BIBLE OBSESSION versus ITCHING EARS
We need only one exhortation from Jesus to be obsessively focused on study of His word. This exhortation came immediately before His departure from this world, and in prophecy of the consummation of national Israel. Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Mt 24:4). The reason for this warning is obvious. “For there will arise false christs and false prophets. And they will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:24). The “elect” is all of us. We are Bible students because we do not want to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching, by the trickery of men in cleverness to the deceitfulness of error” (Ep 4:14).
I. Prevalent deception:
We live in a world where “Satan masquerades himself as a messenger of light” (2 Co 11:14). This statement of Paul is as true today as it was when he first wrote it to all the disciples in Achaia. There are all sorts of self-entitled religionists who are going forth with little or no knowledge of the word of God. And because of their charismatic personalities and gift of smooth and fair speech, they are able to speak perverse “things to draw away the disciples after themselves” (At 20:30). This is the present world of Christendom. In Ghana there is the pastor who sells his wizardry. In Haiti there are “Christian” witches who practice sorcery. There are “money-for-miracles” masqueraders going about seeking profit for preaching. They are no different than Demetrius, the silversmith, who, with those in the same business, made their money by making idols to Artemis (At 19:24). But when the truth of God’s word was preached in Ephesus, the religious stock market crashed. So Demetrius called those of his idol-making trade together and complained, “Sirs, you know that by this craft [of making idols] we have our wealth” (At 19:25). The “money-for-miracles” preachers would say the same if the Holy Spirit were here today to pronounce the same over the miracle masqueraders of today. Nothing has changed as the ignorant and innocent desperately seek some hope in their world of despair.
But we would be Bible students in order to identify those who preach truth and those who are pompous religionists as Simon the sorcerer. He was one who “practiced magic and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great” (At 8:9). Such is the great temptation of so many who would stand before the people and proclaim to be somewhat. And when such men present themselves as kings dressed in pastoral robes, the people “from the least to the greatest” give heed to such presumptuous masqueraders, claiming, “This man is the great power of God” (At 8:9,10).
Nothing has changed since Philip walked into Samaria and Paul stepped into Ephesus. Because the people are ignorant of the word of God, there is no lack for fertile soil for false teaching and marvelous signs and wonders to be believed as supernatural works of God. So we continually remind ourselves of the precious words of Jesus, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Mt 24:4). There is absolutely only one guarantee that one not be deceived. It is his knowledge of and obedience to the word of God.
II. Made for deception:
The inherent curse of a free-moral individual is the freedom to choose all sorts of nonsense. God knew that for His justice to stand without accusation in the condemnation of the wicked, He had to give man the freedom to make decisions. In this way, every person who will stand condemned in judgment can blame only himself, for he alone made a choice to rebel against God. God gives the law, but men can make a free-moral decision to ignore His law, or simply be ignorant thereof. Because God knew that it was not within man to make his own laws for correct moral living, He not only gave man law, but He also gave man the opportunity to rebel.
We rebel by creating a god in our minds who will condone our rebellion. We create a god for whom we can make laws, which laws justify our moral degradation. God knew this would happen. And because He knew that this was within the nature of a free-moral being, He placed signposts of warning throughout His word that those who love Him should be reminded that they must not follow after that which they can create in rebellion against Him. He was serious with Israel. He warned,
If there is found among you … anyone who does wickedness … and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them … then you will bring forth to your gates that man or that woman who has committed that wicked thing, even that man or that woman, and you will stone them with stones until they die (Dt 17:2-5).
God ruled that “there will not be found among you anyone who … uses divination or an observer of times or an enchanter or a witch, or one who casts a spell or a medium or a spiritist or one who consults the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (Dt 18:10-12). How is it that we can read these strikingly clear warnings, and at the same time, allow ourselves to believe in such imaginations as Christians? Is it because we have so little knowledge of the word of God that we cannot determine what is truth and what is a lie? And because we have been so cleverly deceived, we must judge ourselves to be those about whom Paul wrote.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to fables (2 Tm 4:3,4).
When one hears of a supposed resurrection of one from the dead, and believes it, he has itching ears. When one hears rumors of demons, and believes it, it has itching ears. When one hears of those to whom he can possibly go for miracles, and believes it by making the trip, he has itching ears.
Why cannot we simply obey what God commanded Israel: “Do not turn to mediums or spiritualists. Do not seek them out to be defiled by them” (Lv 19:31). If one would be so inclined to follow after those things about which he knows nothing, or has those itching ears to be convinced to believe in that which is not real, then he should read again Leviticus 20:6:
And the soul who turns to mediums and to spiritists, or plays the harlot after them, I will even set My face against that soul and will cut him off from among his people (See Lv 20:27).
We would assume that if one seeks to be a Christian in belief and behavior, he will make every effort not to be led astray by the supposed prophets who masquerade to be pastors for God. At least God asked that if one would claim to be one of His children, then certainly that person should not be seeking those who would lead them astray from the word of God. Isaiah wrote,
And when they will say to you, “Consult those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Is 8:19).
And we would ask, Should not a Christian consult the word of God and not those who would lead them astray after the desires of their itching ears? We know we are in difficult times when people follow their itching ears rather than seek out the word of God and read.
So why are we so obsessed with the Bible? The answer is obvious. It is our only hope of finding our way through the quagmire of religious confusion that is so prevalent in our world today. If we are not so obsessed, then certainly we have become fertile soil for those who masquerade themselves as messengers of light. We have set ourselves up to be deceived. We must keep in mind that itching ears are always looking for something outside the word of God. In fact, “itching ear” people are never satisfied with the Bible alone as a foundation for their faith.