Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
[Isaiah 29:18; Romans 10:17; Mark 7:34-35] “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”; “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”; “Jesus sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened.”
The Deaf Shall Hear the Words of a Book
What can you do when there’s nothing you can do? How can you hear the truth when your ears have become deaf? How can you believe when you can’t believe? “The deaf shall hear the words of a book.” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Jesus says, “Be opened”, and your ears are opened.
[Isaiah 29] – God was speaking to His people Israel, but His people Israel became deaf: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…” [29:13] Therefore, they will be deaf. Deaf to the true faith.
“The vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed.” You’ve become like one who says, “I cannot read.” “The Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes.” [29:12]
The people of Israel in Isaiah’s day were a wise and discerning people [29:14], but lost the wisdom of the Lord. The Word was in front of them, but they were blind and deaf. They could read the Word, but they could not know it. They heard the Word – every Sabbath – but could not understand it or discern God’s clear communication to them: “Repent, believe”.
“Turn from your thoughts and your ways. Turn from your natural way of thinking and think in my thoughts and reason in my ways.” But they were deaf to their God. Though they had the book, it became to them like a book sealed.
The Israelites engaged in idolatry – they worshiped the wood-gods and stone-gods of the nations around them. And the Israelites engaged in the greatest idolatry – the idolatry you engage in today – the idolatry of the self and of the natural mind of man.
“Their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” What the Israelites thought was their fear, love, and trust in God was actually just a fear, love, and trust in man’s way of thinking. Cause and effect. Work and benefit. The pride of personal accountability. Putting stock in personal achievement. The “pride of life” and “the desire of the eyes” [1 John 2:16].
And – whether leaning either to the left or to the right – putting stock in one’s own self-defined morality. The self-assertion that “I’m a good man” or “I’m a good woman”.
To attend the house of God but to put your trust in these merely-human ways of thinking – the same thinking as your unbelieving neighbor – the mind of natural man – is to be deaf and mute, to “worship with your lips” but “your heart is far from Him”, replacing the fear of God with the ways and commandments of natural man.
My belief in my own morality and goodness is not a belief in God but is fallen-man’s belief in His own self-fashioned god that believes in man’s ways. It’s Man’s great idolatry – the belief in himself.
As it was for Israel, so it is for God’s house today. So often, it is those of us born and bred in the house of God who replace the true faith and worship of God with our own human ideas and notions – not really paying attention to and giving heed to the Word of God, the words of His book.
We assume our way of thinking is the right way because, after all, we’ve been in here believing it our way all this time! But God would say, “My house has become a house of deaf ears.”
Yet, brothers and sisters, God remains the one who heals deaf ears. He even gives life to the dead. God, in His Son Jesus Christ, is Savior.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus healed a deaf man [Mark 7:31-37]. This man was deaf and, as a result, had a speech impediment. He could not hear rightly and therefore did not know how to speak rightly.
Jesus, who is God in the flesh, the perfect imprint and image of the Father in human nature, takes this deaf man aside, puts His fingers into the man’s ears, puts His own spit on the man’s tongue – to use His perfect nature to save this man’s broken nature – and then Jesus speaks to him a word.
Jesus speaks to the man who cannot hear. Jesus looked up and sighed to heaven, but He said to the man’s ears “Be opened” – “You ears, be opened. You deaf ears, hear.” The ears that could not hear did hear the Word of Christ. His Word opened the closed ears. And, with ears opened, then the tongue could speak rightly too.
Rightly, our ears and eyes are closed to God’s truth because of our sin. If you don’t believe it, ask God in prayer to start showing you your sin and He’ll let you feel and know it’s true nature. Rightly our ears and eyes are closed, but Jesus, the Savior, through whom God has loved sin-fallen men, He opens the ears of the deaf to believe and heals the tongue to speak and confess the true faith.
Scripture says these two things of all of us: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world” [Ephesians 2:1-2].
But God has laid our sin and our death upon the perfect nature of His Son Jesus. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” [Isaiah 53:5-6]
Because Jesus’ death on the cross has pardoned all man’s sin – and because His resurrection has extinguished fallen man’s death – the words of His book are open to you and open the ears of the heart to believe – to fear, love, and trust in God the Savior alone – and, believing, the tongue is able to rightly confess the true faith.
So, what can you do when there’s nothing you can do? What can you do when you can’t understand these things or believe them? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” “In that day, the deaf will hear the words of a book.” The Word of Christ, God’s Word, His Scriptures, His words of His book now, in this day, opens the deaf ears.
What can I do when I age, when my senses and my mind fail – when I can no longer hear and understand because of the frailty of the aging mind and aging flesh – when I can do nothing? Christ’s Word has power. Even the failing ears and the failing mind are penetrated by the power of Christ’s Word – the words of His book.
“Faith comes by hearing” – the heart that’s been helplessly deaf to its sin and its Savior can believe now because it’s forgiven by the Savior whose powerful Word now speaks to it.
What about my body in the grave, turned to dust? “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” [John 5:25].
“Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” [John 5:24]. “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved”; “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” [Romans 10:10-11].
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” [Ephesian 2:8]. To believe in God’s way, not a human way – to have faith in Christ and not to look to the self – to be raised to life – and to confess the true faith with a healed tongue – these are a gift from God, not your doing, but His doing. Saved by faith in Christ. Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God, the words of His book.
So, don’t be deaf and don’t be tongue-tied – hear His Word and know what you believe. In every stage of life, and to the end of life, be sure to be hearing the words of His book. Amen.