Friday, March 03, 2006

The Word of God is like seed...

The Word of God is like seed, scattered from the hand of the Sower
Be Rooted in God's Word.
(See Mark 4:15-20)

That is what the framed poster that sits above the desk in my office says. Pictured in the poster is a man sprinkling seed along the ground. The Parable of the Sower is described in Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8; and Matthew 13:1-23. Here is Matthew's account:

13On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

Jesus used many illustrations, or parables when speaking to the crowds. A parable compares something familiar to something unfamiliar. It helps us understand spiritual truth by using everyday objects and relationships.

Sometimes I attempt to use analogies to get a spiritual point across to a non-believer. I have found that many times they do not "get it" and I often wonder why. Could be (probably) that my analogy was a poor choice. Could also be that the person chooses to ignore, dismiss, or even refuse to hear the message being shared. Jesus tells us in the explanation of the parable of the sower (below) that for some, parables such as these are only stories without meaning.

Parables compel listeners to discover truth, while at the same time concealing the truth from those too lazy or too stubborn to see it. To those who are honestly searching, the truth becomes clear.

This particular parable should encourage spiritual "sowers" - those who teach, preach, and lead others. The farmer sowed good seed, but not all the seed sprouted, and even the plants that grew had varying yields. This teaches us not to be discouraged if we do not always see results as we faithfully teach the Word. Belief cannot be forced to follow a mathematical formula (for instance, a 4:1 ratio of seeds planted to seeds sprouted). Rather, it is a miracle of God's Holy Spirit as he uses our words to lead others to Him.

Jesus said, "He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:9) Think about the fact that human ears hear many sounds, but there is a deeper kind of listening that results in spiritual understanding. If you honestly seek God's will, you will have spiritual hearing, and parables like the parable of the sower will give you new perspectives.

Don't you just love some of the questions that the disciples asked Jesus? I have often thought, would I have asked that question if I was there? I am so glad that they asked Jesus, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" (Matthew 13:9)

The Parable of the Sower Explained
Matthew 13:18-23)

(See also Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15)

18 "Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

Wow. Doesn't that perfectly describe many of the reactions of people with whom you may have attempted to share the gospel?

There are weeks worth of study that we could do about the parable of the sower. I hope that you will add your own points and opinions in the comment section.

Two crucial points here. When Jesus spoke in parables, he was not hiding truth from sincere seekers. How can I say this with confidence? Because those who were receptive to spiritual truth understood the illustrations. At the same time, to others, they were only stories without meaning. Isn't that amazing to realize? Those who outrightly rejected Jesus, his message and purpose for coming to this earth to be our Savior will inevitably regard these parable as meaningless stories.

There was another purpose for Jesus to speak in parables and it has to do with the actual situation in Jerusalem at the time he walked and spoke there. Since the meaning was hidden to the non-believers, it allowed Jesus to speak openly to large crowds so that he could give spiritual food to those who hungered for it while preventing his enemies from trapping him sooner than was the proper time; as if they could. But remember, there were 9 attempts to trap him, seize him and/or plots to kill him before he allowed the Roman soldiers to take him at the proper time.

Matthew 13:12 "Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, then what he has will be taken from him."

This verse is often misinterpreted. When we look at the context and verses (Matthew 13:14-15)that follow, we can clearly see what Jesus meant by those words.

14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I *should heal them.'*

NU-Text and M-Text read would.
Isaiah 6:9, 10

Notice that the words of Jesus in Matthew 13:14,15 were in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9,10. This phrase means that we are responsible to use well what we have. However, when people reject Jesus, their hardness of heart drives away or renders useless even the little understanding they had.

Have you ever debated an atheist, agnostic, or skeptic? I have. And in my lengthly conversations I have found this spiritual hardness of heart to be very evident in the dialogue. Sometimes I think that my next explanation will reach them. Then, I discover that they appear to have dug in their heals and their individual heart has been driven away from God even further!

I used to worry that it must have been because I did not use the right words, or I didn't pick the right things to say, or I have insulted them in some way that caused their rejection of the truth of God's Word. But when I read that verse in Matthew 13:12 and combine it with what Jesus says next in Matthew 13:14,15; I now recognize that the hearer 's understanding has been "rendered useless even the little understanding they had."

This supports the truth about what happens in the reprobate mind.

Those who are repelled by the gospel of Christ and all that it entails are examples of those described in Isaiah's prophetic statement:

15 "For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed,..."

The hope is that one day they will open their eyes and ears to the truth. All we can do is stand firm in our faith, pray for the lost and continue to witness to them.

Jesus ends this parable on a positive note:

23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

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