Concerning him [Melchizedek, as a type of Christ] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
The writer of Hebrews hasn't come right out and said it until now. But he has implied it. There is something wrong with the Christians he is writing to.
- In 2:1 he said, Pay close attention to the message you've heard lest you drift away.
- In 3:1 he said, Consider Jesus.
- In 3:8 he said; Don't harden your hearts like Israel did in the wilderness.
- In 3:12 he said, Take care, lest you have an evil heart of unbelief.
- In 4:1 he said, Fear, lest you fail to enter God's rest.
- In 4:11 he said, Be diligent to enter God's rest lest you fall by disobedience.
- And in 4:14 he said, Hold fast to your confession.
He comes to the end of last week's text in 5:9–10 and says that Christ has been perfected through suffering and that he has been designated a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. And he takes a breath—you can almost hear him sigh—and says, in 5:11, "Concerning him [or concerning this—what I've just been talking about briefly] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing." And there is our first explicit diagnosis. Here's the disease he is working on in this letter: dullness of hearing.
This is what's behind all those exhortations: Pay close attention! Consider! Don't harden your heart! Fear! Be diligent! Hold fast! These are all doctors’ prescriptions for the disease of dullness of hearing. Again I repeat the question: Do you have this disease, and if so, how can you get well?
I loved teaching school. My favorite grade was third grade, which I taught most of the 35 years I spent teaching. If there is anything that school and church shares in common, I would say that both institutions value the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning. From the earliest days, education has been regarded as an essential for a healthy relationship with God.
In Deut. 6:1 One of Moses’ roles was to teach the young nation of Israel about the commands, decrees and laws of the Lord. In Deut. 6:2, 6-9 it says, “Parents must learn what God says not only for themselves, not only for their sons, but for the sake of the future generations. You won’t find LeBron James’s poster on their walls. What you will see are excerpts from the law.
In Ezra 7:10, he gave priority to the study, application and teaching of God’s word. According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary: As only a small proportion of the people that were proficient in the study of the law under the scribes, and as it was desirable that all should have at least an elementary acquaintance therewith, the custom grew up in postexilic times or reading the Scriptures in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. It must be understood that the main object of these Sabbath day assemblages in the synagogue was not public worship in its stricter sense but religious instruction, which to an Israelite was, above all, instruction in the law.”
In the Book of Acts 2:42-the essential activities of a young church include “the apostles’ teaching. In out text, there is problem going on. The persecution is so severe among the Hebrew Christians, it is almost intolerable. Because of the hardships, turning back on Christ and returning to Judaism looks enticing. They are about to abandon the precious faith. The writer of this epistle sought to strengthen their faith. His prescription: Education.
He educates them that the Jesus they are about to leave is superior over the angels and the prophets. He informs them that the Jesus they are about to abandon is the Creator himself. He is greater than Moses, Judaism’s greatest prophet (chapter 3). The imparting of knowledge is the remedy to the threat of backsliding.
In chapter 5, the writer was about to launch a massive discussion of the superiority of Christ over the priest in Judaism’s temple. He was about to expound about the superiority of Melchizedek’s order of priesthood over the Levitical order…. But he has to paus. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG! He cannot go on because the next topic is HARD TO TEACH. The lesson is inherently difficult. The students have limited ability, (poor I.Q.) I must confess something. My mathematical skills are up to linear equations only. I never made it calculus and had to repeat geometry and algebra 2 over again. That is one of the reasons why I never sought to teach any grade beyond fourth grade. I knew I had better stay in my own lane. When the teacher lacks skills and there is a lack of resources and tools, you can expect that the students will not learn effectively and will be dull, ill-equipped to handle any learning beyond your capacity and intellect to take them higher. They will be dwarfed at the level, until a more capable teacher is hired for the job.
Last week, I told you that the Hebrews had a condition known as: “Dullness of Hearing. The Greek word translated as: “dullness” is (“slow” or “nothros”).As we seek to understand what it means allow me to go to some extra biblical sources:
- The word was used to denote the lazy condition of a slave that causes him delay responses to the call of his master.
- In sports, nothros denotes the condition of an athlete who isw out of shape; lazy and sluggish. Like a sprinter who comes with a body of a sumo wrestler as he competes in 100 meter dash.
- The father calls his brother “nothros” (negligent) for failing to fulfill his responsibility in contributing his share of the money to secure a casket for their mother, therefore the father was forced to use extra resources to secure the casket from the mortician.
We can also better understand the word when we look into what its antonym meant. Hebrews 6:12: “So that you may not be SLUGGISH, but imitators of whose who through FAITH AND PATIENCE inherit the promises” (ESV).
It turns out that the opposite or dullness is the faith and patience of those who have persevered to the end in exercising their faith (the writer will tell more about them when he comes to the 11 chapter’s Hall of Faith).
So from biblical and extra biblical data, we see that “dullness of hearing” conveys: sluggishness, laziness, and negligence. Dullness of hearing is not an auditory defect. It is really an attitude of the heart, as I mentioned last week. It is a lack of interest in receiving instruction. They did not value sound teaching. Now we need to look at the tense of the verb here in the text. It says: “They were not always this way. There was a time when they were not dull in hearing the Word. In fact, they did some things in the past that are worthy of the highest commendation (Hebrews 10:34). Their faith was once vibrant.
The shift from commitment to dullness did not happen overnight-they underwent a process that has put them in this condition. When the word of God that you used to treasure is slowly losing its sweetness-beware. It m ay be an indication that your ears are in the process of becoming dull. When the Apostle Paul and his epistles begin to bore you, and James Cameron’s Avatar begins to excite you, do not take it lightly. It may prove fatal to your faith.
THE DANGERS OF DULL HEARING
- It leaves you unequipped for ministry. “By this time, you ought to be teachers.” They stayed in the church long enough that it was expected upon them that they should articulate the faith that they have (1 Peter 3:15), but because of dull hearing they were unable. This condition not only cripples you from the ministry of teaching but all other ministries as well because you have to have attentive ears in order to be equipped in all forms of spiritual service ( Ephesians 4:11).
- It robs you of the things you already know-“You need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” Luke 8:18-“consider how you listen. Even what he has will be taken away from him.” All the time you spent in the past when your faith was robust will all be wasted. You have to be taught about it all over again. There is a consensus among scholars that believe that “elementary truth” here is equivalent to the ABC’s OF THE FAITH. You can sink that low even if you are healthy, if dullness of hearing develops in you. You think you know John 3:16, you think you know psalm 23 and other verses you memorized as a young Christian. But even these things you think you know will all go to the garbage an when dullness of hearing takes place.
- It leads to a perpetual infancy. It makes you unready for deeper spiritual lessons. You cannot tolerate adult food; you’ll go for the baby food and even that needs review. But the Mature will feast on the finest meats while all you’ll want is the milk inside your Babyflo bottle.
- It makes you unskilled in application: “The word of righteousness” in verse 13 has been variously interpreted. One of the most common views is that it refers to the imputed righteousness of Christ. Though that sounds very orthodox, I cannot see it in the immediate context. Homer Kent’s view is as such: “The word of righteousness” means “God’s revelation about righteousness which is expected of every Christian” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, a commentary).
- It may lead to Apostasy. This point is justified by the next chapter. Hebrews 6:4-6 is hotly debated. Does it teach that salvation could be lost? I firmly believe that the elect persevere to the end. Yet I do not take the warning passages lightly. I believe the threats are very real. The Cannons of Dordt teaches perseverance of the Saints yet it also teaches that God’s word is a means of perseverance. If you shun God’s word you deny yourself of God’ preserving agent.
SO WHAT IS THE CURE?
You must be aware of your own condition.
- First you drink in the milk. That is, you listen to the milk of the Word—the message of God's promises in the gospel.
- You read them yourself in the Bible and you sit under the preaching and teaching of God's Word.
- And you give heed. You are earnest and diligent to apply your heart and mind to what is being said.
- You are not passive and cavalier and indifferent
- —babes long for milk, and are incredibly focused when they are thirsty.
- Savor and swallow and digest and be satisfied.
- Urge them to progress and give them meat…
But He does so with the recognition that they can only move in this direction as God permits (6-3). Homer Kent says: “It is an acknowledgement that only God can change the course of a man’s life when it is going in the opposite direction” Leon Morris says the same thing: “This verse expresses not only a resolute determination to go ahead on these lines, but also a recognition that it is only with the help of God that this can be done. We should take the words not simply as a pious nod in the direction of God, but as coming out of the author’s realization that without divine aid the plan he was suggesting was impossible.”( EBC).
There are people who managed to prevent the cancer of dull hearing and moved to maturity by constant practice of what they learn from the word. It is noteworthy that the Greek word translated as “trained” here sounds like our word for “gym.” I am not a fitness buff, but I know enough for a fact, that you won’t benefit from the gym by going there once a year. You have to exercise regularly so there will be development in your muscles. The same is true for mature people. They have trained their senses to distinguish good from evil by constantly practicing God-given insights.
Psalm 119:34 says: “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.” The desire to learn and the desire to obey must go together. We have no business asking God for illumination without the desire to practice what we learn. Even scholars can be devoid of spiritual insight if they don’t train their senses in application of God’s word. “Christians who begin to practice willful, repeated sin (and especially pastors and scholars) will likely soon begin to lose sound judgment in interpretation and will become less and less a bole to understand Scriptures rightly.”
It is disappointing to see people who grew up in church who show no signs of spirituality now. But this time, they ought to be veterans in spiritual warfare but it seems that they are not enlisted in God’s army. They cannot live without their I-pod; can’t live without their phone; can’t live without Facebook. But they CAN live without God. May God have mercy upon us and keep us away from this condition called DULLNESS OF HEARING.