By Glenn L. Shaver
In Matthew 13:13-15, Jesus informs us why He spoke to the multitudes in parables: “Because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, ‘By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: Eor this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”‘ Thus, we see, as it was in the days of Isaiah, so also it was in the times of Christ and we are persuaded that it is true today.
Some comments from eminent scholars may be helpful in understanding the condition of the people’s heart in the days of Isaiah and Christ and thus, by analogy, we may learn why the people’s hearts of our own time have “waxed gross.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown in the COMMENTARY ON THE WHOLE BIBLE, commenting on the above passage said: “They ‘saw,’ for the light shone on them as never light shone before; but they ‘saw not,’ for they closed their eyes. They ‘heard,’ for He taught them who ‘spake as never man spake;’ but they ‘heard not,’ for they took nothing in, apprehending not the soul-penetrating, life-giving words addressed to them.”
S. T. Bloomfield, in the GREEK TESTAMENT with English Notes, Volume I, states: “. . . the hearts of the men were so hardened by a long course of willful and presumptuous sin, that, according to the regular operation of moral cause and effects, they, though seeing, in fact, did not see; and though hearing, yet, in fact, did not hear, nor hearken, and consequently could not understand.”
J. W. McGarvey, in THE NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY, Volume 1, said: “As Isaiah had written concerning his own generation (Isa. 6:9,10), this people’s heart had ‘waxed gross;’ that is, it has become filled with earthly and sensual desires, and especially so with reference to the expected kingdom of the Messiah. This state of heart made their ears dull of hearing; that is, it made them indisposed to hear with favor the words of Jesus. It led them also to close their eyes; that is, to refuse to see the evidences of his messiahship and his divinity.”
H. Leo Boles, in A COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW said: “…. their hearts had become fat, as applied to the body; sensual and stupid as applied to the mind; they were like a man overcome with obesity, too heavy and dull to hear or see, sleepy and brutish. The spiritual spark is buried in a heap of earthly cares and pleasures.” (Deut. 32:15) He continues his comments on the passage by saying, “These people had hardened their own hearts, had closed their own eyes, had refused to exercise their own powers of understanding, because they did not want to know the truth. The responsibility rested upon them for their present condition; they could not blame the law, God, or any one else; they were wholly responsible. It is the law of God’s spiritual kingdom that resistance to truth hardens the heart. To reject the truth and excuse and defend themselves in opposition to it, they armed themselves with countless errors and falsehoods.” (Ibid.)
Dr. Bloomfield said: ” . . . the Jews would hear indeed the doctrines of the Gospel, but not understand them; would see the miracles wrought in confirmation of its truth, but not be convinced thereby. Not that the evidences themselves were insufficient to establish its truth, but because their hearts were too corrupt to allow them to see the force of those evidences.” (Ibid.)
Adam Clarke, in A COMMENTARY AND CRITICAL NOTES ON THE NEW TESTAMENT, Volume I, states: ” . . . these words were fulfilled in the Jews, in the time of the Prophet Isaiah, so they are now again fulfilled in these their posterity, -who exactly copy their father’s example. These awful words may be again fulfilled in us, if we take not warning by the things which these disobedient people have suffered.”
Hence, from the above comments we gather the following reasons why the people’s heart had waxed gross:
1. They had continued a long course of willful and presumptuous sin.
2. Their hearts were filled with earthly cares and pleasures and sensual desires.
3. They were indisposed to hear with favor the words of Jesus.
4. Their hearts had become too corrupt to allow them to see the force of the evidences.
They did not want to know the truth; hence, they armed themselves with countless errors and falsehoods.
Now since Isaiah described the awful condition of the people’s heart in his day; Jesus applied the lesson to the people of His time who refused to accept His teaching, and Paul made a similar application to the people in Rome who refused to believe the evidences (Acts 28: 25-27), hence, let us apply this inspired teaching to the people of our time. For example:
1. Have not many people of our day continued a long course of wilful and presumptuous sin?2. Are not many people’s hearts filled with earthly cares and pleasures and sensual desires?
3. Does not the rejection of Christ’s words show that many are indisposed to hear with favor the words of Jesus?
4. Have not the hearts of many become too corrupt to allow them to see the force of the evidences of truth?
5. Is it not true that people who do not love the truth nor seek to know it, arm themselves with countless errors and falsehoods, thus, their hearts are waxed gross?
Now, let us apply the “fruit test” (Matt. 7:14-20), that we may see the attitudes and dispositions of the people’s heart of our own day and see if it isn’t because the heart of man has “waxed gross.”
First, let us explore this among denominational churches. Have we not heard many express themselves after this manner? —
1. It must be right because it has been practiced so long by so many.
2. Others are doing it and it seems so good, so we can do it too.
3. I don’t care what the Bible teaches, I’m satisfied and feel I’m doing right.
4. I don’t care if the Bible does say that, I don’t believe it is essential.5. Don’t read the Bible to me, my parents believed this way and besides we have many educated ministers that believe as I do.
Thus, among denominationalism we see a sectarian prejudicial attitude of heart and a closed mind, which shows that their heart is “waxed gross.” Hence, they use countless errors and falsehoods to pervert, change and twist the truth to salve their own consciences.
Secondly, let us see if this same attitude and condition of heart is to be found among us–members of Christ’s church. Do we not hear many among us today express their mind after this fashion? —
1. We have been doing this for a long time, hence, we are going to keep on doing it.
2. We are going to do this because the people want to and the elders have approved it.
3. The “big preachers” among us believe it is right, hence, we can do it.4. Examples are not binding–there is no set pattern–hence, we can do as we wish.
a. The examples of the churches relieving the needy are not binding on us today, for the church is not its own home and elders of the church cannot oversee a home, hence, we must have Benevolent, Charitable Institutions or Organizations to build a home (house) to provide care–relieve the needy.
b. The church is its own Missionary Society to preach the word, but the Missionary Societies controlled the churches, hence, they were wrong, but we can voluntarily pool our funds under one local eldership–Sponsoring Church Plan–and it will be scriptural.
c. The church is to edify itself, but the schools, colleges and camps are teaching our young people the Bible, hence, it is scriptural to support them in this good work.
5. Thus, many among us pervert, change, and tw st the scriptures to justify their practices–refuse to hear what the truth teaches– and arm themselves with countless errors and falsehoods.
Reader, can you not see the same disposition of mind and condition of heart among brethren today that is found in denominationalism and which was also found in the days of Jesus and Isaiah? Indeed the hearts of many have “waxed gross.” They have closed their eyes so that they cannot see; they have stopped their ears so that they cannot hear; and their hearts have “waxed gross” so- that they cannot understand. In the present controversies we see many who have closed their eyes, stopped their ears, and refuse to understand with their hearts. It seems that pride and prejudice have taken the place of reason and understanding in the hearts of many. Thus, they allow pride and prejudice to rob them of the truth. They reject the truth (established by precept, example and necessary inference), and seek to justify themselves by trying to defend their man-made doctrine with countless errors and falsehoods. What a pitiable condition it is, when people “see,” but “see not,” “hear,” but “hear not,” and cannot understand with their heart.
My sincere desire is that all may love the truth, obey it from the heart, and walk in the truth, so that we can enjoy the wonderful assurance of the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Mt. 13: 16)
Truth Magazine VI: 6, pp. 14-16