The Real Hunger Game

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It used to be that one of the signs of old age was loss of hearing. I say, “used to be” because many people have suffered loss of hearing early in life due to the excessive level of noise they have been exposed to, levels that were not the experience of earlier generations.

In any case, the question that arising from today’s reading is “How’s your hearing?” Jesus has just told the parable of the sower to His audience (Matthew 13:10-23; Mark 4:10-25; Luke 8:9-18). On the heels of that teaching He reveals to His circle of disciples what the parable means. The parable itself is all about the Word of God and how well, or how poorly, people hear, understand, and respond to it.

Changing metaphors, Jesus then said that, like a lamp on a table, the light than comes from the Word of God is to shine brightly. Everyone should be exposed to it, but not everyone will understand the meaning of its brilliance, even when they have been exposed to it. He ends with this cryptic phrase: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23).

Immediately thereafter, Jesus added: “‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Mark 4:24, 25).

In one of my Bibles, beside the words “whoever has” is an asterisk. At the end of verses 25, I penned a note to go with the asterisk. It reads “*hunger for the truth.”

At the end of this month I am scheduled to give a workshop at a women’s retreat. We are going to discuss some practical suggestions for developing a regular, intimate encounter with the Word of God. I am a firm believer that nothing is a good enough substitute for time spent in the Scriptures. No book by the greatest Biblical scholar, no preacher or teacher with an international reputation (or otherwise), no Bible School or Seminary training, can serve as a substitute for the hunger that drives us to interact, just us and it, with what God has said. To “chew it” for ourselves brings us much greater benefit than feeding on what has been “chewed” by others. The resources that we have available to us in the English-speaking world are wonderful, but there is no treasure as exciting as that which we dig out of the ground on our own. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Scripture at 176 verses, is packed from start to finish with the psalmist's exultation of the value he has discovered in intimate contact with the Word of God.

When we get to these remarks by Jesus about the truth of His Word the message is clear. The more our hunger for truth drives us to make connection with the Word of God, with the gospel message, the more understanding we will be given. Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit of God would teach them, would “guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he…will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13-15).

But how we “hear” is critical. The parable of the sower highlights four kinds of “hearing.” The “hearing” that produced the harvest of righteousness was the result of seed falling on prepared and fertile ground—someone had done the digging, the tilling, the rock-removal, the fertilizing, before the seed fell. Our hunger for truth will drive us to do whatever is necessary to prepare ourselves for getting into God’s Truth for ourselves.

Whether it be better time management, more prayer, or anything else, we have this promise from the Word itself, that the more we invest in personal study of the Word of God, the better will be the return on that investment. The hunger for truth will not only be satisfied but will lead to greater hunger that only more exposure to God’s Word as taught by God’s Spirit can quench.

After all, it was Jesus who said: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6). And if that is what we are after, then there is no better place to go than to the Word given to us by the only Righteous One.

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