Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Dangers of and Cure for Dullness of Hearing (An Exposition of Hebrews 5:11-14)

Kasisilip pa lamang ng araw noong Disyembre 30, 1896, nakagapos si Jose Rizal kasama ang mga guardiya sibil. Sila ay naglalakad papuntang Bagumbayan kung saan siya ay babarilin bilang katuparan ng parusang kamatayan na ipinataw sa kanya. Nang kanyang matanaw ang Ateneo, kanyang sinabi: "Iyon ba ang Ateneo? Doon lumipas ang mga pinakamaliligayang araw ng buhay ko."

I love school! In my dreams, I was still in the classrooms long after graduation.

 If there is anything that the school and church shares in common, I would say that both institutions value the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning. From the earliest days, education has been regarded as an essential for a healthy relationship with God.

1. Deut. 6:1- One of Moses' roles was to teach the young nation about the commands, decrees and laws of the Lord.

2. Deut. 6:2, 6-9- Parents must learn what God says not only for themselves, not only for their sons, but for the sake of the future generations. You won't find Kobe Bryant's poster on their walls (wala rin dun ang F4 o si Hannah Montana). What you'll see are excerpts from the law.

3. Ezra 7:10- he gave priority to the study, application and teaching God's word.

4. the synagogues- New Unger's Bible Dictionary: “As only a small proportion of the people could become proficient in the study of the law under the scribes, and as it was desirable that all should have at least an elementary acquaintance therewith, the custom grew up in postexilic times of reading the Scriptures in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. It must be understood that the main object of these Sabbath day assemblages in the synagogues was not public worship in its stricter sense but religious instruction, which to an Israelite was, above all, instruction in the law.

5. Acts 2:42- the essential activities of a young church include "the apostles' teaching"

The solution to the problem of the Hebrews

In our text, there is a problem going on. The persecution is severe among the Hebrew Christians, it is almost intolerable. Because of the hardships, turning back on Christ and returning to Judaism looks enticing. They are about to abandon the precious faith. The writer of this epistle sought to strengthen their faith. His prescription: Education.

He educates them that the Jesus they are about to leave is superior over the angels (chapter 1). He informs them that the Jesus they are about to abandon is the Creator himself (also in chapter 1). He is greater than than Moses, Judaism's greatest prophet (chapter 3). The imparting of knowledge is the remedy to the threat of backsliding.

In chap.5, the writer was about to launch a massive discussion of the superiority of Christ over the priests in Judaism's temple. He was about to expound about the superiority of Melchizedek’s order of priesthood over the Levitical order... but he has to pause. THERE is something WRONG.

He cannot go on because the next topic is HARD TO TEACH.


Mula sa mga karanasan ko sa high school at kolehiyo, may listahan ako dito ng kung bakit nagiging mahirap ang pagkatuto:

1. The lesson is inherently difficult  (for Einstein and his peers only)

2. The student’s limited ability (poor I.Q.)
I must confess something. My mathematical  skills are up to linear equations only. Higher than that level, it's hard for me. Pagdating sa Calculus, wala na akong maintindihan. Pigain mo man ang utak ko, wala ka nang magagawa kasi hanggang doon na lang talaga ang kakayahan ko.

3. The teacher lacks skill— Hindi ko hangad na siraan ang mga guro. Apat sa limang kapatid kong mga babae ay mga public school teachers. Hindi ko magagawang siraan sila. Pero meron naman talagang mga guro na hindi gaano kahusay magturo.

4. Lack of resources and tools- Sa ilang asignatura nang ako ay nasa haiskul, wala kaming ibang ginawa sa araw-araw kundi kopyahin ang nakasulat sa pisara. Paano naman kasi, naglalaan naman ng budget ang pamahalaan pero hindi nakakarating ang mga aklat sa mga estudyante. Ang mga aklat ay mabibili sa bookstore at burado na ang markang "Government Property; Not for Sale." Ang tindi talaga ng korapsyon. Mas natuto sana kami kung meron kaming mga aklat. Sa pag-aaral rin ng salita ng Diyos, mahirap maghanda ng sermon na wala ang mga tools and resources tulad ng Study Bible, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries and bible backgrounds.

Pero ang problema sa Hebrews 5:11 ay:
hindi naman yung number 1: The lesson is inherently difficult
Hindi rin problema ang number 2: The student’s limited ability (poor I.Q.)
Hindi rin problma ang number 3: The teacher lacks skill 
Hindi rin number 4 ang problema: Lack of resources and tools

The problem is this condition called DULLNESS OF HEARING


Ni hindi nakatuntong sa haiskul ang aking tatay. Pero nagmula sa kanya ang isa sa mga pinakamahalagang payong natanggap ko tungkol sa pag-aaral. Nang ako'y papasok na ng grade 1, ang bilin ni tatay, makinig akong mabuti kung may sinasabi ang aking guro.

I have not always been consistent in applying it but as I look back, I did perform well when I was applying my father's advice. That's how important listening is.

The word Greek word translated as "dullness" ("slow" in NIV) is nothros. As we seek to understand what it means allow me to go to some extra biblical sources:

1. The word was used to denote the lazy condition of a slave that causes him delay response to the call of his master.

Tawagin mo minsan, "Inday!". Hindi sasagot. Tawagin mo ulit. "Inday!", hindi pa rin sasagot. Para bang wala siyang naririnig. Sa ikatlong pagkakataon ay tatawagin mo siya at ngayon ay pasigaw na "Indaaayyyy!!!".. Sasagot na sa wakas, "opo".

2. In sports, nothros denotes the condition of an athlete who is out of shape; lazy and sluggish. Like a sprinter who comes with a body of a sumo wrestler as he competes in 100 meter dash.

3. In an inscription from Eumeneia, he calls his brother " nothros" (negligent) for failing to fulfill his responsibility in building a tomb for their sisters. Because of this, the younger brother (Eumneia) was forced to use his resources for such a task. (See George Guthrie in NIVAC)

We can also better understand the word when we look into what its antonym meant. Hebrews 6:12:

"so that you may not be SLUGGISH, but imitators of those who through FAITH and PATIENCE inherit the promises" (ESV)

It turns out that the opposite is dullness is the faith and patience of those who have persevered to the end in exercising their faith (the writer will tell more about them when he comes to 11th chapter's Hall of Faith).

So from biblical and extra biblical data, we see that "dullness of hearing" convey: sluggishness, laziness, and negligence. Dullness of hearing is not an auditory defect. It is really an attitude problem. It is lack of interest in receiving instruction.. They don’t value sound teaching.

1. they were not always this way. There was a time when they were not dull in hearing the Word. In fact, they did some things in the past that are worthy of the highest commendation (Hebrews 10:34).Their faith was once vibrant

2. The shift from commitment to dullness did not happen overnight—they underwent a process that has put them in this condition

When the word of God that you used to treasure is slowly losing its sweetness--  beware. It may be an indication that your ears are in the process of becoming dull. When the Apostle Paul and his epistles begin  to bore you, and James Cameron's Avatar begins to excite you, do not take it lightly. It may prove fatal to your faith.

1. It leaves you unequipped for ministry. "by this time, you ought to be teachers"

They stayed in the church long enough that it was expected upon them that they should articulate the faith that they have (1 Peter 3:15), but because of dull hearing they were unable. This condition not only cripples you from the ministry of teaching but all other ministries as well because you have to have attentive ears in order to be equipped in all forms of spiritual service (Ephesians 4:11)

2. It robs you of the things you already know“ you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again.”

Luke 8:18—Consider how you listen..even what he has will be taken away from him.

All the time you spent in the past when your faith was robust will all be wasted. You have to be taught about it all over again. There is a consensus among the scholars I consulted that "elementary truths" here are equivalent to the ABC's of the faith. You can sink that low even if you are healthy now if dullness of hearing develops in you. You think you know John 3:16; you think you know Psalm 23 and other verses you memorized as a young Christian. But even these things you think you know will all go to the garbage can when dullness of hearing takes place.

3. It leads to perpetual infancy
It makes you unready for deeper spiritual lessons. You can't tolerate adult food; you'll go for baby food and even that needs review.

Sakaling mapasyal ka sa kambingan, wala kang gana sa Kaldereta, Ginising, Kinigtot, Kilawin Sinampalokan at iba pang putahe. Tatanungin mo ang serbidora: "May Cerelac ba kayo?" The mature shall feast on the finest meats yet all you want is what's inside your Babyflo bottle.

4. It makes you unskilled in application-. The “word of righteousness” in verse 13 has been variously interpreted. One of the most common view is that it refers to the imputed righteousness of Christ. Though that sounds very orthodox, I can't see it in the immediate context. I guess Simon Kistemaker is right. We "ought to look at the phrase in question not from a theological perspective but from a contextual point of view" (Exposition of Hebrews, NTC).

I adapt Homer Kent's view: The "word of righteousness" means “God’s revelation about righteousness which is expected of every Christian” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, a commentary)

5. It may lead to Apostasy
This point is justified by the next chapter. Hebrews 6:4-6 is hotly debated. Does it teach that salvation could be lost? I firmly believe that the elect persevere to the end. Yet I do not take the warning passages lightly. I believe the threats are very real. The Canons of Dordt teaches Perseverance of the Saints yet it also teaches that God's word is a means of perseverance. Shun God's word and deny yourself of God's preserving agent.

The Cure:
1. Let them be aware of their condition.
The writer of Hebrews did. Mahirap kausap yung mga immature na ang akala nila mature sila. Buti pa yung immature na alam niyang immature siya kasi makikinig pa iyon. Pero ang immature na hindi niya alam na immature siya, hindi na makikinig yun. May opinyon siya sa lahat ng bagay, kadalasan nga lang ay mali kasi nga immature. They must know their true state.

2. Urge them to progress and give them meat… as the Lord permits
Hindi ko inaasahan na magiging ganito ang solusyon. Nang unang basa ko kasi, parang ang labas: "Dahil gatas lang ang kaya ninyo, hindi ko kayo bibigyan ng karne". Mali pala. What he did was the exact opposite. He did not stick with their favorite topics; he urged them to move to maturity (6:1-2). He went on anyway to give the meat in chapters 7,8,9 and 10 by discussing the priesthood of Melchizedek and Jesus because it is what they need in order to appreciate the Messiah that Judaism rejects.

But he does so with the recognition that they can only move in this direction as God permits (Heb.6:3).

Homer Kent comments: “It is an acknowledgment that only God can change the course of a man’s life when it is going in the opposite direction”

Leon Morris says the same thing: “This verse expresses not only a resolute determination to go ahead on these lines but also a recognition that it is only with the help of God that this can be done. We should take the words not simply as a pious nod in the direction of God but as coming out of the author's realization that without divine aid the plan he was suggesting was impossible.” (EBC)

Kahit merong lunas para sa dullness of hearing, bakit kailangan pa nating hintayin na dumating pa sa puntong iyon. Ito ay tulad ng kanser, nakamamatay kaya mas maigi na ito ay iwasan kaysa gamutin.

At 5:14, there are people who managed to prevent the cancer of dull hearing and moved to maturity by constant practice of what they learn from the word. It is noteworthy that the Greek word translated as "trained" here sounds like our word for "gym". I'm not a fitness buff, but I know enough for a fact that you won't benefit from the gym by going there once a year. You have to exercise regularly so there will be devlopment in your muscles.

Same is true for mature people. They have trained their senses to distinguish good from evil by constantly practicing God-given insights.

Psalm 119:34 says “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”…

The desire to learn and the desire to obey must go together. We have no business asking God for illumination without the desire to practice what we learn.

As I was in the final stages of preparing this lesson, I came across an article by Wayne Grudem on the clarity of Scripture. He said something that reminds m that even scholars can be devoid of spiritual insight if they don’t trained their senses in application of God’s word.

“Christians who begin to practice willful, repeated sin (and ven- or especially pastors and scholars) will likely soon begin to lose sound judgment in interpretation and will become less and less able to understand Scriptures rightly". (Themelios 34.3)

kahit dalubhasa ka pa Griyego at Hebreo; kahit kasinlaki ng Astrodome ang library mo, kung hindi ka nagsasanay sa kabanalan--- bale wala rin. You will soon lose sound judgment in bible interpretation.

Why am I passionate about this? It just hurts me to see people who grew up in church who show no signs of spirituality now. By this time, they ought to be veterans in spiritual warfare but it seems that they are not enlisted in God's army. They cannot live without their i-pod; can't live without their phone; can't live without Facebook. But they CAN live without God. May God have mercy upon us and keep us away from this condition called Dullness of Hearing.


  1. At the end of the day they were really victims... of their own doing. Lazy kasi.

    1. Amen po Sir!

      Thanks for taking time to drop by here and posting a comment. Salamat rin po sa inyong pagsisikap na malunasan ang problemang ito sa mga iglesya-lokal.