From Heartburn to Itching Ears

Kent Heaton

Following the resurrection of Jesus, the Lord appeared to two men traveling to Emmaus and without revealing His identity talked with them about the events of the crucifixion. As they walked the seven miles toward their destination, Jesus "expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). Later Jesus would reveal His identity and then disappear from their sight. As they pondered this marvelous event they said, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).

Jesus taught them from "Moses and the Prophets" (Luke 24:27) and as He unfolded the teachings of the holy writ the hearts of these men were 'set on fire.' Here are men who listen carefully to the word of God hanging on its meaning and its application. What an experience that must have been to have the master teacher expound the truths of God's divine word. The character of these men shows hearts that are ready, receptive, responsive and uncluttered by the dogmas of men. They accepted the teachings of God for what it was; the one truth. Paul commended the church at Thessalonica "because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

The church today needs hearts that are set on fire by the word of God instead of those who would seek to have their ears scratched. Vance Havner said, "We need an Amos. I read articles that lament our spiritual condition and say, 'How we need an Amos.' We do, but try preaching like Amos on Sunday morning and see what happens when this generation cannot endure sound doctrine. This generation comes all the way from heartburn to ear itch when we use the Word of God. When our Lord expounded the Scriptures in His day, His hearers had heartburn. But this generation gathers to itself teachers who scratch itching ears"

The Holy Spirit warned of the day when people would not endure sound teaching seeking rather to have their own desires filled. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The fables of today deny accountability to God. Preachers refuse to preach lessons on judgment and hell. Churches will often cower under the social pressures of adultery, homosexuality and divorce within their ranks. Immodesty is the norm with members engaged in social drinking, social gossip and social acceptance of ears being scratched by noncommittal sermons of apathy.

While the word of God comforts the afflicted it also has the power to afflict the comfortable. Hearts need to be stirred to action by the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Would we dare to preach like Steven (Acts 7) or Paul (Acts 19) or our Lord (Matthew 23)? Jeremiah said, "Because the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.' But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not" (Jeremiah 20:8-9). Preach!