Some of the concepts and phrases familiar to us have their origin in the Scriptures. One such expression, is “earmarked”, which we use when we speak of persons or things being set apart for some particular use. The earmarking of sheep, for example, is an ancient method used in many lands whereby a shepherd was able to distinguish his own sheep from those of other shepherds.

The most important use of earmarking was in connection with a Hebrew servant as detailed in Exodus 21. 1-6 and in Deuteronomy 15. 16-17. these passages relating to the laws of masters and servants in Israel, we are given information regarding the offer of freedom made by the master upon completion of six years service by the servant. We read “in the seventh (year) he shall go out free for nothing”, Exod. 21. 2. If he came in by himself, he was to go out by himself; if he was married then his wife was to go out with him. However, if his master had given him a wife and there were children, the servant would feel a parental affection, and thus not wish to be separated from either wife or children. In such a case, he was to state his love for his master, his wife and his children. “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the doorpost; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever”, Exod. 21. 6.

Thus he was “earmarked”; he was set apart, as it were, for his master, and it would be vain for another master to look on him as a possible servant. His ear was a tell-tale ear; he belonged to someone else!

This very simple but extremely significant rite has much to teach us. One such lesson is found in connection with our Lord Jesus in the prophetic language of Psalm 40. 6-8. He is the One whose ear had been “opened”, or “digged” (J.N.D. marg.) by the Lord God, who appreciates the obedient ear more than sacrifice and offering. The law was within His heart, channelled there by way of the ear that was opened.

This very important attitude to hearing and doing the word of the Lord is referred to by the prophet Samuel when he rebuked King Saul on the occasion of that king’s disobedience to God’s commandments regarding the Amalekites. “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams”, 1 Sam. 15. 22.

Everywhere in Scripture the ear is given priority; whether in the consecrating of the priests, Lev. 8. 23-24, or in the cleansing of the leper, Lev. 14. 14, the ear comes first. We began our spiritual life by hearing, “So then faith cometh by hearing”, Rom. 10. 17. “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life”, John 5. 24.

Man esteems the tongue as the instrument of chief importance – all want to speak. God says otherwise. The world is filled with talking men and women, and the clatter and discord to be heard in Christendom has reached such a crescendo that the righteous scarcely know what to do. As men turn their ears against the truth so will they increasingly listen to fables, 2 Tim. 4. 3-4. In the discourse on the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice”, John 10. 27, and obeying what we hear from Him will safeguard us from the discordant voices of latterday apostates who are so busily speaking lies in hypocrisy, 1 Tim. 4. 1-2.


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