The Powerful Thing
The kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come. Mark 4:26–29 NLT
Much is said in the Bible about seed and soil and how they relate—the seed being the Word of God, the soil being the human heart. As engaging as that subject is, and deserving of continual in-depth study, I catch myself at times skimming over verses about them because they’ve become all too familiar. Big mistake. When God’s Word (the seed) and the stubborn human heart (the soil) finally connect, look out, friends, there’s a miracle transformation transpiring.
Problem is theological controversy keeps us pitting one against the other as if they are two equally matched powers facing off. Hard, Stubborn Hearts vs. God’s Word. It’s a toss-up over which one gets the final victory.
One could argue the case for God’s Word by saying, “That there Bible is the thing! A living, powerful thing!”, dividing between soul and spirit, exposing thoughts and intentions of the heart. No word from God ever fails; it never returns void. As surely as rain and snow makes seeds sprout in the earth, so God’s Word accomplishes whatever He pleases and succeeds in all the purposes for which He sends it. [i] It’s that sureness of God’s Word that gives followers of Christ confidence when they plant His Word in others through prayer. Harvest is expected. We sow, we reap; it’s the law of nature. [ii] And of the Spirit. The one who goes out weeping, carrying a bag of seeds, will surely return with a joyful song, bearing sheaves from his harvest. [iii]
This particular farmer in Mark chapter 4 scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he sleeps and wakes, something miraculous is transpiring. Voila! that seed sprouts and grows. How it happens, he doesn’t know. I doubt he even cares as long as what he planted comes to full harvest.
Concerning soil, one could say that the heart is a ‘powerful thing’ as well. God gave human beings—above all His creation—a free will. As ones created in God’s image, it's in our DNA to be able to choose Him. Or not. That free will can lead to problems. One being that too many choose to not choose Him because Love saw fit to allow us to make that choice. "And we all know that God won’t violate a man’s free will to choose.”
Granted, if that powerful seed of God’s Word is planted in favorable conditions of the heart, it can yield thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much as was sown. But what about those same powerful seeds of God’s Word that fell on casual or disinterested hearts and were stolen? Or the seeds planted in shallow hearts? What roots do manage to take hold, end up shriveled in the heat of trials. Then there’re those sown in distracted hearts. They get choked out by the cares and pleasures of this world. [iv]
No wonder there’s such dividedness on the subject of who wins this power struggle. It can be a head scratcher. I guess we’ll have to leave that farmland of mysteries for God to unpack.
In the meantime, what I find intriguing is this rather unassuming phrase in Mark 4:28—The earth produces the crops on its own (all by itself NIV; of itself KJV). Could it be that in God’s grand design, the earth was specifically created to produce or “create or form (something) as part of a physical, biological, or chemical process”? [v]After all, God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind . . . And it was good. [vi] First the leaf or blade pushes up from the ground. Then the heads of wheat form. Finally, the grain is ripe, ready for harvest. For as surely as the earth brings forth her bud and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring forth . . . [vii]
Could it also be that the human heart was created and specifically designed by God to produce, “create or form (something) as part of a physical, biological, or chemical process” the seeds sown into it? Whatever seed goes in, determines what crop comes out, whether they be fleshly seeds that reap corruption or seeds of the Spirit that reap eternal life. There’s the “seed of Abraham”, which is Christ. And we mustn’t forget those oaks of righteousness, the plantings of the Lord. There are also seeds that grow thorns and thistles. The enemy plants those right along with it. [viii]
I’m getting off track here. The subject was the human heart, the soil, the ground which brings forth (or produces) those seeds planted in it. As the physical womb was created specifically to bring forth the natural seeds of life sown into it, could it be that our hearts are fashioned to be the ground from which the spiritual seed of life springs up, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain? And when that grain is ready, then comes the harvest.
My point being: in this theological debate about who wins in the end—God’s Word or Hard, Stubborn Hearts—I’m siding with God’s Word. Why? Because the heart is at a definite disadvantage when it chooses to go against everything it was specifically created and fashioned for.
[i] Luke 1:37 NIV; Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:11 [ii] Galatians 6:8–9 [iii] Psalm 126:6 ISV [iv] Mark 4:14–20 [v] Definition Oxford Languages [vi] Genesis 1:11–12 [vii] Isaiah 61:11 [viii] Galatians 6:7 – 9; Galatians 3:16; Matthew 13:25; Isaiah 61:3