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.
Why is it that some people are so receptive to the Word of God and others are not? You can mention some passage of Scripture or speak about God’s promises, and some folks will just eat it up. They will listen and heed the word you speak, and they’ll feel that conviction that guides them to living a saved life. But other people may hear the same words but feel attacked or threatened, or, as often happens, they feel nothing at all. They listen but they don’t understand, no matter how simple your words. Why is that?
The prophet Jeremiah faced such a dilemma in his time. He stood in the temple courts and declared the Word of God as it was revealed to him, and the people rejected him. A few came alongside him, but the people who really NEEDED to listen–the priests and rulers of Judah and Benjamin–rejected Jeremiah and even persecuted him. Such was always the fate of prophets in Israel, right through to Jesus Himself. (Matthew 5:11-12)
And so Jeremiah asked the Lord, “To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?” He knew he faced a tough crowd, and he felt like he needed to find someone to listen. What use is it proclaiming the Word of God if you’re just preaching to a brick wall? Jeremiah wanted to find a sympathetic ear, wanted to find just the right people to listen to God’s warnings. Jeremiah thought that if he could just speak to the right influential person–an open-minded leader, a priest who had not sold himself to Ashtoreth, an elder who longed for the days of righteousness–then perhaps God’s message would get through to more people and Jerusalem would be saved.
Jeremiah knew that the people of Judah had a severe hearing problem: their ears were “uncircumcised.” Of course, the prophet didn’t mean that literally. The Hebrew word is “ârêl” which means “exposed” or “naked,” as in left open or hanging loose. The ears of the Jews were open to everything they heard, and they listened to whatever vain philosophies or idolatrous notions that came their way. They had not circumcised their ears to hear only what was pleasing to God.
14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
15 The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.
16 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
Circumcision is a mark of commitment, a signal to God that one has given oneself wholly to Him, the Father and Creator. Circumcision is a sacrifice of a part of oneself that says, “I have set myself apart from the world for my God.” And circumcising your heart means to mark it for the Lord God, to sanctify your heart and to fill it only with that which is pleasing to God. It’s not the outward, physical mark that matters so much as the inward change in one’s heart.
25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
29 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.
Once we have circumcised our hearts–marked them as set aside for the Lord–then we will set aside all of our lives for Him. We will see things as He sees them, hear things as He hears them, experience life as He wishes us to know it. We will no longer seek nor allow into our eyes and ears the things which lead us astray.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.
However, if we allow our ears to be filled with ignoble things, if we allow our eyes to look upon things that are not lovely, if our minds seek things that are not praiseworthy, and if our mouths speak things that are not of good report–in short, if we uncircumcise our ears and eyes and mind, then our hearts will surely follow. It will be as if we had never given ourselves to the Lord. We will not listen to the conviction of prophecy nor the salvation of the gospel. We will not give heed to warnings about our behavior. The Word of God will indeed become a reproach to us, something we hear but reject in the same moment.
That is why so many do not listen to the Word of God today: their hearts have become hardened by years of allowing their ears and eyes and minds to be filled with wickedness and immorality. The fads of the day become their morals, and no words of rebuke or reproach ever reach their stony hearts.
In the home décor industry, retailers sometimes joke that designers arbitrarily decide what are going to be the “in” colors for the next couple of years. One year, all the décor is centered around red and variations thereof, and then suddenly we hear, “Black is the new red.” Next thing we know, all the décor that had been red the year before is now coming out in variations of black. It’s like a huge joke on the retailers and their customers. And no matter how horrid the black things may look, nor how depressing the lack of color may seem, many people feel compelled to keep up with the latest trend and center their homes around these black themes.
Modern morality is like that. No matter how wrong something may feel to our hearts, no matter how offensive some behavior is to us personally, no matter what we have been taught by the Word of God, when we hear that the latest trend is to allow any and all immorality as now being right and moral, we just accept it. And suddenly anyone who ISN’T buying into this new “morality” is out of fashion and somehow immoral themselves. That is what happens when our ears are uncircumcised, when we allow our hearts to be open to any idea that is tossed our way. We forget about the Blood that was shed for us on the Cross. That Blood of Christ is the highest mark of morality, the blessed symbol of the self-sacrificing love of the Son of God, the seal of our salvation and a new covenant with God. That crimson flood is the very lifeblood of the Son of God shed for our sinful immorality–and we seek instead any and all forms of darkness and evil. Black is the new red indeed.
We have an opportunity here. We who hear and heed the Word of God can circumcise our hearts and ears and eyes to seek only what is right and good. We can stand up for God’s standards, seeking His will and His ways. We can keep speaking the Word to any and all, sharing the gospel of Christ so that all may hear. Some will be moved by the Holy Spirit to listen and heed the Word of God, but some will hear with uncircumcised ears and feel reproach and offense. Yes, some are offended by the Word of God because it isn’t trendy, it doesn’t match with the morality of the moment, it doesn’t encourage them to keep living their profligate life.
Nonetheless, we must speak. If we allow the Word of God to go forth, it will not return void but accomplish whatever God has given it to do. (Isaiah 55:11) We cannot keep seeking after a sympathetic ear, but instead we must rely upon the Lord to guide us to those few who need to hear His Word the most. And we must always remember to keep our own ears set aside for the Lord, ready to hear His Word and act upon it. Let us circumcise our hearts for God, and circumcise our eyes and our ears, not simply accepting all thoughts that come to us but instead testing them against the gospel of Christ and the Word of God. Indeed, let us always delight in God’s Word and receive it with joy and thanksgiving.
Blessed Father God, Your Word is sweet to me. I drink of Your Word daily, and I gladly seek Your will and wisdom. But I do feel frustrated sometimes, Lord, that there are so many who will not listen. And so I turn to You, Father, and I trust that You will give me the right words to speak and allow the ears of those who need You to hear what I say. Let only Your Word be proclaimed through me, Lord God, and may all who hear it be moved to circumcise their hearts and bring You all glory and praise. Amen.