Matt. 13:15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.’
Matt. 13:19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Matt. 13:23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
This morning in my time with the Lord, the Holy Spirit put a speed bump on “understand with their hearts.” That means it’s time to slow down and meditate on that phrase, turning it over in my mind and asking the Spirit to show me what Jesus means when He quotes Isaiah 6:10 here.
To understand is to gain insight, to see beyond the literal words, to see the spirit behind what Jesus says and what all the scriptures say. The Jewish leaders of the day, to whom Jesus was referring, had calloused and closed hearts that kept them from gaining insight into: 1) the words He was speaking to them, and 2) the Tenakh (the Old Testament). They pored over the scriptures, but could see only the surface. That’s why they focused on doing the letter of the law (outward religion, following the rules) and not the spirit of it (inward religion, religion of the heart, doing God’s will because His love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit). They followed the outward rules, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” but completely missing God’s intent — heart change — just as the Lord spoke to Isaiah.
I used to be like the Jewish leaders (and I think there are many in the church today who are like I was). My heart was dull. It had a thick, tough coating on it, so the words of Jesus and all of the scriptures in the Bible bounced off it like a ball bounces off a stone wall. My ears didn’t heed Jesus’ words; I heard the sound of them but didn’t do what He said. My eyes were shut so I couldn’t perceive and respond to the truth that He spoke. I was like the man who looks at his face in the mirror, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. I’d look at the Word, go away and immediately forget what it was trying to show me about myself. I wasn’t a doer of the Word, but merely a forgetful hearer (see James 1:24-25).
Because my heart and ears and eyes were in that terrible condition, the Enemy came and snatched away the seed of the word that was sown by my pastor. Because I heard the word of the kingdom but did not have a heart that understood and gained insight and saw beyond the literal words, I did as the Jewish leaders did. I focused on trying to follow the rules.
The rules (the Law) are a tutor to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24) The experience of trying to follow the rules and failing, trying to follow the rules and failing, trying to follow the rules and failing, is meant to lead us to total desperation. The Holy Spirit convicts us that we are failing. He exposes our failure so we’ll stop our outward religion, do an about-face and seek an inward change that will give us hearts that have insight and yield to God’s will as naturally as breathing.
How does that inward change happen? Jesus said to me, and says to you, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13.)
When you ask to be filled with the Spirit, Jesus will perform open heart surgery, just as He did in me, taking out your compacted beside-the-road heart and replacing it with a good and fertile heart that hears His word and understands it. He will take away your stony heart that balks and is offended at His words, and replace it with a heart of flesh that beats in time with His and that responds, Yes, Lord! to every word He says.
Then, as Jesus says in Matthew 13:23, you’ll bear and act and do and produce fruit many times over. What fruit? The fruit of His Spirit which will be a witness that He is at work in you — His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness, and His Spirit’s control (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit you bear, the witness of His work in you, will draw many people to Him, they will be saved, they will seek that inward change of heart and His work in them will make them His witnesses, too.