"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Friday, November 19, 2021

PONDERING THE PARABLES – Part Two

~ by James Fire

INTRODUCTION: The parables teach us many spiritually valuable lessons, but they all center around a central theme, that being “the kingdom of heaven”. Note that this isn’t just the realm of heaven, where GOD and His holy angels reside – along with the many departed saints, but the kingdom of heaven. The King of course is the LORD Jesus Christ, and there is an abundance of prophecies that talk about the coming kingdom (of GOD, or Heaven, or as its stated elsewhere (like ACTS 1:6) the kingdom of Israel.
Collectively this is addressing the Millennial period, but also that time during the LORD’s earthly ministry. This is why the LORD Jesus stated,

MATTHEW 3:2
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (See also MATT 4:17) because the King Himself had arrived – and declared Himself as such during His triumphant entry into Jerusalem
:

MATTHEW 21:4-9
4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'" 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David
[a Messianic title]! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!

Even in His sermon on the mount, the LORD spoke about “the kingdom of heaven” repletely! So these parables are applicable from the day that the King began His ministry, throughout the church age, as well as the Millennial Reign of the Messiah. You will also note that in the Gospel of Matthew – which portrays the LORD Jesus as the King of Israel (just as the other Gospel accounts portray their own aspects of our LORD), the term “kingdom of heaven” is used.

What’s interesting to note is the Greek word for “of” can also mean “from” which puts a different perspective on this phrase: the kingdom from heaven. I think of DANIEL 2:34 when that “stone” arrives to destroy the polymetallic statue, that stone being Christ, the King coming from heaven!

In these kingdom parables we read all sorts of things regarding the devil, the children of the devil, fowls of the air (representing agents of evil) and other things that one wouldn’t ever associate with heaven! Because these parables are dealing with the kingdom from heaven – come to earth, but with the evil influences of Satan (not bound until the Millennium) still active – even growing in power!

With all that said, let’s begin our examination of the foundational parable, the parable of the Sower of the seed!

MATTHEW 13:18
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower
.

This is the principle parable that our LORD taught us; the reason this is principle is because He establishes a certain glossary of words and phrases that He refers to in subsequent parables. This is where something called ‘expositional constancy’ is observed. The various pictures presented throughout this parable are consistent with how they are seen in subsequent parables (as is the case in dealing with types throughout Scripture -i.e., “a woman in travail…pangs, sorrows”, etc.. is descriptive of the time of the great tribulation. 

From Rapture Ready ministries, we have the following quote by Jack Kelley:

“Expositional Constancy
This is a fancy term to remind us that symbolism in scripture tends to be consistent.  For example, throughout the Bible leaven, or yeast, is used symbolically to stand for sin. Therefore there’s no justification for claiming that in the Parable of the Yeast (Matt. 13:33) and there alone, it stands for the Gospel. Expositional Constancy only applies to words that are used symbolically, so be careful.  Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3:9 that with the Lord a day is like 1000 years and 1000 years is like a day does not justify substituting 1000 years for a day every time it comes up.  Peter was simply explaining that the Lord’s concept of time is way different from ours.” To read the entire article, go here

These words are used in several places by different writers at different times, but they are all referring to the same thing).
Our LORD told His disciples as much:

MARK 4:13
And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

So let’s pay extra close attention to what our LORD says here, and His explanation and we’ll see if, by the Spirit of GOD, we may learn some things as seekers and lovers of the Truth.

MATTHEW 13:1-9
On 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!

The people of this culture and age would be well accustomed to an agricultural life. Sowing and harvesting, working the fields was a common enough experience. So from the beginning we can say that parables utilize the familiar in order to convey some principle, some object lesson.

We have before us a Sower, and as he sows seed, it lands in four different places or environments: by the wayside where birds consume the seed; upon stony ground with very little soil, sprouts quickly and is scorched by the sun; also upon thorny ground that stifles any growth; finally, this fourth environment has prepared and proper soil in which the seed takes root and brings fruitfulness to various degrees.

The LORD then says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”. He said the same thing regarding John the Baptist being the greatest among all the prophets:

MATTHEW 11:13
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Just as the elements in these parables were representative of things that the LORD elaborates on, John the Baptist was representative of Elijah – he wasn’t Elijah; he said so (JOHN 1:21). He wore camel’s hair and took on a Nazarite vow as did Elijah – and he turned the hearts of families towards one another and to GOD, as did Elijah. Yet in the First Advent of Christ, this man, a cousin of Jesus, was representative of the Old Testament prophet of antiquity. This truth, as with the parables required understanding (i.e., “to hear”) of the spiritual sort in order to comprehend it.

The LORD repeated this several times in the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation (REV 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22) and in each of these the LORD uses types or representations that describe Who He is which are antidotal to conditions that need repair. Then again in chapter 13 regarding the Beast and the persecution of the saints in those last days:

REVELATION 13:5-9
5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear
.

I believe that the saints who will endure this time will be granted keen and deep understanding of this and other passages in this last book of canon, far greater than any others as this will be most pertinent for them. Back to the Gospel of Matthew:

MATTHEW 13:10-17
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 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.' 16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it
.

The reason why the LORD Jesus Christ spoke in parables was covered in detail in Part One of this short series. So let’s proceed and hear the interpretation of this parable, as those whose eyes and ears are blessed because we love and desire the truth:

MATTHEW 13:18-19
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.

This seed is identified as “the word of the kingdom”, and in LUKE’s Gospel the seed is simply referring to “the Word of GOD” (LUKE 8:11). We have discussed the remarkable engineering GOD accomplished in the formation of seeds in an article entitled AFTER HIS KIND and how the seed of GOD’s Word is even far more miraculous in the fruit that it bears. Check it out at your earliest!

It’s because the LORD Jesus seeks to replicate His character of holiness in the souls of man that Satan has a vested interest in stopping it all. Thus these “birds of the air” – representative of “the wicked one” desires to devour it before it can work its wondrous work.

For this reason, it’s absolutely vital that we precede any presentation of the Word of GOD, specifically the Gospel with the lost, with deep and devoted prayer. Likewise any minister of the Word must also pray for those who will be in attendance and hearing the anointed message that the LORD has brought to that minister. 
Congregants, whether saints or sinners could have such seed stolen by the enemy, if they are not careful to heed and hide the Word of GOD in their hearts (PSALM 119:11) and there keep it, that it may bring forth fruit to the glory of GOD the Father (JOHN 15:8)! Satan is a career seed-stealer, a pernicious pick-pocket, and a veteran thief! Holy Spirit-directed diligence must be employed in order to deflect all the attempts by the devil in depriving us of the precious Word.

He may rob you even of the opportunity to sow the seed into your life by getting you so distracted, so very busy, that you hardly find time to allow the Sower to even sow His seed into you!

Yet if we allow the seed into our hearts and seek GOD to water that seed by faithful ministers, He will assuredly bring the increase (1 COR 3:6)!

Remember, the seed is not just the Word, but also “the word of the kingdom”, and this seed will bring forth after its own kind, that is, that which is of the kingdom of GOD. The standards and principles of the Kingdom of GOD: agape love, peace, joy, holiness, truth and all the glorious attributes of Jesus will reproduce in our hearts and grow the nature of Jesus within us – as is fitting for children and citizens of the kingdom of GOD!

May we as the bride of Christ prepare ourselves (2 COR 11:2-3; REV 19:8), assuming the things of the Spirit and the Word so that we are be adorned in such garments that Jesus our LORD provides us with: His garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness!

MATTHEW 13:20-21
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
.

In this second environment we see that the seed (the Word) is received, not as with the prior, where the seed was stolen away (not kept). Not only do they receive the Word, but they do so joyfully. This response shows that there is some genuine and favorable response to the Word of GOD.

“Yet…” so, there is a problem here: as seed has difficulty in properly germinating in stony and thin soil, so too spiritual life is thwarted because the person receiving the Word “has no root in himself…”

Scripture is quite clear about “roots”. Being “a partaker of the root” in the context of ROMANS 11:16-18 implicates Christ Jesus Himself as the root, He Who is “the root and offspring of David” (REV 5:5; 22:16; ROM 15:12).

Because of the fact that the root is unable to be secured in this stony heart, when adversities of various varieties visits them, “by and by they are offended” as it says in the KJV. They lack the ability to endure. They forsake the way of life, never having been rooted and grounded in the faith.
While the Spirit of GOD was interacting with them, and they had a taste of this “heavenly gift” and were “[partnering] with the Holy Spirit” (HEB 6:4) there was a lack of the Root that is Jesus in their lives. This is the case when one who merely professes belief in Christ and then experiences suffering, they forsake the way with the sentiment of “I didn’t sign up for this!”

Being hard hearted, and refusing to yield to Christ, imposing self-will instead of self-denial will spell trouble for anyone who initiates a profession in Christ. Jesus is not interested in being your co-pilot! He doesn’t even need you as His co-pilot! He would rather you take a back seat and let Him do the driving!

This is where so many false converts are seen; they look like believers, they act like them too. Yet what we see in the kingdom of heaven (and we will examine that parable soon enough) are wheat and tares; the tares look identical to the wheat until the fruit – the grain is borne and then the two are distinguishable.

Persecution has always been an effective separator of the truly and the falsely converted, and I dare say, we shall see who are genuinely Christian when (severe?) persecution strikes this nation of ours!

This is why it’s vital that each of us examines our hearts to see if we are genuinely rooted and built up “in Him [Christ] and established in the faith” (COL 2:7) and if we have any hardness of heart that refuses to yield to the LORDship of Jesus Christ, let such stoniness be removed!

MATTHEW 13:22
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
.

In this third environment the Word is received but note that there is a lack of joy in the reception. It seems almost immediately that the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches takes over, chokes out the Word and the professor yields no fruit. Scripture speaks plainly on what will happen to trees that bear no (good) fruit (MATT 3:10; 7:19).

This is something rampant in our materialistic, covetous society that has become America in her pursuit of pernicious pleasures. Advertisers entice the people to the point where everyone wants “the latest, the newest, the best…” of everything. People commit themselves to a second job, and to exorbitant overtime, just so that they can acquire their desire, and in the possession of such trinkets, the truth is lost, Jesus is ignored or sidelined, the Bible collects dust, and one almost forgets the way to church or the face of their pastor.

MATTHEW 13:23
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
.

Each of these environments represent different kinds of hearts, and this last example shows a heart that is good, ready to receive the seed. But doesn’t Scripture teach that the human heart is sinful? Indeed, both JER 17:9 and MATT 15:9 makes this clear. So how can any soil be considered “good”?

The Greek word implies a goodness that is not intrinsic, but something provided – and in preparation of this soil, there is an absence of fowls, stony conditions, thorns and thistles – this is prepared soil, good soil, whose goodness is attributable to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Such a one receives the seed, and who hears the word – and understands it. This cannot be said of someone who is not born of the Spirit of GOD or not for one in whom the Spirit is leading, guiding into the truth that is found in Jesus. Absent the Spirit of GOD, the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of GOD (JOHN 16:13; 1 COR 2:14).

JOHN 16:7-11
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 "of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 "of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 "of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Here we see the fundamental principle to our relationship with the Holy Scriptures and our study of the Word of GOD
.

We first observe what the Word says, portrayed here as “hearing”.
Then we interpret that which we perceive as the truth of the Word whereby we come to “understand”.

Lastly we apply the truth of GOD to our lives: these three things are essential in expositional study of the Bible: Observe, Interpret and Apply. This application is what will cause the seed of the Word to germinate, develop, grow and mature, bringing forth fruit. We are to see, understand and obey GOD’s Word and when we do, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit (GAL 5:22-23), to the glory of GOD the Father (JOHN 15:8).

The fruit bearing comes in different levels of productivity: some a hundred, others sixty and others thirty. Yield of crop versus seed planted is usually quite disproportionate. Relatively fewer crops mature compared to the amount of seed planted, yet here we see a lot of production, far higher yields than would be expected.

This is because this seed, this Word of GOD ha a vitality that is Spirit-born; the very nature of GOD and His eternal attributes are what’s contained in this sacred seed of the Word:

1 THESSALONIANS 2:13
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe
.

We must also remember that a high productivity level is not only dependent on a “good soil” of the prepared heart, but also on the amount of seed planted (that is observed, interpreted, and applied):

2 CORINTHIANS 9:6
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully
.

While this verse is addressing the ratio of benevolence towards others in proportion to the blessings of GOD received, I think the principle holds true in all spiritual matters: in our Bible reading and studying, in our prayers and devotions, in our worship and in evangelism: the more we put into these things, the more we’ll get out of them.

We mustn’t forget that those who are faithful in their work in the kingdom of GOD and have been so for a longer duration than others who are not as far along in their Christian walk will likely (but certainly not necessarily) produce more fruit over the course of time.
What is vital is the proper use of our time:

MATTHEW 9:36
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd 37 Then He said to His disciples, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

JOHN 9:4
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work
.

There will be no do overs in this lifetime. All souls, and especially believers have just one chance in this world to make a difference. I think that those tears that the LORD will wipe away in heaven from the cheeks of the saints, will be for their mourning over the lost opportunities that we let go by. Here ends this primary parable that we can use as a template to overlay the other parables, and thereby gain greater understanding. 

Until next time, remember JESUS SAVES and Satan enslaves!

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