Ears And No Ears Psalm 58:4

They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear.—Psa_58:4.

I wonder how many boys and girls here have been deaf? Many people have been deaf at some time because of ear infections, wax buildup, or a very loud sound like a gun shot. When you can’t hear, it makes you feel strange, disoriented, and frustrated. Once I couldn’t hear what people said and they laughed when I gave the wrong answer. For too much wax your ear, the doctor uses a splendid brass syringe. This syringe makes your fingers ache to get hold of —for you are sure it would make such a magnificent squirt—and how mother held a pan and the doctor squirted water into your ear, and it felt all warm and tickly, and as if it were going right into the middle of your head; and how some of it ran down your neck; and how later the doctor said, “That will do now. I think we’ve got rid of all the wax.” And then, because you were very curious he showed you the wax that had been stopping your ears and keeping you from hearing. You remember how fine it was to hear the fire crackling and the clock ticking, and how glad you were that your ears had been unstopped.

Well, that’s one kind of deafness and one kind of ear-stopping; but there is another. The first is the kind you can’t help—it comes from a cold or measles or influenza—but the second is the kind you can help, and it is the deafness of our text.

The man who wrote this psalm was thinking of a sight that boys and girls in the East often see—the snake-charmer and his snakes. Today in India or other hot countries the snake-charmer will gather a crowd in no time. He is more exciting than an organ and a monkey, and a Punch and Judy show, and a dancing bear all rolled together. He has a basket with him, and out of it he shakes a number of snakes. They are very indignant at being disturbed, and they twist and wriggle in a most alarming fashion. But the charmer takes his flute and plays on it some notes soft and low and sweet, and at the sound the snakes stop their angry twisting, lift their heads, and begin to sway backwards and forwards in time to the music. As the charmer plays louder and quicker the creatures raise their heads higher and sway their bodies more rapidly. Presently the charmer takes a few steps in one direction, and as he moves the snakes glide after him. When he stops, they stop. Where he leads they follow. They are completely under the spell of his music.

But the adder in the text did not want to hear, so it simply coiled itself round with its head in the middle of its folds and paid no attention to the music. The adder didn’t hear because it purposely stopped its ears. And a good many of us are rather fond of imitating it.

1. There are three reasons why we are deaf, and the first is that we don’t want to hear. We are like the famous old lady with the speaking trumpet, who, when she found that she was getting the worst of an argument, simply took away the trumpet from her ear, and that was an end of it.

It is wonderful how faint a whisper we can hear if we are keen. A little boy and girl were playing games in a room where their mother was entertaining a friend. The mother and the friend were talking in a very low voice with their heads close together—you know the provoking way grown-ups have!—and they thought that the children were taking no notice. Suddenly the mother heard the little girl say to her brother, “Hush! Sandy. Play quietly. I can’t hear all they’re saying.” That little girl wanted to hear, so she heard. What we want to hear we have no difficulty in hearing.

2. The second reason why we are deaf is that we are too busy to hear. You know how it is when you get hold of a fascinating book, and curl yourself up in a corner to enjoy it. The room may be full of children romping and shouting; someone may be strumming at the piano; but you hear none of the noise. You might as well be alone on a desert island. You are deaf to what is going on around, for your whole being is intent on the story. Even mother calls you in vain. Your ears are closed to the outer sounds of every day, they are open only to the inner music which your book is making for you.
Now it is an excellent thing to be busy, but it is not an excellent thing to be deaf when you should hear. If “busyness” makes us deaf to the call of duty then it is a wrong “busyness,” and the sooner we stop it the better. You know that some people in the world are so busy looking after themselves that they have no time to hear the cry of their unhappy brothers and sisters who are needing help; they are so busy enjoying themselves that they have no time to think of the sad people who have no happiness or cheer in their lives; they are so busy getting on in the world that their ears are closed to pity and compassion and self-sacrifice and love. That is a sad kind of “busyness,” isn’t it?

3. The third reason why we are deaf is that we art afraid to hear. We are like Adam and Eve long ago in the garden of Eden. When they had eaten the apple they hid themselves and were afraid to hear God’s voice. And when we are doing wrong we are afraid to listen to the little telephone bell of conscience. It rings and rings and rings, but we try to close our ears to its ringing. We dare not listen, for we know quite well what the voice at the other end of the phone will say. It will repeat over and over again, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” So we stop our ears and we do the wrong thing, and then we are more afraid than ever of the telephone bell, for it rings louder, and we know that the voice at the other end is saying now, “It was wrong to do it. It was wrong to do it.”

Instead of being afraid to hear the telephone bell of conscience, we should be glad that we can still hear it. What we should be afraid of is not being able to hear it. If we could not hear it any longer that would mean that we had become too bad and hardened to hear the voice of God. It would mean that we had the saddest and most incurable kind of deafness—deafness that we had deliberately chosen. You see, if we went on refusing to listen, later our ears would get so accustomed not to listen that they would fail to hear at all.

Let us try to get rid of the “don’t want to hear” deafness, and the “too busy to hear” deafness, and let us cure the “afraid to hear” deafness by bravely listening to the telephone bell of conscience, and obeying its commands. So shall we have the “hearing ear,” which is one of the most precious possessions of the child of God