When I say "The oldest profession," what comes to mind? The world has one answer.....tending to plants, gardening and farming. Adam was a gardener, Consider that every blessed relationship and every genuinely beneficial profession and skill points to God in some way. If you have a heart for the Lord, you can find God is every activity that is not sinful.
The one who makes things grow is God. We plant a seed, we water a seed, we fertilize the gound, but we can't make something grow without using the innate potential of something God created. The first profession, the first task given to man, apart from naming the animals, takes on a prominent role throughout Scripture. So much so, that there are numerous Old Testament laws concerning the practices of farmers.
Our parable is often called the"Parable of the Sower. Yet Jesus mentions nothing at all of the sower in His explanation of the parable! The focus in His parable is on dirt. It could be called "The Parable Of The Four Soils." In all seriousness, this parable is some of the most practical writing I have ever seen. This parable has convicted me. It has broken my heart. It has set me free from habitual sin or simply from unbelief. It is a constant aid in my struggle to grow in the likeness of Jesus.
"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on and the birds of the air ate it up." (verse 5)
The first question I think of when I read this verse is, "Who is the sower?" My first impulse is to say God is the sower, but what is the sower doing? According to Jesus in verse 11, "the seed is the Word of God." Anyone who sows the Word of God is the sower. That's one of the chief duties of all of us Christians. We sow God's Word through evangelism, or through our witness simply living the Christian life. Sometimes we just point people to the Scripture. God is the Seed here, and He is also the One making the seed grow. We also know that God sends the sowers out to do the sowing.
What do you also notice about the seed here? Throughout this whole passage, the Word of God, the seed, is never at fault! There are three soils that do not bear fruit, but the Good Seed is never the problem. God's efforts to reach the lost aren't what is lacking. God's Word is powerful. God's Word is effective. Why do you think the devil has to snatch up the seed? Because road or not, the seed is going to grow. It's always the right seed. It's just not always the right dirt.
With that background in mind, let's ask a question: What does the path represent then? We read that the seed "was trampled underfoot" before the "birds of the air ate it up" (vs.5). When they trample on the Word of God, they aren't letting it take root in their hearts. They are spurning the gift that is God's Word. This soil represents those people who disagree with good sense before they've even heard it.
Now, I call this the "Parable Of The Four Soils" because the soils are the main focus. But they're not all literally soil. The important part is that man is trampling the seed under foot, and the devil is snatching it up. (verse 6):
"Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture."
Jesus tells us that this seed represents those who have no root. Well, God tests everyone once, and if they fall away, then they had no root. All day, every day in this life, is a time of testing! Our peace does not come because our battle is over, but because we know our Lord is with us. So then, in a time of testing, these professors of the faith fall away and wither because they have no root. This makes it a bit more pressing to pay attention to Jesus' words.
What are these roots? Why do these seeds have to moisture? So then, how do we stay connected to the nourishment of God? Study His Word. Pray. Listen to Godly music. Sing Godly music. Go to Church on Sundays. Serve the Lord by spreading the Good News. The idea here is fellowship with God! If we are in intimate relationship with Him, then we will be drawing nourishment from Him. However you draw close to God, genuinely draw close to Him. I'm not here to tell you how to draw close to God. It's not a formula, but some constants in every fruitful Christian walk abound.
For those who have fallen from grace, there was a single theme that ran through each of these fallen lives. Every one of them had gradually drifted away from their one-on-one time with God. All of them stopped singing hymns in the car, or reading Scripture daily. They weren't spending time in prayer. They stopped nurturing their roots.
We are not saved by a single one-time profession of faith in Jesus, but we're saved DAILY by an active and intimate relationship with the One True God. God is our Father, and desires to love us as only a Father can. He delights to hold us close, in his lap, and walk us through our lives. It's not that He punishes us for not seeking Him first, but instead that without seeking Him first, we have no hope in overcoming sin! The devil is more powerful than you are. None of us are a match for him on our own. In one-on-one combat, Satan wins 100% of the time. That's why we must put on the WHOLE armor of God.
The next verse can be tricky (verse 7).
"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants."
Jesus says these thorns are cares and riches, and pleasures of life, that choke the plants and keep the fruit from maturing. In John 15:2 Jesus says:
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
One of the requirements for us to be considered Christians is that we bear fruit. So if this immature fruit is still fruit, then this person might be saved through the skin of their teeth. The immature fruit signifies a lack of sincere faith. These are those who do not know the Lord. The roots aren't the problem. They have strong roots. The nourishment is there, and the plants are growing. In this example, the Christian is spending time and effort feeding the roots of the weeds. It's not that they're not putting God high on their priorities. But the weeds are first. Let me tell you something about God. If He's not alone on your throne, if He's sharing first place with something else, then He's not first. Our God is a jealous God. He doesn't do second place. Jesus specifically says in verse 14:
"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasure, and they do not mature."
Am I good soil? How many of you worry from time to time? Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If we're not living in peace, the heart peace that comes from our relationship with God, Shalom, then how are we going to represent Jesus to a dying world?
What about riches? Do you feel that you make enough money? Now it's not a bad thing to want more money. But is your focus in increasing wealth choking the fruit of God in your life? Does it take away your kindness? Your patience?
Finally, let's touch on the "pleasures of life." A wise man told me that the eyes are the last things to die. The first glance is free, but the second glance is very costly. You have heard of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It is by our fruit that we are known. How do you know if someone is earnestly seeking God? If these fruits are reflected in their character, they are children of God. Sometimes you can't tell up front. You have to spend some time with them to know. When it comes to false teachers, Jesus says that "by their fruit you will know them:" The fruit of wolves is also listed in Scripture; among them are "idolatry, enmity, rivalries, dissensions," to name a few.
Let's consideer the three soils we've touched on. Having the seed isn't enough. It needs to take root. And these roots have to go deep, to draw nourishment from God The seeds need to be the only type of seed in the soil: This brings us to the final soil. The last dirt. (verse 8)
"Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. When He said this, He called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Let me read what Jesus says about this final soil in verse 15:
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering product a crop."
None of these soils represent a one-time thing. The soil is our life. It's not the way we were made, but the way we actively live. One is not a Christian because of the way he was created, but because of the life he lives, and the choices he makes. If you're the path, you are actively choosing to trample the Word of God. If you are the rocky soil, you aren't spending your efforts building your roots. If you are the thorny soil, you are spending your life on things that do not matter. Developing a "noble and good heart" is one of the aspects of God's work in us......called sanctification. This parable is about a persevering life. Which soil do you want to be?
We're a work in progress. God loves us just as we are, but He loves us far too much to leave us that way! I can promise each and every one of you, sometimes God will command you to pluck out those thorny weeds, so His Word can grow unmolested in your heart.
God is good. God is love. God will never leave us, nor forsake us. He is here for the long haul. Jesus Christ endured the Cross so that we can have every tool we need to persevere to the end. It's the fertile soil, free from weeds and with strong roots, that perseveres. And we don't persevere so that we can survive by the skin of our teeth. "It came up and yielded a crop a hundred times more than was sown." Get to planting, you sowers. And get to weeding, or pulling out rocks.......Because we are all the dirt, and we might as well be good dirt!