Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
“AN honest and good heart”—Our Lord’s parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is fairly familiar as a Sunday school lesson, but not so real in actual appreciation of its searching message. Every preacher ought to remember that he has four kinds of soil before him when he preaches, lest he be unduly discouraged if all fail to bear fruit.
Our old adversaries, the world, the flesh and the devil, are in evidence in this parable, but the order is reversed. The devil comes first, stealing away the seed sown by the wayside. He is the thief of sermons as well as of souls, and is ever at church. Those who do not understand the Word are simply those who make no effort to understand it! The trouble is not ignorance or inability to understand, for then the fault would not be theirs. They are not in earnest; they merely come to church and hear and go away. The message went in one ear and out the other, and often there is little between the ears to stop it! It is true that the Word is spiritually discerned, but these are not willing to be made spiritual; they do not give more earnest heed, and the Word does not profit them, not being mixed with faith. What booty they are for the devil, and how quickly he snatches away the seed!
Then there are those who hear the Word and receive it with joy. They not only hear, the Word makes an impression. They swallow it whole, but they merely “enjoy the sermon,” and while they may excitedly make a move, they have no real principle, and their profession fails for lack of perseverance. These lack “patient continuance” and fail to “continue in the perfect law of liberty,” though they joyfully look therein. Tribulation and persecution show them up, and they are soon offended. Theirs is weakness of the flesh.
Others hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are a problem. Just as it is not money but the love of money that God warns against, here it is not the world but love of the world that hinders the Word.
But, thank God, there is the good soil. There are those who with an honest and good heart receive the Word (Luke 8:15), and they bear fruit in different degrees. Some are more faithful than others, but the heart is honest and they mean business.
Along with this, one thinks of Hosea 10:12: “Break up your fallow ground.” Good ground must be broken. There is fallow ground that looks very solid and permanent, but it never can be productive until it has been plowed. Only weeds and thorns grow on fallow ground. There is much preaching today that is wasting the seed on ground that never has been prepared, and God tells us not to do that (Jer. 4:3). There is much prayer for showers of blessing that is amiss, for God will not waste showers on fallow ground. Christians and churches today do not like to be disturbed; they do not want the plow put in, but there can be no harvest without it! There is much talk about revival that overlooks this fact. The broken and contrite heart is God’s accepted sacrifice on our part. It takes broken clouds to give rain and broken clods to bear fruit. Do not look for harvest without first breaking up the ground.