Understand


by Mike Ratliff

13 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν παραβολαῖς αὐτοῖς λαλῶ, ὅτι βλέποντες οὐ βλέπουσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες οὐκ ἀκούουσιν οὐδὲ συνίουσιν, 14 καὶ ἀναπληροῦται αὐτοῖς ἡ προφητεία Ἠσαΐου ἡ λέγουσα·
ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε,
καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε.
15 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου,
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν
καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν,
μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν
καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν
καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς. Matthew 13:13-15 (NA28)

13 For this reason I am speaking to them in parables for while seeing they do not see and while hearing they do not hear nor do they understand, 14 and the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in them, which says,
‘In hearing you will hear and by no means understand,
and while seeing you will see and my no means perceive.
15 for the heart of this people has been made dull,
with their ears they hear with difficulty,
and their eyes are closed, lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart and return,
and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:13-15 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In the heartbreaking passage above the word “understand” translates the Greek verb συνίουσιν (syniousin) it is the third person plural present tense, active mood, and indicative voice of συνίημι (syniēmi), which means “understand.” It originally meant to bring together. One Greek scholar has explained συνίημι this way, “The comprehending activity of the mind denoted by συνίημι entails the assembling of individual facts into an organized whole, as collecting the pieces of a puzzle and putting them together. The mind grasps concepts and sees the proper relationship between them.”

Another example of this word appears in Acts 28:25-28.

25 ἀσύμφωνοι δὲ ὄντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἀπελύοντο εἰπόντος τοῦ Παύλου ῥῆμα ἕν, ὅτι καλῶς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἐλάλησεν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ὑμῶν 26 λέγων·
πορεύθητι πρὸς τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον καὶ εἰπόν·
ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε
καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε·
27 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν
καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν·
μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν
καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν
καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.
28 γνωστὸν οὖν ἔστω ὑμῖν ὅτι τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπεστάλη τοῦτο τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ· αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται. Acts 28:25-28 (NA28) 

25 And when they did not agree with on another, they were dismissed after Paul had spoken, “The Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, 26 saying,
‘Go to this people and say,
“You will keep on hearing, but will not understand,
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive.
27 For the heart of this people has become dull,
and with their ears they scarcely hear,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart and return,
and I would heal them.”’
28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been set to the Gentiles and they will listen. Acts 28:25-28 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

While under house arrest in Rome for two years, Paul taught those who visited him. Some believed, but some didn’t. When he saw the unbelief of the Jews, He said, quoting Isaiah 6:9-10:

9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NASB) 

Romans 3:11 likewise declares:

11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; Romans 3:11 (NASB) 

In both cases the point is that the unbeliever does not understand spiritual truth; he cannot “put the pieces together” and comprehend what he is hearing. This is why Jesus used parables in His teaching.

In contrast, Romans 15:21 declares that Paul’s word among the Gentiles fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, that the Gentiles who had never before heard God’s truth would hear and understand. This is a great encouragement to us. Why? After’s Peter’s confession that Jesus was “The Christ, the Son of the living God,” our Lord responded, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Likewise, the Holy Spirit illumines spiritual truth to us so we can understand it, so we can “put the pieces together.” 

I know that before the Holy Spirit did that for me I was spiritually clueless even though I had gone to church my whole life. But one Sunday morning as I was minding my own business trying to be as invisible as possible in Bible Study class, the truth of the Gospel hit home like a ton of bricks and all those years of hearing the Gospel suddenly made sense and I saw that I was a lost sinner whose only hope was to turn to Jesus as my Lord and Savior, repent of my sins and be baptized. I have never been the same. How about you?

Soli Deo Gloria!