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“Seed along the path…….Satan comes and takes away” Mark 4:15

“Seed sown in rocky places…..when trouble and persecution comes because of the world, they quickly fall away” Mark 4:16

“Sown among thorns……worries of this life, deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things, choke the word” Mark 4:18-19

Sown on good soil….hear the word and accept it, produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown” Mark 4:20

As we continue to reflect on Jesus’s first parable; the Parable of the Sower, in the past post we concentrated on the sower of the seed. In this post we are going to reflect on the four soils. Jesus, as He so perfectly does, being God, explains the nature of the differences of the four soils and I would not be able to illuminate any further the individual characteristics of the four soils. Where I think there is value is to to reflect on some of the overall characteristics and lessons of all the soils together.

Let’s start out by pondering the idea of these soil conditions over time. In Jesus’s parable the farmer goes out to sow the seed and at that particular time of sowing, he finds four soil conditions, hard path, rocky, thorn filled and good/productive. Yet a farmer sows seed more than just one time, there is often more than just one season. So does the farmer skip the other soils in future and only sow the seed in a quarter of the soils? Can the soils ever change? Can the good soil become diminished?

To answer those questions, let’s look at two biblical examples. First let’s look at a young man named Saul. Now here we’re talking about the Saul of the New Testament, of the Book of Acts and beyond, not the Israelite King Saul. This young Saul lived at the time of Jesus Christ. He heard the Word of Jesus, if not personally preached by Jesus, at least by Jesus’s disciples. How do we know? Because Saul was there when Stephen, who was chosen to replace Judas was martyred by the crowd for preaching the life, death and ressurection of Jesus Christ. Saul helped to support Stephen’s stoning by looking after the perpetrators’ belongings as they carried out their deed. The word Saul heard, the seed Saul received would have appeared to land on a very hard path, immediately taken away by Satan. Saul would go on to become a leader in persecuting Christ’s followers in the very early period.

If Saul’s soil was not able to change, we might only know him as a lessor actor in opposition of Christ in the guise of Caiaphas or Pontius Pilot. However, on the way to Damascus, Saul’s soil was obviously changed by an encounter by non other than Jesus Christ, Himself. By the Power and Grace of Jesus Christ, the Seed/Word was able to travel deep into Saul. Thus Saul who became Paul went on to be one of the most prolific producer’s for early Christian churches and theology in history. So it is evident that soils can change. What does that mean for us who might be sowers? It means we should not be judges of the condition of “a soil”, of a person’s perceived receptiveness to the word. We can not truly know what is in another’s heart and thus should be faithful to Christ in sowing the Word and let Christ’s Grace abound.

Let’s take a look at a “generating soil”. King David, of the Old Testament surely seemed to be a producing soil. Being zealous about faithfulness to God versus worried about personal safety, he slew the great warrior Goliath with just a sling and stones. David won great battles with his faith in God and increased amazing power for the Israelites and their treasured city Jerusalem. Yet David was King and a man. He let the earthly power of an earthly man-king grow thorns in his field. He saw a lovely woman who was a bride of another, bathing and he wanted her. David took another man’s wife and then hatched a plan to have the man killed when it appeared that David’s misdeed would come to light. The lust of someone forbidden, the fear of having a crime found out; they seem to be aspects of thorns which grew into David’s productive soil. Understand this is not some holier-than-thou judgement about David, it is a cautionary example to all of us that the thorns of life can come at us from so many different directions at a time we least expect and our soil can become diminished and or production limited if not stopped altogether. At times the thorns may come from a tragic event or energy, sometimes it’s from the pride of success and achievement.

One last element I would like for us to consider. In three of the four states of the soil, their lack of production is a direct result of the activity of the enemy. In the first soil mentioned, Satan is identified by name as the one who takes the seed. Yet in the second soil, persecution is a tactic of the enemy. It is the act of attacking the people of God by those arrayed against God, or the enemy. Finally, the thorns discussed in relation to the third soil are worldly cares and circumstances. The prince of the worldly aspects of life is the enemy. Why is this important? Because, and this may be largely my perception, there is a real, purposeful inclination; not only in society, but sadly in some of our modern theology, to dismiss the concept that Satan even exists and/or too the extent that he does, he has no power against us in any state.

I’ve spent a great part of my life, both in the active duty military as well as supporting it. One of the keystones to a victorious strategy is if I can convince an enemy that I am no threat, that I have no power, that they should look everywhere but at me when considering a needed defense. To the extent I can get the enemy convinced of those things; they are woefully unprepared for my attack and much more easily conquered. Now please don’t misread me hear. Jesus Christ will never be conquered or defeated by Satan. However, it is Jesus in His life and teachings, that shows just how powerful Satan is and how we are no match alone against him. The man in the tombs could not dislodge the power of enemy from himself nor could the combined resources of the local townspeople. It was only by the power of Jesus Christ that the enemy was vanguished.

Dear Sisters and Brothers understand that I am not one who believes that we should spend our time completely dwelling our focus or our preaching on hell and Satan. However, we also don’t want to be dwelling in hell with Satan either. We have to fight the arrogant tendency to accept the power of God but then elevate ourselves as the next all powerful force in existence. Jesus Christ is clear; apart from Him we can do nothing; that includes defeating the enemy. It is only by abiding in Christ can our soil be gracefully blessed to overcome the attacks of the enemy and produce a blessed bounty. On our own, we will not be victorious. Thanks be to God Almighty, there is never a time He desires us rely on ourselves.

There is seed being sowed to us constantly. If we are to be the productive soil we must be watered and nurtured by the cleansing water of the blood of Jesus Christ. All soil needs some sort of replenishing fertilizer. Let us take in the sustaining, nutrient rich, restorative love of Heavenly Father, through the Word of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is then that our soil might be truly productive, being able to bless a world of challenged soils and bring glory the name of Him in whom all things, including soils are created.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we proclaim that You have created in us soil with Your desire that it be abundantly productive. Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we depart from You and allow are soils to become ineffective and unproductive. Through Your Spirit, bring us back that we might abide in Your Son Jesus Christ, relying on the restorative grace filled gifts of love, forgiveness and peace. Through Jesus, allow us to be producers of blessed bounty for all, showing all soils that they too may become good soils of produce in You. That in our taking in the Seed of Your Word and producing through You, we would be bringing praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

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