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God’s Word for You

Luke 8:12-15 The four soils

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, March 9, 2018

The Parable of the Sower is about how the gospel works, but in particular, how it’s received by each of us. That’s the key truth here. Jesus presents four kinds of soil. Each of the four soils, the Path, the Rocky, the Thorny, and the Good, represent human hearts, so that we can see that the gospel works with different results in different people, sometimes people of the same background, even of the same family—and maybe, for some, the same person at different times in their life, as the soil of their heart changes from path to rocky to thorny to good.

12 Those along the path are the ones who have heard, and then the devil comes and takes the word away from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

The seed doesn’t penetrate this path or road. Jesus says that these are people who don’t understand, and so the devil comes and snatches the seed away. This danger is why we keep urging one another to keep reading the word of God, to keep coming to worship at church with other Christians, so that we will not let the world trample all over us, but present good tilled soil in which the word of God may work—both in us and in our children.

13 Those on the rock are the ones who hear the word and receive it with joy, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

The second of the four soils is the rocky soil. In human hearts, this is a faith with no root. So there might be joy and genuine interest in the word of God in the beginning, but it goes untended, and it lasts only a short while. Jesus warns that trouble or persecution will destroy the seed of the gospel planted into such rocky or thin topsoil.

We can make ourselves pretty rocky and stony if we never dig deeply into the word of God. We can ruin our loved one’s faith by troubling them, keeping them from exploring the word, keeping them away from church and from Bible study, but embracing absurd notions like wanting our children to discover religion on their own—which is worse for a child than forcing a baby to discover how to breath when it’s born. Keeping away the Holy Spirit is only different from keeping away breath itself because keeping away breath only causes death, while keeping away the gospel and the Holy Spirit causes eternal death.

14 What fell among thorns are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and they do not mature.

The third soil, the most dangerous soil for us, the thorny soil. Why is this the most dangerous? Because the thorny soil chokes the word of God. Jesus warns about two extremes: the worries of life, and the deceitfulness of wealth and worldly pleasures. On the side of worries is a mistrust that God will take care of us. On the side of wealth’s deceit is the wrong kind of trust: trusting in wealth or power or luck instead of God. These are the thorns that choke a faith. These are the thorns that can grow up at any time in any of our lives: mistrust, doubt, or arrogance. These are sins that eat away and choke our faith, and kill the Christian example that otherwise we might have set. Lord Jesus, keep us from these dreadful and damning sins!

15 But what fell on good soil are those with a noble and good heart. They hear the word and keep it, and with patient endurance, they produce a crop.

Here we need to listen to the gospel of forgiveness. In this parable we have a bumper crop of warnings about the condition of our hearts, and who among us hasn’t already been shamed, condemned, put in our place, and even frightened by Jesus’ words? That’s what the parable is for. If this is what’s happened to you, rejoice that the word of God has worked! Because the point of Jesus’ parables is that they are not meant to be soberly and maturely understood by unbelievers. So when we encounter them and meditate on them and are heartbroken by them—or if we rejoice over them—we know that they have worked in us.

But you might not be rejoicing yet. So let me show you what has just happened right there in your soil, in your heart and in your head and in your soul where your faith resides. You have just felt the hoe, the plow, the spade at work in the hands of Jesus himself.

You, with the tough soil by the path—your Lord Jesus is breaking up the iron-hard dirt with his own hands, softening it up with his blood and the water of your baptism. Let the seed of the word of forgiveness take root.

You, with the rocky, shallow soil, your Master Jesus has dug deep and smashed and carried away the bedrock. With the power of his word, Jesus has dug and laid down feet and cubits and fathoms of faith where the word can take root and flourish.

You, with the thorny dangers of doubt or conceit, your Savior Jesus displays himself in the fear of your heart and has opened his own heart to you: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

This is the good soil, transformed by Christ, made new and good and useful and ours by nothing else than the power of his word, here and now. When you respond with your life by things you say and do because Jesus has changed your heart, you are producing your crop—a hundredfold what was planted. That’s your good soil worked by the word, with the word and through the word of Jesus Christ our Lord.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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