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In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of those who have “ears to hear” at the end of a difficult saying or parable. Who is “he who has ears to hear”? Better yet, who is “he who has ears”?

Ears are a feature shared by all of humanity — to not have ears would be an unnatural occurrence. Therefore, when Jesus addresses those who have ears, He refers to all who have been given His words — no matter their age, ethnicity, language, or status. The wicked have ears but they refuse to listen.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains it this way: “The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” Without belief, you cannot hear. The wicked allow Satan to take the word of God away from their heart and the don’t believe God.

But there is a difference between having ears and having “ears to hear.” Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed contrasts types of hearers: those who let the Word of God pass straight through their ears and those who truly listen and seek understanding. Some hear the Word, yet they do not allow it to take root because the seduction of worldly pleasures and comfort overcomes them. Others end up rejecting the Word because of persecution or trials. Others hear the Word and open themselves to understand and accept it so that it transforms them. Those who have “ears to hear” allow the Word to bear fruit to the glory of God. It is up to the hearer to decide whether to take the Word seriously and pursue understanding; only a few are willing—the rest have ears, but they do not have “ears to hear”.

  • Ezekiel 3:7 — 7 yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate.
  • Exodus 7:13 — 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Master had said.
  • 2 Kings 17:14 — 14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Master their God.
  • 2 Kings 17:40 — 40 However, they did not listen, but they did according to their earlier custom.
  • 2 Kings 18:12 — 12 because they did not obey the voice of the Master their God, but transgressed His covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the Master commanded; they would neither listen nor do it.
  • Nehemiah 9:17 — 17 “They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.
  • Psalm 81:11 — 11 “But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey
  • Isaiah 65:12 — 12 I will destine you for the sword, And all of you will bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight.