Our Lord’s parable of the sower and the seed is proof that it is possible to hear truth without profit. Paul turned from the Jews with the quotation, “Hearing, ye shall hear and shall not understand” (Acts 28:26), and then began his ministry to the Gentiles.
Before there can be any true inward understanding of divine truth, there must be a moral preparation. John’s Gospel is filled with the teaching that there must be a spiritual readying within the soul before there can be a real understanding of God’s truth. This is summed up in John 7:17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.”
When a man or woman becomes worthy to hear, God sometimes talks to them through very unworthy media. Peter, for example, was brought to repentance through the crowing of a rooster. Of course, the rooster was innocent of the part he was playing, but the Lord had set things up for Peter so that the rooster could break the heart of the back-slidden apostle and send him out in a flood of repentant tears.
Augustine was brought to repentance by seeing a friend killed by lightning. Nicholas Hermann was converted through seeing a tree stripped of its leaves in winter. Spurgeon became a Christian while hearing a humble Methodist layman exhort a small congregation. Moody was led to a clear anointing of the Spirit through the testimony of a simple-hearted elderly lady he knew.
All these examples teach the same thing. God will speak to the hearts of those who are prepared to hear, but those not prepared will hear nothing, even though the Word of God is falling upon their outer ears every Sunday. Good hearers are as important as good preachers. We need more of both.
– A. W. Tozer