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Are you Listening?

Fri 01 May 2020

God Is Speaking – Are You Listening?

One of the best-known parables Jesus told was about a farmer who scattered seed in his field. The results were very mixed because not all the seed fell on good soil where it could produce a decent crop. Some seed fell along a hard path and was promptly eaten by birds. Some fell on shallow, rocky soil where it germinated and grew quickly to begin with, but eventually was scorched by the heat of the sun and died. Other seed fell on to soil that was full of weeds. As with the seed on shallow soil, growth began well enough but eventually, due to competition from the weeds, they too died out. Finally, some seed grew well and produced a satisfactory crop. This was because it had fallen into good, deep soil that provided perfect conditions for growth. 

The Meaning of the Parable 

The Lord Jesus gives us a detailed interpretation of this parable. The seed, he said, represents the gospel message – the good news of the kingdom of God. The different soils stand for different kinds of people who have heard the Word.  There are those who don’t understand what they are hearing and dismiss it straight away. Some, to begin with, are quite excited by what they have heard, but their interest does not last for long. Others are equally enthusiastic but eventually, because of their busy lives and other distractions, they too cease to have any further interest. Finally, there are those who understand what they have heard and respond with a lasting interest. 

Use Your Ears! 

Straight after Jesus had told this parable he said: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:9). What do you suppose he meant by that? He was saying more than just “listen carefully”. His interpretation of the parable suggests that Jesus is saying that we must make sure we really do hear just what he is saying, accept its importance and act accordingly. So what sort of soil are you? There is a saying that “There are none so deaf as those who will not hear”.  The fact that you are reading this article suggests that you are not like that, but which of the soils do you think you are? Does the message of the gospel, as we would say, “Go into one ear and out of the other”? Is your life so cluttered with unimportant things that the Word of God becomes marginalized? Hopefully, you are thinking carefully about it, giving it the time and attention its importance deserves. 

The Voice of God 

The source of the gospel message is the Bible itself. It is to this we must turn if we are going to listen to what God is telling us. “All Scripture is God-breathed” wrote the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:16). The apostle Peter wrote similarly concerning the words of Scripture, “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), he said. Quite clearly both these men believed that what we read in the Bible is what God caused to be written. In a very real sense therefore, when we read the Bible we are listening to God speaking to us. Producing a Crop To return to the parable of the Sower, the description of those who are represented by the good soil, as described in the Luke account, is “those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15 NIV). In the parable, the crop varied from thirty to a hundred times what was sown. What do you suppose Jesus wants us to understand by that? And what is the crop? The parable is all about different people’s response to the gospel message. Even among those who both respond and then continue, there are varying levels of achievement. People are different. So what is God looking for? To put it in just one word – God wants us to develop Faith. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). There are degrees of faith. Some people have great faith and others not so.  But here’s the point: given the right conditions, everybody’s faith can grow. 

Living a Life of Faith 

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). Note the two very important words here – ‘sure’ and ‘certain’. That kind of faith cannot be gained without a good foundation of understanding. Faith cannot grow if we only have a vague and superficial idea about God and his purpose. It is necessary to allow his word to “take root” in our minds and permeate our thinking. A healthy and good crop is a life lived in faith before God. Hebrews chapter 11 continues with an inspiring account of the lives of some faithful men and women. They listened to what God said, believed his Word and then lived by faith. 

The Final Harvest 

The faithful characters that we read about in the Bible lived with a daily awareness of God in their lives and they looked forward to a wonderful future. For them, the Word of God that took root in their lives was destined to produce a rich harvest of everlasting life in God’s kingdom. This can be our sure and certain hope also, as the concluding verses of Hebrews tell us. “All these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:39-40). Surely this is something to which we shall, if we are wise, give our full attention. As the Lord Jesus says “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”