While reading the Bible a few days ago I came across this rather strange statement in the book of Jeremiah:
To whom shall I speak and give warning,
That they may hear?
Indeed their ear is uncircumcised,
And they cannot give heed.
Behold, the word of the Lord is a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it. (Jeremiah 6:10)
I was intrigued by the thought that God would describe people as having uncircumcised ears and I wondered what that could mean. The answer started to become clear when I read this verse in the Amplified version which says it this way:
Behold, their ear is uncircumcised [never brought into covenant with God, or consecrated to His service].
A Sign of the Covenant
The meaning of having an uncircumcised ear becomes more clear when we realize that circumcision is the sign of the covenant we have with God. This is true whether we look at the Old Testament or at the New Testament. Under the Old Covenant, no male could participate in the benefits of the covenant unless they were circumcised. Circumcision was the outward sign that a person was in covenant with God.
This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. (Genesis 17:11)
Now, under the New Covenant, there is no sign in the flesh. New Testament circumcision is a hidden thing of the heart as Paul says:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)
This circumcision of the heart was nothing new. Even Moses spoke of it in two different places:
Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. (Deuteronomy 10:16)
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
The purpose of this heart circumcision is to give us the ability to love God with all our heart and soul. Without it our love is not complete – we still have a part of the flesh that wants to come between Him and us. God says, under the New Covenant, that we’re to have nothing standing between Him and us.
The Old Covenant
You might ask yourself, “but what does this have to do with having circumcised ears?” Good question! To answer that, we need to remember the events of the formalization of the covenant with the nation Israel after God spoke the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Let’s review that scene a moment.
You’ll remember that the children of Israel had been removed from Egypt and set upon their journey to the promised land following the ten plagues, the last of which involved the sacrifice of a lamb to save them from the death angel which passed through the land killing all the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 12:21-51). A lot transpired from that time to the giving of the Ten Commandments, but something interesting happened to the people after God finished speaking what was to be the basic law of the covenant.
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:18-19)
Notice that the people refused to let their ears become a part of the covenant into which they were entering with God. They said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8). However, they didn’t want to hear God for themselves. Why? Because hearing God was pretty frightening.
When God shows up, things get shaken. You can’t just go on your way and forget that it happened. There are many instances in both the Old and New Testaments of God speaking to people. Take for example Noah. Noah heard the voice of God and had to build an ark to protect himself and his family in spite of all evidence that said it had never rained, and that it would not in the future. Abram heard the voice of God and had to leave his home, his family and all that was familiar to him in search of the promise of God.
Jeremiah, heard the word of God and, when he spoke what he heard, was cast into a pit. The apostle Paul had an encounter with God on the road to Damascus and was thrown to the ground, became blind, and heard the voice of God, which changed the whole direction of his life.
So in a sense, it is understandable that we don’t want to hear God. We’re afraid of what it might mean to our comfort and to our way of life. Before God spoke the Ten Commandments, He made the following statement of His purpose for Israel:
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)
God is calling out a nation of priests. A nation of people who will be able to hear and obey His voice in such a way that it impacts the world. A priest is one who hears God for someone who can’t or won’t hear. In I Peter 2:9 we are told that God is making the church to be a royal priesthood that can affect the whole world.
So, what do we need to do about this? How can we have circumcised ears? How do we have the covering removed from our ears so we can hear the voice of God clearly?
1. Be Willing:
We must be willing to obey God. Jesus said: “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:17) If we want to know the will of God, to hear His voice, we must desire to do God’s will.
Next, we must come to God confessing that we have not desired to do His will and have therefore been unwilling to hear His voice. We must ask for and receive His forgiveness.
3. Give God Your Ears:
Then we ask God to accept our ears as a part of the covenant we have with Him.
4. Recognize and Listen:
Now, we must listen for God to speak to us, and learn to recognize the voice of God. So how do we do that? A pattern is given in the life of the prophet Samuel in I Samuel 3. God began speaking to the lad and he didn’t recognize the voice of the Lord. Finally, he was instructed that when he heard God speak again he was to say, “Speak, Lord. For your servant is listening.”
Once we’ve given God permission to speak to us, when we believe we’ve heard Him, we must do what He tells us.
God doesn’t tell us everything at once. Just as it was in the life of Abram, God revealed His will and the timing of His purpose a little at a time, over many years. So it is with us. Sometimes God will speak a “now” word, as when God told Abram to leave his family or when He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. But often the timing is a little less clear, such as when God told Abram to leave his family and He would show him a land of inheritance. It took years for Abraham to see the land he’d been promised, and he never lived in it as the owner. The key is trust and obedience. Are you willing to trust God enough to obey even when the outcome doesn’t seem obvious? The real issue God is dealing with in our lives is trust. God is asking us, “Do you trust Me enough to hear what I have to say to you and then do what I tell you?” When we do, we start bringing our ears into the covenant we have with God and consecrate them to His service.
Lord, I confess that I have refused to hear Your voice for fear that I wouldn’t like what you might say to me. I have not trusted You to have my best interests at heart. But now I choose to change my way of thinking. I repent and ask you to forgive me as I dedicate my ears to Your service. Please circumcise my ears that I might hear Your voice and circumcise my heart that I might be willing to obey what you tell me. In Jesus’ name, Amen