The parable of the seed is only recorded in Mark’s gospel. It teaches how God’s grace operates in a believer’s heart. We often become impatient, thinking that we ought to be brought to holiness and maturity in an instant, but the Lord has His own timing, plans and purposes.
“And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground” (Mark 4:26).
Before the work of grace can begin in the soul there is usually someone whom God has used to plant the seed of truth there. By nature the heart produces nothing but weeds and thorns, so just like the barren soil it must be ploughed over by the Holy Spirit before the seed can grow, “For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jeremiah 4:3) … “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).
Very few people turn to God before someone witnesses to them, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). The unsaved have no ability, let alone desire, to repent and obey, instead the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin through the preaching of the word, “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:8-9).
The preacher receives a supply of seed from the storehouse in Heaven, and is responsible for scattering the seed far and wide, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). In teaching the truth the believer is communicating God’s saving grace to the lost.
“And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how” (Mark 4:27).
Though the sower may not fully understand or explain how the seed is transformed into a plant, he simply knows that a miracle takes place. How could he predict that one seed would produce fruit and another die? None of us can know who will favourably respond to the preaching of God’s word and who will not. All of these things are in the hands of the Lord, “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
It may bother us why our family and friends continue to reject Jesus Christ as Saviour, even though we have expended ourselves for this purpose. We simply must leave it to God. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). These are secrets only known unto God, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). We cannot force the lost to come to the Lord, but we can continue to plant the seed in their hearts and minds.
“For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear” (Mark 4:28).
As with the seed, so it is with the word of God as it works gradually in the heart. The seed and sapling go through several stages of growth before it comes to perfection. It is weak before it is strong, yet at every stage it is alive and determined to produce fruit. The work of grace works by degrees too, for no believer is born mature or with perfect faith in his heart. The “day of small things” must give way to a harvest of holiness and righteousness (Zechariah 4:10). As the mighty oak starts life as a tiny acorn, therefore even the weak have great potential. While we patiently wait we must trust and obey. Our faith may only appear like a weak “blade” but it will become “full” in time. Remember, Samson was born an infant too.
“But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (Mark 4:29).
There can be no harvest unless the seed is sown and allowed to grow. The sickle is only put in when the field is ripe. How can we think of being used by the Lord until we are willing to die to ourselves? “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). How can we produce fruit for His glory if we do not allow Him to work in our lives? “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
No church can expect revival until God’s conditions have been met, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). As individuals we cannot hope to be used by the Lord if we continue to walk in disobedience and sin. We reap exactly what we sow (Galatians 6:7).
God is the Husbandman who has planted the seed of grace in each one of our hearts. He will bring it to perfection if we faithfully follow His word and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing … Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:5,8).