This morning as we snuggled, trying not to wake up and get up, my ear itched. This happens more often for me than the average person because the hearing aids I wear 16 hours a day keep my ears from drying out properly so molds and mildews and other unpleasant things find a healthy habitat (for them). I usually treat the itch with the old swimmers’ ear mixture of half & half alcohol and vinegar before it becomes an infection. As I started to scratch my ear canal, I had a sudden insight. When I told Dene, she said, “What?” and when I replied, “My ear itched and I scratched it and thought of Hebrews 10…” That incongruity struck her funny bone and she laughed till the bed shook. I was so miffed that I did not tell her about it for 2 or 3 hours.
[Disclosure: This may prove there is a short-circuit in my brain instead of providing spiritual insight.]
Heb 10:5 quotes Psa 40:6 “Sacrifice and offering thou would not, but a body did thou prepare for me.” Instead of, “a body…” Psa 40 reads, “Mine ears thou hast opened” and the margin says, “Literally, ‘Ears thou hast digged for me.’ ”
Metonomy is the metaphor where a part of something is used instead of the whole, and we use it all the time. “He’d give the shirt off his back” is not limited to clothing, much less to shirts. Other such expressions are “a roof over my head” or, with pride, “There are my wheels,” (referring to a car).
So scholars have long recognized that in the Psalm, “ears” represents the whole body and the Spirit so interprets it by the quotation in Heb 10:5. The insight as I dug in my ear to scratch the itch is, why did God choose “ear” to represent “body” instead of some other part such as feet or hands?
In the context of Hebrews 10, the Spirit had just pointed out that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins, and the next point is that Jesus is perfect to be the once-for-all sacrifice because he came to do the will of the Father. As we learn earlier in the book, he is the perfect sacrifice and the perfect intercessor because he was made in all things like his brethren (Heb 2:17). He did not come as a voice to command as the Son of God; he did not come as a mighty arm to rule with power, he came as ears to hear and to obey God and thus, to understand what it is to be a man so he could succor those who are tempted.
So, if He is to call us brethren, we must be like him, ears (Heb 2:11). In this sense of a proper subservience toward God, it is appropriate that the whole body be an ear, for there is no place for speaking or seeing (1 Cor 12:17).
Further, Jesus never commanded men: no armies, no servants. He called, he instructed, he did not judge. He was an ear of compassion toward sinners. In regard to the word of God, Jesus instructed, “Take heed how you hear” (Lk 8:18). But the example of his behavior challenges us to be cautious how we hear others. Would sinners come to us? Would the self-righteous accuse us of being friends of sinners? How can we teach sinners if they see us as judges rather than compassionate ears? Is it written by our lives that we are “come to do thy will, O God,” as it had been prophesied of Jesus?
Because he was meek and lowly, listening instead of commanding, we can find rest to our souls and we can rest the souls of others.