Scripture reading – Matthew 13

Jesus taught eight parables in our Scripture reading (Matthew 13). The Parable of the Soils, usually identified as the “Parable of the Sower” (13:3-23); the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (13:24-30, 36-43); the Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32); the Parable of the Leaven (13:33); the Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44); the Parable of the Pearl (13:45-46), the Parable of the Net (13:47-50), and the Parable of the Householder (13:51-52).

The Parable of the Soils (13:3-23) is the focus of today’s devotional, and you are invited to consider four types of soil in the parable: The wayside (13:4, 19), the stony places (13:5-6, 20-21), the thorny ground (13:7, 22), and the good ground (13:8, 23).

Three familiar elements are cited in the Parable: Sower; Soils; Seed

The first, the Sower, “went forth to sow” (13:3). Unlike modern farmers who utilize tractors and plows, the work of a first century farmer was physically demanding. Before farming was mechanized, a farmer would labor in the fields from sunrise to sunset.

With callused hands and crude farm implements, the farmer prepared the second element of the parable – Soil. Breaking up the ground with his plow, the farmer would follow with a tool and form furrows in the soil for the third element – the Seed. With the soil prepared, the farmer would take a bag containing precious seed, and with measured strides and simple flicks of his wrist, he began scattering seed across the field. Each seed was precious, containing the potential of life and eventually harvest. Yet, in spite of the farmer’s careful labor, some seed would come to rest upon inadequate soils that brought no benefit to sustain life or bear fruit.

In the Parable of the Soils (a metaphor for the heart of man), Jesus identified four soil-types, but only one would accept seed and bear fruit. The ground described as the “wayside” was a footpath the farmer and his neighbors took as they passed by adjoining fields. Wayside soil was hardened, and unacceptable for growth. Seed that fell along this path was either crushed under foot, or snatched away by birds (13:4).

Like the hardened wayside soil, “stony” ground was equally undesirable. Seed falling on rocks and stones in such a field had little opportunity for growth, as rocks and stones blocked and obstructed growth of any kind (13:5-6). Farmers were also forced to contend with “thorny ground.” Thorns and weeds were a constant menace in such fields, and no doubt, were a present reminder of Adam’s sin.  Thorny ground represented an unending challenge, as the thorns and weeds constantly robbed good seed of the moisture and sun necessary for plants to take root (13:7). Finally, there was the “good ground.” Soft and fertile, seeds that fell upon good ground would sprout, set root, and eventually bear much fruit: “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (13:8).

What point was Jesus making in the Parable of the Sower and the Soils? (13:10-13)

The disciples asked Jesus, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (13:10) Why teach spiritual truths and veil them in simple narratives? Jesus answered, “Because it is given [committed] unto you [His disciples] to know[understand] the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven [knowledge known only by divine revelation], but to them[others not of their number] it is not given” (13:11).

True followers of Christ are genuine in their desire to hear and understand spiritual truths (13:11). Nevertheless, there were many who followed Jesus, but were not sincere and continued in spiritual darkness (13:11). They could see, but they refused to believe (13:13). They could hear, but they refused to accept what Jesus taught (13:13).

An Interpretation and Application of the Parable of the Sower and the Soils (13:18-23, 37)

Christ identified Himself as the “sower” in the parables, for we read, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man” (13:37). The seed was identified as “the word of the kingdom” (13:19) and in a parallel passage, the Gospel of Luke states that it was “the word of God” (Luke 8:11).

The four soil types were symbolic of the hearts of sinners, and their response to the Word of God (13:19-23; Luke 8:12-15). The “wayside” heart, like its namesake, is hardpacked, callused, insensitive, and unresponsive to the Word of God (13:19). The “stony” ground heart is impulsive and spiritually shallow (13:21). When troubles and trials come, the Word of God withers in a stony heart. Like a seedling without roots, it withers in the sun. The “thorny” ground heart is one that is preoccupied with sin and worldly pleasures (13:22), and beguiled by riches and worldly possessions (13:22).

Closing thoughts – Jesus commended the “good ground” heart as being both fertile and fruitful (13:23). He described the “good ground” heart as “an honest [noble; moral; virtuous] and good [morally good; pleasing to God] heart(Luke 8:15). Such a heart is tender and thirsty. It hears, and receives “the word” and keeps it (for truth sets its roots in the mind and thoughts of such a heart). When the seed of God’s Word is planted in a ”good heart” (Luke 8:15), it will “bring forth fruit [bear fruit] with patience [endurance]” (Luke 8:15).

Which of the four soils describes the spiritual condition of your heart? Is your heart soft, and longing for God’s Word? Open your heart to the LORD before it is too late.

Romans 10:9-10 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  [10] For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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