Let us now move further into Chapter 4 of Mark with the parables of Yeshua. This chapter is like a prophetic chart, revealing many things about the church, the Body of the Messiah and its relationship, its standing vis a vis the world we live in and vis a vis herself.
We know that the church today is not and has never been uniform or homogeneous. The question that this chapter will answer is what kind of people the church is composed of. Why are they not all the same faith? Why are there so many denominations within Christendom, so many variations in teachings, and even in fundamental doctrines? The first parable, that of the Sower, will explain it to us.
When He pronounced the parable, Yeshua said: “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; Mark 4:3. In v. 14, He explains: The Sower sows the Word. So the seed is the Word of God, the Word of salvation that is spread everywhere. But like the gift of the manna which fell from the sky, some loved it, while others came to despise it.
This parable speaks primarily of salvation: how it is given to man and how man responds to it. This we understand from what Yeshua says in Luke 8:12 explaining the reason why Satan removes the word of God so quickly: so that they will not believe and be saved.
There is then a constant battle for souls going on. However, when we consider the other soils, we will also see applications for the believer when he regresses at times. Here, the seed is identified as the Word, but the Sower is not identified. In other parables of that time, the Sower was often God Himself like it is in this parable. But now He works through the disciples and other believers to sow the Word. If the Sower is not clearly identified, it is surely because we, with the help of the Spirit of God, have also become the Sowers.
Power in the Word
Now if the seed is the Word, then the soil must be the heart of man, whether he will or will not receive the Word of God.
This is when we are presented with four types of soils of which only one is fully receptive, the fourth one. Let us begin to look at them.
The first soil is described for us in v.15. It is one short verse, its brevity perhaps pointing to how quick one’s fall can also be. Jesus says:
These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.
Here, the birds who came to eat the seed thrown beside the road are identified as Satan himself. This shows us once again how Satan’s battle is linked with the Word of God. If he is waiting for that first moment, that first opportunity when he can come and steal the seed, then it shows that Satan understands how powerful the Word of God is. See how quickly he must deal with the Word.
We read the words immediately he comes and takes it away.
Through this, we also understand that, once the Word of God has been received by an individual, he or she has the power to overcome the wiles of the devil. Satan is then stripped of his power over the believer because the seed is producing fruit in that individual’s heart.
Even after salvation, the believer continues to identify with our most effective shield and weapon: the Word of God. Deprive a person of the Word and he or she will be separated from its Author.
Let’s consider the word immediately. Has it ever happened to you that after you spoke the Word to someone, all seemed to go so well, but then the following day the person didn’t have the foggiest idea what you spoke about? This has happened to me at least three times and now I understand what happened.
Who are these people who allowed Satan to take the Word away from them?
See how they are described. Let’s look at their place or position. What we learn in v.15 is that these hearts, this type of soil is beside the road. They are not on the road, nor are they far from the road. These are the uncertain, the unsettled, unable to make a firm decision. However, even though the Word did not reach into the soil at all, they still heard it.
Everyone, one way or another, hears the Word of God as we read that all soils are called “to hear”. So while the devil causes much damage, the fault here is with these people. Here we find a predisposition to invite Satan.
In Luke 8:5 Yeshua clearly says that the seed was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air ate it up. Trampled underfoot is one word in Greek. It is used to describe how the Word of God is trampled by those who despise it. In Matthew 7:6 it says that we ought not to share the Word with dogs and swine who trample it underfoot. Tough verses.
So, these hardened soils are not victims of theft. They did not want the Word after they heard it.
Common Grace: Sowing Everywhere
In spite of this, our God is very loving. We have noticed before that the seed is thrown on the pathway and in the bushes. The Sower is not being careless, but He is being very lavish. It is an act of generosity. This is Common Grace from God who has His Word distributed far and wide.
This aspect of His great goodness can be better understood by how the sowing was done at that time. In Israel, they used to spread the seed first and then plough the soil so that all areas of the field would potentially be seeded. We learn this from some apocryphal books such as Jubilees 11.11 and from the Talmud where it says:
The Tannaite authority addresses the case of the Land of Israel, where they first sow and then plough. b. Shabbat 7:2, II.2.B
The process is similar to what we do today. We proclaim the Word of God to all souls and then, once this soul opens itself to the Spirit, the Word will germinate. As the sun shines for all, and the rain falls for all, and as the manna fell for all in Israel, so the Word of God is for all.
God makes no distinction between people. All need salvation in Yeshua.