One of the parables Jesus told was “The Parable of the Sower” (Matt 13: 1-23). In the story, “a sower went forth to sow” (v 3). The seeds fell on four types of soil – “by the wayside”, “upon stony places”, “among thorns” and “into good ground” (vv 3-5, 7-8). The seed represents the Gospel or God’s Word while the four types of soil represent the different responses to God’s truths.
In our article last week, we learnt about the:
1. The Wayside Hearer
He is compared to the hard highway ground. Such a one hears God’s Word but “understandeth it not” (Matt 13: 19). Just as the seeds sown on the wayside are devoured by the birds, God’s truths sown in a hardened, unbelieving heart, fail to take root. Soon, the devil “catcheth away that which was sown in his heart” (v 19b), and the hearer remains unconverted.
Let us consider the other responses to God’s Word as represented by the different types of soil:
2. The Stony Ground Hearer
“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away” (Matt 13: 5-6). Jesus’ explanation is found in verses 20-21: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”
The stony ground hearer receives God’s Word eagerly – “anon with joy” – but the impression is short-lived. The seeds sown on stony ground may spring up. But they do not last – “because they had no root, they withered away”. The faith of the stony ground hearer is shallow because it is based on mere feelings. He responds excitedly to the Gospel but when troubles come, he turns away from the faith.
Such hearers are no better than the fickle multitudes of Jesus’ day who left Him because they were offended by His teachings: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (Jn 6: 66). Turning to His disciples, Jesus asked them: “Will ye also go away?” Should the Lord ask us a similar question, how will we answer? When we face opposition or hardships in life, will we forsake our Lord? Will our faith give way to unbelief, doubt, fretting and murmuring?
“Those on whom the word makes some impressions, but they are not deep and durable ones, will show their hypocrisy in a time of trial; as the seed sown upon the rock, where it gains no root (Lk 8: 13). These for awhile believe a little while; their profession promises something, but in time of temptation they fall away from their good beginnings. Whether the temptation arises from the smiles or the frowns, of the world, they are easily overcome by it (Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary).
3. The Thorny Ground Hearer
“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them” (Matt 13: 7). Jesus’ explanation is found in verse 22: “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”
The thorny ground hearer may receive God’s Word with approval but fails to profit from it. Here the seed takes root but is unfruitful because it is choked by “the thorns”. This typifies those who are distracted by “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches” (v 22), “and pleasures of this life” (Lk 8: 14).
“Enjoyments, innocent in themselves, in which worldly prosperity enables one to indulge, smother the seed. So much of time is taken up for pleasure that only the dregs remain for spiritual things” (All the Parables of the Bible – Herbert Lockyer).
Brethren, let us check our lives. We may enjoy listening to God’s truths, and even desire to obey them. But if our hearts are filled with earthly things, we will never give up our all for Christ’s sake. We will not find time for the things of God. Let us therefore watch against a pre-occupation with the world and its allurements.
4. The Good Ground Hearer
“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matt 13: 8). Jesus’ explanation is found in verse 23: “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
The seeds that fell on good ground yielded fruit in different measure - some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold”. This typifies the hearer who receives God Word and “understandeth it” and bring forth fruit.
In his parallel account, Luke tells us that the seed that fell on “good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Lk 8: 15). An honest and good heart is one that has been renewed and sanctified by God’s Spirit. Such a one responds in faith to God’s Word, obeys it and produces “fruit with patience” –“by which is to be understood certainty, constancy, and perseverance, and that notwithstanding all trials and oppositions he meets with from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty; not all alike. A soul may be an honest and good soul, and that (as we see here) in Christ’s opinion and judgment, though it doth not bring forth fruit in the same proportion with others” (Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible).
Brethren, do we see ourselves belonging to any of the first three types of hearers? If so, we must be very concerned because it may mean that we are not true believers.
A true believer is one who receives God’s Word and obeys it. Like the seed that falls on good ground, he brings forth “fruit with patience” – by his persevering spirit, godly conduct, good works and Christ-like character. Without these evidences of a regenerated life, our faith is vain. We may not even be saved!
How do we receive God’s Word? Do we respond to it with a careless heart, with warm feelings or with a mere outward profession? Or do we keep it in our hearts that our lives may bring forth fruit to the glory of God? May each of us resolve to be a fruitful hearer of God’s Word.