How you treat the Word of God is how you are treating Jesus Christ.
With this in mind, let’s hear today’s parable from the Word about the Word.
It is plain enough in the parable (especially because Jesus gives us a cheat sheet!) that the seed is the Word of God and that we are the soil. The focus of the parable, then, is on our reception of the Word of God.
This is a parable that has a general meaning for humans, both those who ultimately accept the Word in some manner and those who do not. But it also has a more specific meaning for those of us who already claim to be Christians. The point is still the same: how have you been treating the Word of God?
Let’s get one thing straight: how you treat the Bible is how you are treating God. The Bible is not just any book that is made of paper and ink: it is the Word of God, a living and active thing in which the ink is its blood and the paper its flesh. It is animated by the new wine of the Holy Spirit being poured into the new wineskin of God’s people. If you sever the Word of God from God and from His people, then you really are left with just another book.
Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God? Do I really believe that? If I do, then it will have radical implications for how I treat it. If I believe that God has chosen to speak to me through this book called The Book and which is found in every nook and cranny of my house, then I should treat it as such.
If God were to make it clear to me (perhaps through the voice of Charlton Heston or something like that) that I was supposed to show up at a particular time and place where He would speak to me, you can bet I’d be sure to be there. I’d come with my laptop to write it all down; I’d bring a digital voice recorder – no, actually I’d bring several of them, taking no chances. I would get plenty of sleep the day before, have a double dose of coffee, and get there an hour early just in case He was on daylight savings time.
God’s voice pervades the universe so that it is always present. His voice is part of a spiritual electromagnetic spectrum that comprises the spiritual cosmos. Do you know that there are TV and radio waves bouncing around your walls and beaming into your car or office all the time? Duck – here comes one now! Though it’s possible to be out of range sometimes, in most places you can turn on the radio or TV and receive these waves any time you want. In fact, we choose to access these waves every day, don’t we?
But what of God’s spiritual electromagnetic waves? He calls to you throughout the day, only you don’t have your spiritual radio on – or it’s tuned to another station. It electrifies me to think that in particular, I can open any portion of the Word of God, and the voice of God comes streaming out of this book I hold in my hands. This morning I turned to Mark 4, but what if I turned to Genesis 1 and heard God tell me about Himself as Creator, or to any other passage of the Scriptures?
So God is always speaking to us, and the Word of God is a primary way He does it. Therefore, I say that how we are treating the Word of God is how we are treating Him.
What kind of soil are you? How well have you been hearing and listening, which I believe are like faith in that they require obeying?
It is football season as I write this. Have you ever had the experience, when talking to someone watching football, in which you were saying something important but the other person only pretended to hear? This is how we listen to God. It’s not just about football but also about any TV show or movie or any thing of this world that so enraptures us that we can’t hear God and His Word in our lives.
It reminds me of two Far Side comic strips. One is titled “What Dogs Hear.” The owner is speaking earnestly to the dog, and all the dog hears is “Blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah, blah, blah, Ginger. . . .” It could be worse: you could be a cat. According to Gary Larson, What Cats Hear is: “Blah, blah, blah, blah; blah, blah, blah, blah . . . .”
Are you a dog, a cat, or a man or woman of God?
You have many opportunities every day and week to hear the Word of God and to respond with faith. How many of these are you accessing? You should be reading the Word of God daily, meditating over it, and praying over it. You should at times study it and learn it. Your church probably has an adult Sunday school class, and you should probably go. Where did we ever get the idea that Sunday school and the Bible were good for children on Sunday mornings, but not for adults?
How well do you listen to your pastor’s preaching? Assuming He is a godly man who loves and preaches the Word of God, his words are as the Word of God to you. This being Thursday when I’m writing this, do you even remember what God said to you last Sunday? If not, then you may need to examine what kind of soil you are. It amazes me how much time and effort pastors put into sermons that are treated as completely disposable. I think the average life of a sermon for most people is the time from which the sermon ends until the time the service ends – and that’s it.
Instead, we should be discussing the sermon at the fellowship hour, if you have one. We should be trading insights and the convictions of the Holy Spirit on our way home from church. We should be seeking to apply what we have heard for the next seven days.
The fact is that the Church of God is built on the Word of God. A man, a family, and a church are only as strong spiritually as is the relationship they have to God through His Word. We are supposed to be so fed by the daily bread of God’s Word that in time we produce fruit 30, 60, or 100 times as great as ourselves. This is another way of saying that disciples are to make disciples. It is by the faithful hearing and doing of God’s Word that God’s Kingdom grows and spreads.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Prayer: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.” (Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, from The Book of Common Prayer.)
Resolution and Point for Meditation:
I resolve to find one practical way in which I can be better soil for the Word of God. It may be in my daily Bible meditations, in the way I hear the sermon, in the way I teach my children, or any means by which I can hear and obey God’s Word more faithfully.
Wycliffe Bible – photo taken by Fr. Erlandson