Interpreting the parable of the sower as simply about coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus is missing its full significance. The familiarity of the story can cause you to switch off to an interpretation that is relevant to both the new and the experienced Christian. In part 3 of this series, we explore the rocky ground.
Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. (Mark 4:5-6)
…these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. (Mark 4:16-17)
The second type of soil is the shallow or rocky soil. Here the word is immediately received and springs up, then the sun rises and immediately it’s scorched. It has a short life. It’s superficial. It’s that whole immediate response; ‘I’ve made my New Years Resolutions, I’m going to really serve God this year, I’m going to read my bible every day’. Sometimes we can be emotionally stirred, but have we worked out how we’re going to do these things? Suddenly it’s cold in the mornings when the alarm goes off. Our resolution to rise early and pray fades fast.
Dig down deep
Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:48), the wise man hears the word, digs down deep and builds his house on a rock. The foolish man hears it, but he doesn’t dig down, he builds superficially on the sand. Then the storm hits both. Note, it’s not if you put God first, you won’t hit storms, no you will hit storms. But it’s the wise man whose house stands firm. So we need to go deeper and let our roots go under the surface rather than being impulsive only quickly to abandon out recent resolve.
Jesus warned us that if a king goes into battle, he first considers whether he is strong enough, he evaluates his capacity to see whether he can win. Or when a man builds a tower, he first studies his resources so he doesn’t start building only to find he can’t finish (Luke 14: 28-32). So the bible is saying don’t be impulsive, don’t do things without considering, don’t take on something that you’re not going to see through.
Maybe you’ve just got married and you really felt God speak to you about honouring Him with your finances. But then life gets difficult, you hit problems, the heat of interest rates, or the mortgage, or the increase in the season ticket cost comes and you think, ‘oh forget it’. The word that came to you about trusting God and putting your finances in order is quickly abandoned.
Seeing it through
Nehemiah, one of the great heroes of the bible, got it in his heart to rebuild the city of God. The walls were down, the gates burned and his heart was broken that Zion, the joy of the whole earth, was a ruin. He started work and the heat came. People challenged who he was and what his motives were. But he did so well, he kept going. He let the word go deep into his heart and when the heat came, he didn’t abandon it.
Has God said things to you? Like Nehemiah, maybe you see the church, something that was supposed to be glorious, and you think, ‘I want to build something worthy of your great Name, something splendid and glorious, not just foolishness and mockery’ And your heart aches and you start and go for it and when the heat comes you wonder if you can keep going.
I remember when I came to Christ as a school boy, I bought a Scripture Union badge and put it on my lapel and went to school. The art teacher who I really honoured and thought was a wonderful guy said, ‘what on earth is that? Have you become one of those religious people? And that was it! That badge lasted 2 days. It was gone, I couldn’t stand the heat.
So sometimes heat comes and we back off. It doesn’t say if the sun rises, the sun tends to rise. It says in scripture, if you’re going to be a Christian, you will suffer persecution, there will be backlash, there will be pressure. So we need to understand that pressure will come and challenge the word that we received.
Sometimes it’s delay that challenges the word. There was long delay for Abraham, and sometimes when there’s delay, we grow weak in faith. We can think that nothing has happened this year, maybe we’ll just settle for less. Abraham in contrast grew strong in faith, giving praise and glory to God, fully persuaded that what God has promised, He is also able to perform (Romans 4:20-21). He grew in faith through the delay.
Are you experiencing delay on things you’ve been asking God for? The prayers you’ve prayed, the things you thought God had promised you, but they haven’t happened yet? The temptation is to forget the whole thing. Yet Abraham dwelt on the word and let it work in him, he kept reminding himself that God had promised it and he didn’t abandon the seed. He let the seed keep growing even through the delay. I’m God has given you promises; seed that’s been sown into you. How are you going to handle it when the heat comes?
This post is adapted from a sermon preached at King’s Church Kingston called “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear”