Toiling In the Garden
Posted Feb. 2, 2016 by Benjamin Liles
Jesus told many parables while He walked this world in Israel. One of the most famous, which many a pastor and preacher have told is about the farmer who sowed seed. He comes out of the home he's been staying in. He feels the heat of the day, but stands tall anyway. All the eyes of the many men and women are upon him. Anticipation brews. Murmurs from the people hum in his ears. He walks with confidence to the sea that is close by.
After sitting down Jesus tells them this: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt. 13:3-9, NKJV).
We're never truly told how many people were there, except that there was a multitude of people. We're never told what they said or did when Jesus came out even. We're told that Jesus sat by the sea and he was in a boat (Matthew 13:1, 2). We're told the people stood (v. 2). What I love about this parable is that Jesus paints the scene with a farmer going out to plant seed. He tells us plainly some seed falls on the pathways leading to harvestable ground. I can see it plain as day.
My grandparents, my mom's parents, were farmers from their young days until the day they retired. I can relate, to a degree, with what Jesus tells us. I can see my grandfather, in my mind's eye, walking out into a pasture, getting ready to hop in the tractor to sow seed into the ground. He has a pouch with seed hooked on the right side attached to his belt. Some seed trickles out on to stony ground. Birds come and devour that seed. Some seeds fall into thorn bristles, but they take root and there's a small crop. Yet, they are choked off because of those thorns and the results aren't good. Some of that seed spills out on ground that is fertile while my grandfather walks to his tractor. This ground, whereas, isn't deep and has stones just below the surface. This seed takes root as well. Yet, the heat comes, beating down on the crop and it burns away.
Mick, as everyone called him, plants a firm right foot onto the first step into the tractor, making it easy to slide in. He's drenched with sweat already. Wipiing away the stream on his brow, he starts the tractor up. Every single year him and my grandmother did this kind of work. I remember the time of year when we went up from Texas to their home seeing corn stalks and they stood over my dad. Like soldiers standing at ease, they probably stood around seven feet tall, blowing in a gentle August breeze.
Corn seed wasn't the only thing that was sowed. Looking it up other seed that can be grown are asparagus, peach, "cauliflower, green peas and lima beans" (Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers Grow Success, second paragraph). I just remember corn.
At any rate, Jesus tells us plainly what the parable means: "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. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 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. 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. 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" (Matthew 13:19-23, NKJV).
The Stony Path - The Heart that Opposes God
The Berean Study Bible says that "The wicked one" is the devil. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English calls him "The enemy." No matter how the verse in Luke 8:12 is stated in the Bible we can know for sure that the one who takes the seed away from the hearer is basically a heart that is cold and unopen to the message of Christ. Without express revelation from God, or in having a humble heart, which is ready and open to the word this person just can't discern what real, authentic truth is. This heart opposes the message Jesus Christ is saying.
The Thorny Ground - The Heart that Cares for the World
Mark says in his gospel account, Jesus says, "Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn't produce a crop" (Mark 4:7, Holman Christian Standard). Jesus tells us that this seed is choked out. The heart of this person takes root, and is joyous for a time. But the demands of the day takes its toll. Whether it's the demand of a job, the care of a spouse or children, or whichever, this heart doesn't remain on God or His word.
The Rich Soil - The Heart that Belongs to God
This heart is so open and ready to God and the word of Christ that fruit is born. In another related verse, Jesus tells us this person is so enriched and exposed, "By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7:16, World English). This person is more than ready. This man, or woman, personifies the essence of God: "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them" (Acts 4:32, New American Standard). Their faith in Jesus and belongs to Him produces actual work.
James says this of the person who has no faith: "My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!”—if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead" (James 2:14-18, Good News Translation).
The Stony Ground - The Heart that can't Endure
Endurance can be a great thing. A marathon runner goes for the prize at the Olympics. He, or she, has adrenaline pumping. Drenched with sweat and heart pounding the feet pump, their heart hammers away. They see the end. All of a sudden their hamstring clenches up and they come crashing down. What happened? Why did this happen? They were doing so well. They were far ahead of the pack. And yet, their strength failed them. It happens to everyone, actually. I don't imagine this person thought, "Oh, you know what, I just quit."
No, this person is hurt. This heart is wounded. It's more than wounded. This is a heart that isn't simply a quitter. On the contrary this person has a heart that is actually cold and distant from God. Everyone quits due to the inability of simply caring for the rigorous daily grind. You were passed over for the pay raise. Your spouse got tired of the complaining and divorced you. You lost a child to cancer. It doesn't happen within days. This happens all of a sudden.
Often there is a development, over the course of time, good times are forgotten. The day you won that bid for the job. The day you got the raise. The day you wed your soulmate. The day your child was born. Ah, the good old days.
The psalmist writes, "They forgot God their savior, which had done great things in Egypt" (Psalm 106:21, AKJV). In time some of the people of Israel didn't want to relive the good days. "But they kept ridiculing God's messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the LORD's wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy" (2 Chronicles 36:16, Holman Christian Standard). "They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 7:12, NASB).
I'm focusing more on this part of the parable as we all give up. I have a number of unfinished projects I started. I've "tried" to write a few books. I gave up when things got hard. I grew tired and frustrated as I worked. I forgot how much of a joy I felt when I first started. Then I got angry and didn't want to remember the joy I once had. I got bitter and resentful. So, how did I end up getting back into doing what I loved? I do enjoy writing. I love how I feel when I finish something I start.
The Solution - Understanding how to Endure
Ezekiel, one of the best known prophets in the Old Testament gives us three scripture verses. Let's take a look at them one by one. "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and will give them a heart of flesh" (11:19, Jubilee Bible 2000). Having a heart that is no longer divided. Recently I've been reading books by authors I admire. As much as I love writing I also enjoy reading. The olympian who loves running, who took that fall, they get up and finish the race in the nick of time; winning. The spouse who was ready to give up on their marriage, they sought reconciliation. The worker who was passed over for a pay raise was offered an even better position and far better pay. The couple who lost their child from cancer, they were able to have another child. Their joy returned.God can give you this in your life. Allow Him to remove that stone. Allow your love for what you enjoy doing spark the dying embers to be rekindled into a roaring fire.
Ezekiel writes in another spot, "Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel?" (18:31, New Living Translation). We all know the basics of what the law does. Some times we don't like being confined by rules. We see the grass is greener on the other side. We jump ship, so to speak. What's the end result? What you thought was a safe speed almost caused a head on collision. What you thought was okay to do with another person has you in divorce court. The hate you felt led to murder and now you face a trial in front of your peers. Rebellion. Plain and pure disregard in doing right.
This can be remedied, in all honesty. By allowing God to expunge you of the guilt you have you can turn over a new leaf and be restored. That collision on the freeway that happened, you were forgiven by the other family. The infidelity you committed was paid off by the offended party and wants to give you another shot. The life you took allowed you to pick up a Bible and you read God's love and forgiveness. God is a forgiving God. He says to you and to me, "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD your God, he it is that does go with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you" (Deut. 31:6, American King James).
Lastly, the prophet pens these words: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Eze. 36:26, KJV). Going back to the farmer's field with my grandfather he was able to remove the rocks from the field so he could plant a successful crop of corn. The rain fell and more than a hundred ears of corn grew to full maturity. The soil produced such a harvest because no stones were left. What you think is the end can be a beginning. Whether it's a death in the family, the awful and senseless thing you did, or any other kind of failure you experienced is wiped clean.
You can overcome anything in life. You can finish the race you started. You can start again and be published. You can find happiness in your marriage. You can do all things with Him who heals and forgives. "They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death" (Rev. 12:11, WEB). There is salvation at the cross. God can remove the stone in your heart. It means acknowledging you fell short. It means removing pride and no longer having an ego. It means coming home to a father you ran away from (see Luke 15:18-24). We all can finish life knowing we have won the race set before us. We can enjoy eternity with a God who made us. We have and bear His image. Won't you allow Him to restore and renew you?