Monday, December 31, 2007

Good Ground. . .

The Bible is a never ending source of surprise. I have read the following parable often and as many times as I have heard messages preached based upon this passage, I have come to a new understanding over the past four or five days.

Take a few moments and read this parable again for yourself:

Matthew 13:1-9
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 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. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 13:18-23
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 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. 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 a hundredfold some sixty, some thirty.

I had always understood these verses in the context of someone newly come to the Lord, someone like myself or in the sense of someone reaching for those who do not know God. When I preach or teach at the jail, the Word that I spread falls upon different types of ground. Some of the ground is suitable for growth and bearing fruit and ultimate harvest, but some is not. That is just the way of it. This parable gives comfort and encouragement to me. Not that I can't improve my method of reaching people or anything like that, but Jesus Himself is speaking these words to us that some of the soil that even presumably He broadcast seed upon was not suitable for further growth. All we can do is to continue to broadcast seed and pray for it to fall upon good ground.

That surely is an important truth, but over the past several days my mind has returned again and again to these words and another thought has come to me. It is not only for the casting of seed into a new field that these words are referring to. Every farmer of every crop contends with these same issues year after year in all his fields.

We live near to an apple and fruit growing area. Just north of here is a large region of apple, peach, cherry and nectarine orchards. It is a beautiful area to drive through in the springtime for the scent and view of the flowers or we have wonderful times in the fall picking our own fruit and enjoying the autumn palatte of colors on the trees. You can tell great differences between orchards that are well cared for, carefully tended, and ones that are neglected. In a greatly productive orchard the ways between the trees will be free of weeds. The trees will be well pruned, all the dead unproductive branches will be cut off and carried away. In a neglected orchard, the aisles between the rows of trees will be choked with weeds, volunteer trees, and brambles. . . dead limbs will litter the ground harboring many insects and other vermin that will injure the trees and thereby prevent a good harvest.

The only difference between the two types of orchard, is in the well kept orchard there was a continuing effort to keep the trees well tended and productive. If that farmer lets down his vigilance, it is only a short time before a tidy and well cared for orchard turns into a mass of weeds and dead wood. In the best tended fields, rocks continue to periodically come to the surface and need to be removed. Only a few seasons of forgetting to remove the weeds separate a well tended productive field, from one in which nothing of value will grow.

The problem of providing good soil for the seed to grow in, is a life long concern. The seed of God's Word needs to be continually planted and sprouting within us. It must not be planted only once and left never to be harvested and replanted again. One day, each of us who are in church, had good ground within us. We had a place for the Word of God to sprout and flourish, but that is no assurance that weeds will not creep in. There can be no loss of vigilance in the guarding of our good soil. There is no assurance that rocks will not come to the surface and need to be carted away. The act of harvest itself compacts the soil of a field, which must again be prepared, softened, and broken up before the planting of new seed again in the spring. Rocks of hardness arise within us that prevent the water and nutrients from sinking into the earth. Rocks damage the plow and confound the combine. . .

Hardness is never a suitable bed for seed. Have we seen it all before? Have we lost our innocence and wonder? Have we become cynics and skeptics? Are our eyes better at discerning failure than victory? That is hardness that must be broken up for us to regain our productiveness. These are not issues for someone newly come into church. In a quiet season, we all must honestly inspect our fields. Rock removal is never an easy task, but it must be done. . .

The end of an old year and the very beginning of a new year is a good time for fasting, prayer, and contemplation as our pastor has called for. It can be a wonderful time of reflection and inventory taking. What is the state of the patch of ground within us? Are there weeds or rocks or hard places within us?

Lord let me see my fields the way You see them. . .

Dave Stokely

No comments: