Seed and soil; the two key parts. It is gardening time as I write this, farmers are planting, the greenhouses are busy, colour is appearing in pots and planters at homes all over the city. All other things being equal, given the same amount of sun, water and fertilizer, what determines the ultimate harvest? It is the condition of the soil. While in the natural realm the gardener generally sows the seed and prepares the soil, in the kingdom of God it is different. Scripture informs us of some key things.
15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (NKJV)
1 The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV)
We can see from the scriptures above that in the parable of the sower the soil is in fact our hearts and the condition of our heart is what determines our harvest. We can also see that we are responsible to prepare our hearts to receive the seed of His word. Ancient Israel was an agricultural society and not only did Solomon say we are responsible to prepare our hearts, Hosea laid it our very well.
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 (NKJV)
Hosea exhorts his hearers to break up their ‘fallow ground.’ If we are not familiar with agriculture this may not mean much. Fallow ground is ground that has not been planted in for a while and needs to be tilled and turned over so it is ready to receive seed again. Fallow ground has generally become somewhat hardened. The soil needs to be disturbed! Hosea in effect says that sowing righteousness, living a righteous and holy life and pursuing His presence will prepare our lives for harvest. Yahweh in mercy will rain righteousness upon us if we repent of our wrong behaviour and turn to Him. Hosea was a prophet to an unrepentant nation trying to get them to turn their hearts back to Yahweh. The significant thing here is that Hosea is describing repentance without using the actual term. Repentance is so little spoken of in the modern Western church that we may have lost sight of what it is about, or if we think of it we may only connect it to our conversion. However there is more.
I have generally heard repentance described as turning and going the other way. That is in fact not accurate. We all have the capacity to modify our behaviour without a corresponding change in heart attitude. Repentance is a change of mind and heart that produces a change in behaviour. The resulting behaviour change is the fruit or indicator of repentance, not repentance itself. Repentance is a precursor to conversion but it is not supposed to stop there. If in any way our thoughts and actions are not aligned with Jesus thoughts and actions then we need to repent when we see the discrepancy. However we usually do not see it without looking for it. When we genuinely pursue intimacy with Jesus we tend to initially become frustrated in our pursuit. This frustration comes from seeing how far short of this ideal life we fall. At this point we can choose to rationalize our present position or seek to draw deeper and be changed in the presence of a holy God! This pursuit and change is an ongoing process of repentance for anyone serious about deeply knowing Him.
So, we have addressed the importance of good soil and our role in preparing it. What about the seed?
14 The sower sows the word. Mark 4:14 (NKJV) 11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Luke 8:11 (NKJV)
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. Matthew 13:19 (NKJV)
We see from these three different scriptures talking about the same thing that the seed is the word of God and the word of the kingdom. It is obviously good seed! In the future I will talk about the role of revelation in understanding the kingdom of God and how it functions in our lives.