My mom was a philosopher. I didn’t realize it while I was growing up, but she would quote ancient Greek philosophers during my rearing. I never knew she was such an avid pupil of Epictetus and Zeno, but when she must have been when she told me, “You have two hears and one mouth; hear more, speak less.”
Honestly, my mom probably never heard of Epictetus or Zeno, but then the value of hearing did not originate with them. In Mark 4, Jesus emphasizes the action of hearing which eventually leads to the “Great Decision” in Mark 8. The word for “hear” is used forty-eight times in Mark and fourteen of those times it is in Mark 4. As you zoom into the context you notice Jesus is teaching and this is the first time we get to scoot in close to hear the Master in Mark’s account.
Present-day believers teach their children John 3:16 just like Hebrew believers for centuries taught their children Deuteronomy 6:4-6 which they called the Shema (shuh–mah). The word “shema” means “hear.” Hearing in the Jewish mind had nothing to do with sound waves entering your ear canal, vibrating the tiniest of bones, sloshing through the cochlear fluid, and transmitting neural impulses to the brain. In Hebrew, the word for “obey” does not exist. They only had the word for “hear” or “shema.”
Listening to God was the equivalent of two actions: respect as you focus and response in your faithfulness. The afflicted man cries out in the psalms, “Hear me, O God!” He expects God to focus on his plea and according to His faithfulness act. The Old Testament prophets chastised the people for having ears, but not hearing. Jesus said, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). Those who reverence God’s Word and do it will be fruitful.
Some people will hear, but it doesn’t go to seed because Satan’s influence is too active. Others hear, but the difficulties or distractions make their “hearing” ineffective. Those who hear well were fruitful. What is the key to hearing well? If you examine the four characteristics in Jesus’ parable you will find most are too common, too careless, or too cluttered. Some people let anything and everything walks through their life and the soil of their heart is packed down and firm. Others let life happen “naturally” and as free spirits, they refuse to remove the rocks and obstacles to hearing in their life. Others have so many cares and concerns in their life, they hear is suffocated quickly.
What makes the fourth characteristic so unique? Preparation. The fourth soil condition is cultivated. It doesn’t happen naturally, but because of their expectation to receive something from God, they labored to restrict the traffic and remove the hearing obstacles in their life. Their heart is still and fertile for the seed of God’s Word. If you are to be fruitful in your hearing, then you must prepare the soil to receive the kernel of truth.