You might think the title of this article refers to the annual Bellevue Baptist Ministerial football game. And although the thought does call up an interesting mental image, the biblical image is far more serious and much less muddy. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will heap to themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:1–4). There it is. A heap of teachers. Or a pile of preachers! What is God saying here? He is saying change is in the wind. Once loved doctrine will become hated. Immovable pillars of faith will see a multitude moving away from them. He Who is Right will observe the madness of those who do that which is right in their own eyes. Desire is in--doctrine is out.
So how do the ears get involved? Conviction! This little word can be a huge force of revelation. I don’t know about you, dear friend, but God has laid His spirit of conviction upon me many times. And with conviction comes a choice. In those dark moments when I have followed self, the Word of God becomes His floodlight of condemnation. It also outlines the path of repentance. Now I must choose. If I reject Him and His doctrine, I will look for some other source of affirmation. That’s how the ears got involved in our text above. They become a tool when people want a soothing voice to drown out the cry of conviction. Could this ever happen in our world? Could it happen in Christ’s church? According to Paul, “Yes and yes.”
Now, few things are more annoying than a troublesome itch. It’s almost as contagious as a yawn. The mere thought of an itch brings visions of a huge roll of pink fiberglass. “Oh wretched man that I am...” (Romans 7:4).
Back to the ears. According to 2 Timothy 4, a generation of people will refuse to be satisfied by truth. What could cause such resistance? Is it some new species of moral virus, made stronger by immunity to Biblical vaccination? Is it an allergic reaction to the good medicine of the Great Physician? Yes and yes. Have our own desires somehow become more important than the Desire of Ages? Will we gather around ourselves a pile of preachers who please the ear and kill the heart? Will we settle for a blind diagnosis of false prophecy in the midst of our terminal disease? How did our ears get in this condition? Well, it has happened before.
It happened in the Old Testament times too. God told Isaiah “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isaiah 30:8-11). It’s those ears again!
The good news is that our heavenly Father knows our needs. Though some of His professed people demand smooth sayings, He sends the sword of truth to light their path. Here’s an example: the story lines are drought, rain, fire, Baal, and dancing.
You see, in the days of King Ahab, the majority of God’s professing people were really Baal’s people. But a remnant (7,001 to be exact) quietly resisted the apostasy around them, although it was hard to spot them in the army of idolatry. The ears of an entire nation needed a wakeup call. In his mercy, God caused them to remember His blessings by temporarily removing one of them (rain). He let the lesson sink home for almost four-years. He then brought them together to witness the power of true worship. Israel had a pile of preachers too.
It must have been quite a sight. I’ve never seen 450-men do the “Hallelujah Hop” or the “Praise Promenade.” It sounds exhausting, and it would have been – even to just watch it. They did this for about eight hours at high altitude.
Finally they gave up. God showed them Who was real! The false prophets were overthrown down at the Kishon Valley resulting in another “pile of preachers” (loosely translated). “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will heap to themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” II Tim. 4:3&4.
Here we are in the year 2012. These words frighten me as I read them. They predict a calm dispossession of God’s truths in the name of selfish desire. They predict a chorus of voices that please the ear and kill the heart. They predict new criteria for the qualification of preaching. They reveal an artificial success that is measured in numbers, steeped in unsanctified pride, and packaged with mysticism.
Lord forgive me, and restore unto me the joy of hearing Your Word.