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Listen and Understand

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“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”[1]

In the NIV[2], Jesus said to His disciples, The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”[3] “The secret of the Kingdom of God has been given to you.”[4] “The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God has been given to you…”[5] According to Jesus, three things have been given to us, His disciples:

1. The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven

2. The secret of the Kingdom of God

3. The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God

But what is the use of having the secret of the Kingdom of God and the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven and of God if you do not have the understanding?

These are the corresponding verses in the NLT[6]:

· “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.”

· “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God.”

· “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God.”

As you can see, Jesus said, you are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven and of God. Mind you, being permitted to understand the secrets is different from being given the secret and the knowledge of the secrets. Jesus did not say, “The understanding of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven and of God has been given to you.” Therefore, you will have to ask[7] or cry out for understanding.[8] Ask or cry out to the Lord for the understanding of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven and of God, of which the knowledge has been given to you.

It is written, For the LORD gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”[9] And Jesus said to His disciples, “To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”[10] “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given —and you will receive even more.”[11] “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”[12]

Therefore, pay close attention to what you hear and to how you hear. The closer you listen to Jesus’ teachings, more understanding you will be given, and you will have an abundance of knowledge and you will receive even more understanding. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have or they think they have will be taken away from them.

Knowledge is the what, when, where and who. Wisdom is the how. Understanding is the why. So, knowledge of Jesus is the what, when, where and who of His words, actions and thoughts. Wisdom is the how of His words, actions and thoughts. Understanding is the why of His words, actions and thoughts.

Let’s look at the Parable of the Sower, which can be found in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.[13] Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”[14] Please note that Jesus told this parable to the crowd.

After that, He said this to His disciples: “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.”[15] “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to Me and be forgiven.’ If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?”[16] Therefore, it is essential that you and I understand, not just know, but understand the meaning of the Parable of the Sower, in order to be able to understand all the other parables that Jesus spoke of.

“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth (and the desire for other things)[17] (and cares and riches and pleasures of this life)[18], so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word (accept it)[19] (retain it, and by persevering, with a noble and good heart)[20] and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”[21]

See, if you and I have only the knowledge of the message about the Kingdom, but have no understanding of it, how can we ensure that we are sowing seeds on good soil through our preaching of the good news? We might be sowing seeds on the footpath. Sure, they hear the message about the Kingdom, but because they do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts.

We might also be sowing seeds on rocky soil. They represent those who fall away when trouble or persecution comes because of the word. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we should know and understand what Jesus said about persecution: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[22] Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.”[23]

We might also be sowing seeds among thorns. They represent those who are unfruitful because of the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, desire for other things, cares, riches and pleasures of this life. Listen and understand what Jesus said: “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[24]

Now, look at the seed that is sown on good soil. The good soil represents those who hear the word, understand it, accept it,[25] retain it, and persevere, with a noble and good heart.[26] Say if you and I only hear the word, but do not understand it, how can we be fruitful, much less sow seeds that will produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown? Therefore, we must not only hear the word, but also accept it, retain it, and persevere, with a noble and good heart, and also, most importantly, understand it. This is so that we ourselves are fruitful, producing a crop of 30, 60 or 100 times what was sown. If we do not understand the word, how are we to share the understanding of it with the others? Be careful, for Jesus might say to us, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.”[27] So, we must not only know the Scriptures and the power of God, but also understand the Scriptures and the power of God.

“I, Wisdom, live together with understanding. I have knowledge and good sense.”[28]

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”[29]

“Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”[30]

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.”[31]

Amen


 

[1] Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 13:43, Mark 4:9,23, Luke 8:8, 14:35 [NLT]

[2] New International Version

[3] Matthew 13:11 [NIV]

[4] Mark 4:11 [NIV]

[5] Luke 8:10 [NIV]

[6] New Living Translation

[7] Proverbs 2:3 [NLT]

[8] Proverbs 2:3 [NIV]

[9] Proverbs 2:6 [NIV]

[10] Matthew 13:12 [NLT] (see also Mark 4:25 [NLT])

[11] Mark 4:24 [NLT]

[12] Luke 8:18 [NLT]

[13] Matthew 13:3-8 [NIV]

[14] Matthew 13:9 [NLT]

[15] Matthew 13:11 [NLT]

[16] Mark 4:11-13 [NLT]

[17] Mark 4:19 [NLT]

[18] Luke 8:14 [NLT]

[19] Mark 4:20 [NIV]

[20] Luke 8:15 [NIV]

[21] Matthew 13:18-23 [NLT]

[22] Matthew 5:10-12 [NIV]

[23] Matthew 5:44-45 [NIV]

[24] Matthew 6:25-34 [NIV]

[25] Mark 4:20 [NIV]

[26] Luke 8:15 [NIV]

[27] Matthew 22:29 [NASB – New American Standard Bible]

[28] Proverbs 8:12 [NIRV – New International Reader’s Version]

[29] Proverbs 9:10 [NIV]

[30] Proverbs 4:7 [NIV]

[31] Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22 [NLT]

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