Consider what immediately followed that announcement.

His disciples asked him what this parable meant.

Luke 8:9

Do you see it? Jesus called for God to open the ears of those who would hear, to give understanding to those who would understand. Immediately, those who had ears to hear responded by asking for an explanation! Cool!!! This is the fruit of Jesus' prayer request. Here, we also find a simple key to developing a hearing ear: As prompted by the holy spirit, ask Him what things mean. Simple enough?

Every time the phrase, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." occurs in the Bible, it's the Lord himself doing the speaking. Some preachers wave it around like a magic wand, though I don't think just saying it necessarily produces the desired result. I sometimes pray for those to whom I minister to be given ears to hear, and it doesn't hurt anybody to do so, but I haven't seen the kind of fruit that I anticipate will yet be produced in the near future. Even so, as I write, ears are being opened by our Lord to the mysteries of the kingdom of God to a far greater degree than the world has seen for a very long time! My friend, what a time to be alive and to serve the Lord Christ!

The Light of the Lamp

In the fascinating sixteenth and seventeenth verses of Luke 8, the second level of truth can be observed in the giving of the mysteries of the kingdom of God by way of riddles.

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Luke 8:16

Verse 17 begins with the word "for", indicating that we're being given the reason the lamp lighter does what he does.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Luke 8:17

What is the light in this lamp but those things formerly hidden and concealed being disclosed and brought out into the open? This "light" symbolizes God's nature, truth, and also the light of the world - Jesus himself. "To see the light" is a common idiom that means "to understand." When the lamp is in a jar or under a bed, the light is hidden and not seen, meaning that the truth is not understood. When the lamp is on a stand, those who come in can see the light and therefore understand the true meaning. In the specific context of this verse, putting the lamp on the stand represents the disclosure of the mysteries of the kingdom of God to those who come in to see the light, who can understand and who thereby become enlightened!

Notice that we aren't told directly who lights the lamp and puts it on the stand. I think the reason why not is similar to why we aren't told who sows the seed; because there are numerous applications which are valid. Just as we found in the parable's first level of truth, I believe that the one who lights the lamp and puts it on a stand is primarily the Lord Jesus Christ. As I expound this second level of truth to you, if you understand what I write, the Lord is even now placing the lamp on a stand! The Lord discloses His word, and he also hides his word from being understood. He is the "hider" of secrets and the revealer!

For an example of our Lord in this role, here is a most wonderful thing Jesus did for the apostles after His resurrection.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Luke 24:45

In another example, from Genesis, Jesus is portrayed in typology through the life of Joseph, the firstborn son of Jacob and Rachel. The Egyptian name given him by Pharaoh, Zaphenath-Paneah, has a meaning of "the revealer of secrets." (See End note #1) Daniel records what the king said about Daniel (See Daniel 4:8-9, 5:12, etc.), who is another type of Christ like Joseph is a type of Christ.

He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22) He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:21b-22a

Now, did you happen to notice the extent according to which Luke 8:17 declared these mysteries will be revealed? We see that there is, "nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." All will become known! Eventually, every secret of the kingdom of God will be brought out into the open. The fullness of the light of the lamp represents every secret of the kingdom of God!

The Reason for the Lamp

Let's return to verse 16 to learn what else this riddle reveals about the mysteries. It speaks of the reason for the hiding and disclosing.

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Luke 8:16

We are told that no one lights a lamp and hides its light. "No one" includes even the Lord Jesus! A lamp is lit so that the light may be shone forth. The secret things are not intended to stay hidden forever. The shining of the light is the reason for the lamp - the matters are meant to be disclosed. Even every secret matter! According to Deuteronomy:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29

According to the renowned scholar Dr. E. W. Bullinger, the above verse should read as follows, (including his comment made in The Companion bible): "The secret things, even the revealed things, (belong) to us and our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law; i.e. the revealed things, and the secret things which have not been but will yet be revealed."

Here, we see a correlation with the parable of the soils. Those who produce the crop are those who have been given understanding of the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God, who hear it, retain it and persevere. The revealed things which have been secret are given to us so that we may do - may DO all the words of this law. This law now includes that which has been written in our hearts by the spirit.

Please notice a very important detail from Luke 8:16. The lamp is put on a stand not so that everyone without qualification can see the light, but is placed such that only those who come in can see the light. The stand upon which the lamp is placed must then be in a place more private than public, a place somewhat secluded, perhaps in a sense more remote, out of sight from the mainstream. Access to this light is limited. Those who do not come in cannot see the light. It remains hidden to those who do not come in to see it. Thus, coming in to see the light is the action required on the part of the one who will see this light from the lamp which is placed on the stand.

Other Lamp Lighters

By means of multiple occurrences of a phrase found in verse 17, allusion is made to other places in the Bible. As we consider these two other passages, we find something of the lamp lighting and placing on a stand performed by certain others with whom the lamp lighter will give it.

So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:26-28

The one doing the telling and whispering, disclosing and making known is the same one giving the prophecy - Jesus. See, he says, "what I tell you". Then, when what is told in the dark is spoken in the daylight, others are involved in the broadcasting of the light intended for those who come in to see it. Those who don't have ears to hear it won't like it one bit. They will threaten and they will kill the body.

In the following record, the one doing the disclosing, etc. is "you" - not Jesus as stated in the previous passage.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 4 "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Luke 12:2-5

Although the two accounts above are very similar, they are actually very different, having different applications, each of which will become evident in its own time.

Consider Carefully How You Listen

When Jesus says in verse 18a of Luke chapter 8, "Therefore consider carefully how you listen", He is giving us a clue to finding a key to developing a hearing ear. Consider carefully how you listen. How do you listen? The words come to the ear, right? So you get yourself within earshot of what's being said. But, is that all there is? No. All the people around Jesus heard the parable He spoke, right? But the disciples responded differently. Of all who were present, they were the ones who asked him what the parable meant! Here, my friend is where the cure for the problem of a deaf ear is found: In the response. "How you listen" relates to how you respond to what you have already heard! The parable of the soils is about the different kinds of response to the seed that falls upon it! The most important key to developing a hearing ear involves your response to what is heard.

Let's consider this truth as it is presented in the book of James.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:21-25

Did you take note of what was written in verse 21 above; "accept the word planted in you, which can save you." This so obviously alludes to the parable about the planting of the seed in your heart which leads to salvation in Luke 8, which, remember, is that parable said to be the basis for understanding all parables. The point is emphatically made that the one who hears it must do it. There it is, I said it again - do it.

Whoever Has Will be Given More

So, from the first part of the 18th verse of Luke 8, we have learned "how to listen". To respond by acting upon what is heard is how we must listen. In the rest of the verse, another cryptic riddle appears, by which we shall see this lesson confirmed.

... Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.

Luke 8:18

In order to find the solution to this riddle, we are prompted to ask the following questions: "Has what?" "Given more of what?" "Does not have what?" "What shall be taken from him?" Let's review what we know of the context so we know what "pond to go fishing in" for the solution. The passage is about the giving of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, or shall we say, the giving of the ability to understand those mysteries. In Luke 8:18's riddle, we want to know what it is that is given and what will be taken away, and the answer is, of course, found right in the context. It should now be apparent to you that the subject of the passage is the ability to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and it is this ability that is given to some and not to others. It is the very ability to understand that may be given or taken away. It is worthy of note that this ability is declared in the context to be the basis for salvation. It is no small matter! You and I want to be found "having," yes?

Now, here's an interesting matter. From Luke we read:

"Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."

Luke 8:8a

What came up and yielded a crop? "It" did - the seed itself! The crop was a hundred times more than was sown. What was sown? The seed itself was sown. The crop is what was sown but in quantity it is multiplied a hundredfold. The seed sown and the crop produced are in the same category and both represent the ability to understand the mysteries. Yes, of a truth: Whoever has will be given more! Of course, everyone who knows agriculture knows that seeds grow into plants and the mature plants bring forth the new seeds. The language of the parable is such that it focuses our attention upon the seed.

Consider if you will, the symbolic language of the prophet Isaiah.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

Here, the harvest allegory compares the word which goes forth not to the seed itself but to the rain and the snow which comes down from heaven. The reason it goes out is to water the earth. It will both yield seed for the sower and bread for the eater. The seed is the ability to understand the mysteries and the breaking of bread is the giving of understanding. Listen closely and you will hear the latter rains gently falling upon the ground in preparation for a great harvest.

Now, for the solution to the other part of the riddle in Luke 8:18, we must ask, "What is it that is had or thought to have had"? What is the basis for the giving or taking away of the ability to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God? I submit to you that it is the correct response of acting upon what is heard. Think about it. We have to continue to "fish from the same pond," right? Here is what I believe is the solution to the riddle of verse 18: Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has the appropriate response of acting upon what he has already been given will be given more ability to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God; and conversely whoever does not have the appropriate response, even what ability to understand the mysteries he thinks he has will be taken from him.

The declaration that the one who has the ability to understand taken from him "thinks he has" reveals the that this one is being deluded or deceived. Let me give the text from James chapter 1 again, matching it up beside luke 8:18 in the same sequence by placing verse 25 between verses 22 and 23.

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. 22) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Whoever has will be given more; 25) But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."
whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him. 23) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24) and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

The principle we find here is a matter of degrees rather than being an all or nothing proposition. Our ability to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God is therefore in proportion to our response. We will see this same principle in operation in the other part of this series of writings about faith. When we act appropriately upon what we hear, the Lord adds to our ability to understand the mysteries. When we don't act, our ability to hear decreases. It is a simple principle and a profound truth.

Let me speak honestly to you, to you who would like to understand the mysteries. What I believe is the root of that which produces the deceitful effect upon the hearer is pride. I believe that is why the illustration in the first chapter of James is that of a man who looks at himself in a mirror. Pride is deceitful and it cause men and women to boast in the flesh. Pride and hypocrisy reign in the hearts of men like the Pharisees of Jesus' day who consider themselves to be the stewards of the mysteries. Humility is the first key which gets you in the door to get the other keys, my friend - an honest appraisal of who you are in Christ. Pride and hypocrisy will cost you everything. Do not be deceived. Don't forget what you look like when you have looked at your face in the mirror. Here is a pretty good verse to remember in this regard. This is what you look like when you look in a mirror.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Romans 7:18

But, do your best to carry it out. Act upon what you know, honestly and humbly submitting to the Lord.

Do What it Says

Now, follow me through the full text of the lesson of this parable to establish this deeply profound and utterly simple fundamental key principle as fully as I see it. I'll start at the beginning of Luke 8 and point out this key to developing a hearing ear as I find it, which is the doing of what is heard.

Those who were traveling around with Jesus while he was proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God were the twelve and some women, some of whom were named. According to verse 3: "These women were helping to support them out of their own means." As I see it, helping to support them is the doing of what they had heard they should do.

In verse 9, the disciples are acting upon what they had just heard by asking Jesus what this parable meant, as I mentioned previously.

In verse 15, in the explanation of the symbolism of the parable, those who produce a crop do so by hearing the word, retaining it and persevering. How much more plain can it be?

In verse 16, the light from the lamp that is lit and put on a stand is seen by those who come in to see it. The action taken by those who see it is the coming in to see it.

In verse 18, the hidden things are disclosed to those who have acted upon what has already been given.

A Further Illustration

The key principle being presented is confirmed and magnified to us in this remarkable chapter through a further illustration. You may be surprised to discover how the context of this teaching of what I call the second level extends to verses 19-21, to include the attempt by his mother and brothers to gain access to Jesus while he is teaching about the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." 21 He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

Luke 8:19-21

See also Matthew 12:46-50 for a similar account. According to verse 50: "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." The true members of our Lord's immediate family are those who do the will of God which they have heard!

How Much Does it Cost?

This is what separates the "bees" from the "wannabees" when it comes to determining who gets access to the hidden secrets and who it is that will ultimately save their souls. The "wannabees" don't do what they hear. They hear the word and talk about it, maybe. Maybe they pretend to do it so they can look like those who actually do it, but without the risk. Oh, yeah, the risk. That's why people don't do it! There's risk involved. And not just risk, or, the potential for loss; the actual loss of your most valued attributes and possessions is involved and, well, required. Yes, if you would respond to the word you hear by doing it, it will cost you... and dearly. What was said later in chapter 9 is no joke, dear friends.

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

Luke 9:23-26

Do you suppose that this is merely a figurative illustration? The verse which preceded those above is as follows:

And he said, 'The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.'

Luke 9:22

Was that a figurative illustration? Get the point? This is the cost that ultimately separates the "bees" from the "wannabees," the believers from the make-believers

How badly do want to save your soul? What is this present physical life and its rewards worth to you? Is this present life so precious that you cannot trade it for what the one who cannot lie has promised is better? Glory only comes at the price of suffering. There is no free ride to glory land, friend. Jesus bought the salvation of your spirit for the price of his blood. The salvation of your soul is going to have to be bought for the price of your blood. It is good to have a saved spirit. It is the price of admission which has already been paid for you, just accept it as a free gift. It is better still to have the additional benefit and blessing of having your soul saved, your life - YOU! The price is being paid as you live it and give it.

Think about the following verses, won't you? Consider their message.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Philippines 2:12

Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:17-18

Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

John 15:20

1 All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.

John 16:1-4

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

John 15:12-14

Read I Peter 1 and consider deeply the message about this salvation and its cost. True love requires risk, doesn't it? Please understand that you are born from above so that He can give you the life. Allow Him to live it and give it, offering what is your life to give as a willing sacrifice back to Him! This is your privilege, you who have this life. You must learn to submit to the Lord, subjecting your will to His. There is no other way.

If I were to tell you that for everyone who is a Christian that there will be high-fives and big victory celebrations awaiting us all without distinction for simply being a member in the body, I would be a false prophet. I would be telling you a lie. I have lied about this in the past, ignorantly perpetuating the doctrines I'd been taught. I repent of this and ask the Lord to forgive me. I thank Him for His mercy which is so abundantly poured out upon me.

It is difficult for many of us to imagine ourselves being willing martyrs. How could we possibly have the courage to subject ourselves to such painful suffering? But, Paul did. Peter did. In fact all the Apostles did. (John actually lived until he died a natural death, but not until after they tried to boil him in oil and yet failed to kill him because he was supernaturally spared.)

Hey, don't get mad at me for getting heavy on you. Don't you read the Bible? Don't you know about the history of the early church? Don't you realize what is going on around the world in our very day? WAKE UP!!! Pardon my shouting. I just wanted to make sure you heard. If you are going to be given membership in the "Co-heirs with Christ Club," you're going to have to pay the dues like everybody else. Just how badly do you want ears to hear? Are you willing to pay whatever price is asked? There is no question in my mind as to whether or not you are even now being tested in this matter. Is there in yours?

Let me tell you that your life is your own to do with what you want. Your spirit has been purchased, but your soul life, while you still have it, is yours to spend however you choose. If I may be so bold, let me say that its time to make up your mind. If you haven't yet, let me invite you to get on your knees and humble yourself before the Lord. Seek his mercy. Whatever He says, just do it. Don't pray to be spared from suffering for his name, for that is no blessing at all. Pray for the strength and courage to endure it as it comes and for our Lord to be given the glory! In due season, ask the Lord to forgive those who persecute you. They are unwitting participants in a plan the Lord means for good.

Level Three

Now, on a third and deeper level in the treasure chest of Luke 8, the teaching about four kinds of soil has a prophetic implication which is dispensational. I think it is a valid interpretation - not the only one, but well worth considering! I would like to acknowledge E. W. Bullinger for his insight into this level. The four types of ground represent four distinct periods of time during which the message about the kingdom is received by Israel in a particular way. These are given in the proper chronological sequence.

The seed which fell by the wayside was proclaimed by all the prophets from the first up to and including John the Baptist; the last. The conclusion of this sowing came when John the Baptist was not accepted, (See Matthew 11:18, 17:12-13) thus, the message he brought was not accepted. Yes, of course many did accept him, but not those to and for whom he specifically came and who are held accountable for that rejection.

The seed which fell upon stony ground was the gospel of the kingdom which was proclaimed via Christ's earthly ministry, by Jesus himself along with the Twelve and the seventy-two who were sent out while the King was among them. This period was completed when Jesus went to Gethsemane and was consequently betrayed.

The seed that fell among thorns was proclaimed primarily by the Twelve and by Paul in the synagogues of the Dispersion. This period was completed when this gospel was rejected by the Jewish leaders as recorded at the close of Acts 28. The soil which is national Israel will remain barren until such time as it is properly prepared to receive the seed and produce the crop.

According to Bullinger, writing at what must have been around the turn of the last century, the fourth sowing was yet future and would be the final proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. He predicted that this sowing will be immediately preceding and during what he calls the "tribulation." if his interpretation of this fourth soil condition is valid, the time of good and noble hearts has arrived! For more details about this interpretation, study his appendices numbered 140, 142 and 145 and his companion notes found in the passages regarding the parables of the soils.

The Calling of Samuel

It seems to me that the record of Samuel's callings in 1 Samuel 3 is an account that parallels the parable of the soils on the dispensational level of teaching.

1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5 And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. 6 Again the Lord called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." 11 And the Lord said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle."

I Samuel 3:1-11

The first three times he was called, he didn't recognize the Lord's voice calling him. Upon hearing the Lord's voice the fourth time, he recognized it and rose up to serve Him! Not only do the responses to the Lord's calls correspond to the soils of the parable, (three with no crop while the fourth bears fruit) but another correlation exists with the lamp of Luke 8:16 as that "lamp of God which had not yet gone out" which is the subject of I Samuel 3:3. If the theme of the portions I highlighted seem somewhat familiar, it is probably because you remember this:

8b When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." 9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, '"though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'"

Luke 8b-10

The call came to be heard by Samuel but not by Eli. Eli's "eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see", meaning that he could understand very little of the truth. In a figure "the lamp" had almost gone out; its light was so dimly seen! By this we know that Eli had not acted with obedience upon what he had heard of the word of God and that the understanding had been subtracted from him. Consider what is written about him.

For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them.

I Samuel 3:13

Eli failed to restrain his sons, which is to say that he failed to act upon what he knew was required of him. This is why the understanding of the word of the Lord had been subtracted from him and his ears were not hearing ears, his eyes could barely see.

The name "Eli" means, "lofty, elevated," or, "my God" in what I believe is in the sense of "I am my own God." Eli most particularly exemplifies the proud Jew who is proud of self and proud against God. He represents the rabbinic leaders, the religious leaders who consider themselves to be the stewards of the mysteries of God but who are veiled from truly understanding even the most simple and basic truths. These people of whom Eli is a type are going to be destroyed. The work the Lord did through the typical and will yet do through the antitypical Samuel's ministry judges Eli's family, whose end is seen in the following verse.

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had led Israel forty years.

I Samuel 4:18

Samuel, whose name means, "His name is of God" represents the first corporate group of Jews in the end times to accept Jesus as their Messiah, Y'shua haMashiach. These faithful people are identified in the Bible by their number - 144,000. The understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of God will be given to these people to a very high degree. The production of the crop which springs forth from the seed that is sown into the good soil will begin with the sealing of the 144,000. The crop is, in one view, the salvation of Israel.

If you're familiar with other articles on this site, you may have observed the correlation between Samuel's calling and another account of the calling of the 144,000 in the posture and location of the typical character when the calling was heard. When Samuel heard the Lord calling his name, he was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. In John 13:23, the disciple who represents the 144,000 was reclining against Jesus at the supper in the upper room. I'd like to suggest to you that the upper room represents the temple. The posture of reclining can be a symbol of the presence of the people designated by the one reclining whose time had not yet come for their anointing and subsequent ministry.

Let me suggest to you now that the lamp which is lit and placed on a stand in Luke chapter 8 represents the menorah in the temple, the lamp of I Samuel 3. This lamp is not the earthly menorah, but the true one in heaven after which the earthly was patterned. The upper room points similarly to the earthly temple, but yet even beyond it to heaven itself, after which pattern the earthly had been built. The upper rooms of Acts 1:13 and John 13 merge in type, in part to teach us about the coming sealing of the 144,000. By the way, have you been introduced to the menorah yet, which the disciple who is a type of the 144,000 saw when he visited the most holy place? You can see him in Revelation 1:12-16.

For further study of this third level of truth of Luke 8, consider the harvest allegory about the vineyard from Matthew 21:33-46, Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 118: 22-23, Isaiah 27:2-6, Isaiah 32:12-15 and Hosea 2:15-23. Plus, consider Isaiah 61 and the references in the Song of Solomon. Ahhhh, homework.

End note:

1) By the way, for those of you with a hearing ear, there is a wonderful figure which is used in the Bible in several places. When Jesus breaks bread, this represents the opening of the veil which has obscured some hidden truth from those in whose presence He breaks bread - with an application either in the past, present or future. (Return to article)

next in series > Keys to Developing a Hearing Ear - Part II