Sow your seed morning and evening (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

To be a witness for Jesus Christ is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus has called His disciples to be witnesses to Him. In fact, the last thing that Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended to heaven after His resurrection was, “You shall be My witnesses . . . to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).” Thus, being a witness (“martyr” in the Greek) for Jesus is virtually synonymous with being a disciple. And what is the best means that we have, as His followers, to witness for Him in this world? The best means we have been given is the gospel. We are called to sow the seed of the gospel so that Jesus Christ is glorified.

AGRICULTURAL WISDOM

Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether this or that will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good. – Ecclesiastes 11:6

The author of Ecclesiastes gives us simple wisdom about successful agriculture in chapter 11, verse 6: Scatter the seed! And then continue to sow the seed. Morning and evening (an expression that means “all the time”) sow the seed, because you have no idea which will sprout, but we do know that you will not have a good harvest if you do not scatter any seed. Of course, God gives us this wisdom for more than just agriculture. When considering the seed of the gospel, what wisdom can we take away from this? Scatter the seed! Morning and evening and all the time sow the seed, for we do not know which of them God will use to change a heart.

Matthew 13 is a chapter that is full of “kingdom parables,” which tell us about the kingdom of heaven through stories of everyday life. In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-8, Jesus tells the large crowds, “Behold, the sower went out to sow.” Then we see the sower scatter the seed indiscriminately on roads and among weeds and on the rocks and in good soil, apparently indifferent to where the seed is going. Yet, despite the sower’s careless sowing, Jesus makes no mention about the need for greater skill on the part of the sower. The sower is not rebuked. Why not? Because the sower is not called to evaluate the condition of the soil, but is called to sow the seed, and trust that the seed will yield a crop. The sower’s confidence is in the seed. Just so, we cannot see the condition of the human heart and so we cannot know what the Lord will do when we sow the seed of the gospel. We have been called to sow the seed indiscriminately and extravagantly and then trust the Lord to bring the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

FAITHFUL SOWERS AND WASTED SEED

The sower who does not sow is a contradiction in terms. How can it be that the one who is defined by his task does not do the work that defines him? A sower is obviously hired to sow seed. If he does not sow seed, shouldn’t his compensation be in jeopardy? Indeed, his very identity is in jeopardy! Now, the believer is called to be a sower of the seed of the gospel. If we do not sow the gospel seed, shouldn’t we be concerned about our identity? Therefore, since Jesus has called us to be sowers of the seed of the gospel, let us be sure that we are laboring at our defining task.

If some of his master’s seed is “wasted” by extravagant and indiscriminate sowing, the sower will still be praised as faithful to his duty, because the master has called the sower into the field to sow. Now, we know that the seed of the gospel is potent seed and that the master has an ample supply, but we also know that the sowers of the seed are few (Matthew 9:37). Finding faithful sowers of the seed is the limiting factor.

The only “wasted seed” is the seed that is never sown.

The unfaithful sower is the sower who has been given seed that he does not sow (Matthew 25:24-26).

Let us, therefore, be faithful sowers who extravagantly scatter the seed of the gospel.

SDG                 rmb                 1/22/2021

What is the price of a treasure or a pearl? (Matthew 13:44-46)

What is so valuable that it is worth the ultimate price, the price of my life? That is the question that Jesus is going to address with these two short parables in Matthew 13:44 and then in 13:45-46. What cost are you willing to pay for that one thing you have been seeking your whole life?

In the first parable, a man finds treasure buried in a field. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).” The second parable is about a merchant seeking pearls. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45-46).” Although the details of the parables are different, their structure and their flow and, most importantly, their message is the same.

But before we get too far, we need to define what we mean by “the kingdom of heaven.” This phrase basically means salvation, and the peace and rest that King Jesus offers. The kingdom of heaven is that place where Jesus is King.

In both parables, the main characters are seeking something. There is something “out there” that they desire and so they seek it diligently. They were seeking something of immense value that can only be obtained at huge cost. But they know that, if they find what they are seeking, any price they pay will be justified by the value of what they obtain. So, they seek.

What are we seeking? Before we know Jesus as Lord, I believe we are seeking something “out there” that will satisfy our soul. Each of us has just one life to give away, but what is so valuable that it is worth the price of my life? Jesus asked, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26)?” So, we seek something that is worth our soul. In Isaiah 55, the prophet says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near (v. 6).” In Jeremiah, the LORD says, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart (29:13).” So first, we must seek.

Again, in both parables, the man and the merchant find what they are seeking. The man finds the treasure in the field and the merchant finds the pearl of great value. They realize that this is the moment that have been waiting for. This is that once in a lifetime find, the discovery on which their life pivots. This is it! Now is the opportunity to end their seeking and make the commitment.

What is Jesus telling us? It is clear from these parables that the kingdom of heaven with Jesus as King is the treasure in the field and is the pearl of great value. Jesus is declaring to all who will listen that this is the moment you have been waiting for. The kingdom of heaven is the end of your search. Will you make the commitment?

Finally, both the man and the merchant agree to pay the outrageous price. What is the price for the find of a lifetime? They go and they sell all that they have and buy it. There is no hesitation and there is no “buyer’s remorse.” Instead, there is joy! But how can there be joy when you have spent all that you have? There is joy when the value of what you obtained is infinitely greater than the cost. For the man with the treasure, the field cost him everything he had, but he obtained lifetime satisfaction. His treasure hunt was forever over. The pearl merchant was left with nothing but the fabulous pearl, but now he could rest from his search for pearls.

What is the price I must pay for the kingdom of heaven? What will it cost me to obtain eternal satisfaction for my soul? When Jesus was talking to the rich young ruler about the cost of eternal life in Mark 10:21, He says, “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and come, follow Me,” but the man was not willing to pay the price and he suffered infinite loss. The apostle Paul lost everything to follow Christ, yet he counted all he lost “as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8).” When Jesus called Peter, James, John, and Matthew (Levi), they “left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:11, 28).” It is the same for all who would follow Jesus. The price you must pay to obtain the kingdom of heaven is the price of your whole life. You must give everything you have. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).” The message of these two short parables is that Jesus is offering the infinite value of the kingdom of heaven to anyone who is willing to seek Him and find Him and give their life away in serving Him and obeying Him.

There is another reason why the kingdom of heaven is of infinite value. We have been talking about what it will cost us to obtain it, but we also need to consider how much it cost to make the kingdom of heaven available to seeking sinners. The kingdom of heaven is of infinite value because it was purchased for us at the price of the death of the Son of God. It cost the Lord Jesus the price of His life poured out on a Roman cross to buy access for sinners to the kingdom of heaven. Now the kingdom of heaven can be obtained by anyone who is willing to give their life away to Jesus. SDG                 rmb                 10/31/2020

To you it has been granted . . . (Matthew 13:11)

In chapter 13 of Matthew we read of the kingdom parables, where Jesus tells a series of parables which describe different aspects of the kingdom of heaven. After telling the parable of the sower, the disciples ask Jesus why He speaks to the crowds in parables, and He answers them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, but to them it has not been granted (13:11).” Here is this simple statement is profound teaching, indeed. For while there are many things that could be said about this verse or this passage, what strikes me most powerfully is how clearly this verse demonstrates God’s sovereignty in revealing truth to some and denying truth from others.

Like the world of this age or of any age, this crowd also is made up of two groups of people. Every single individual in the crowd is in one group or the other. Each person has either been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom or they have not been granted to know. The one who decides who is able to understand the parables and who is not able to understand is God Himself. The ability to know the mysteries of the Kingdom does not depend on education or intelligence or social status or gender or any other human characteristic. The content of the parables is simple enough for a child to understand, but to understand how the parable reveals the kingdom of heaven is only granted by God. God grants to whomever He chooses the knowledge of the Kingdom and to the rest, He does not grant that knowledge. The teaching is thus that God and God alone is the One who sovereignly chooses who will be granted the knowledge of the Kingdom and who will thus be blessed (13:16). God is the One who grants and blesses some, and God is the One who does not grant and does not bless others.

And it is the same with the gospel message. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16), but some are granted to believe that gospel message and some are not granted to believe. As God was sovereign in granting spiritual understanding so that some of these people could understand the parables, so God is sovereign in opening hearts and minds of some to receive the gospel message. The same message that brings one person to faith and repentance leaves another entirely unmoved or drives them finally away from God forever. God and God alone is the one who determines who will believe “the report” (Romans 10:16, quoting Isaiah 53:1) and who will thus be saved. He grants to some and He does not grant to the rest.

How, then, should we respond to this teaching that God is the one who grants the ability to know and who decides who will be saved and who will be condemned? First, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you have thus been saved from the wrath to come, then you should praise the Lord for His mercy. Because of nothing that you ever did or ever will do, the Lord granted you salvation and opened your eyes and gave you the ability to believe. By His sovereign choice He granted you faith and repentance. Why did He grant His grace to you? We do not have an answer to that question. He simply granted salvation to us by His grace. Therefore praise Him for His mercy.

Second, I think that we as believers must bow before His perfect justice when we come to truths which we find hard to grasp. That God is the One who grants salvation to some means that He is also the One who does not grant salvation to the rest. How does He decide who will be granted salvation and who will perish? He does so perfectly and with perfect justice. In the end when our finite minds cannot grasp a truth or reconcile truths about God we will do best to trust that the God of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).

SDG      rmb          1/23/2017