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Why Parables?

The last few weeks we have looked at several points about God’s Word and the revelation to see and hear that Word. We looked at how God uses the Word to build upon our foundation that is established first in Christ Himself. We looked then at how there have been prophecies and resulting periods of time when there would be no revelation from God; His Word would be silent or not revealed, except unto a small remnant. We then talked about the concept of revelation itself and how God speaking to us is itself a gift and not something we work up with our intellect or any effort of our own. We then summed up our discussion on revelation by looking at how God’s secrets are not hidden but are revealed by light. Jesus is that light. He is a light of revelation unto all of us, those lost and walking in darkness in our natural state before we are born-again. Today we will look further at the gift of revelation.

There is a passage in Matthew 13 that records Jesus preaching and teaching. In this instance He is preaching through the use of parables. A parable is a story told using relevant and well-known references for the time and area but yet has a deeper meaning. Pastor Cory does a great job of using present day, relative concepts, to try and bring out the true meaning of the Words God has given us in our Bibles. The parable we will look at in part today is called by many the parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus describes a farmer going out and strowing seed into a field as was the custom of that day. They then come back and plow the seed under after spreading it by hand. Jesus describes four places the seed falls and what happens to each. In the parable the seed is The Word of God and the ground is the human heart. The following focus passage today comes from the middle of this teaching by Jesus.

Matthew 13:10-16 (KJV)

[10] And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? [11] He answered and said unto them, because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. [12] For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. [13] Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. [14] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: [15] For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. [16] But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. [17] For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

The title of the note this week is “Why Parables?” Here we see where Jesus explains directly to His disciples why He is speaking to the people in this manner.

Jesus here says that to some people, the secrets of the kingdom of God are actually given or revealed. Then Jesus says something that surely sent a chill down the spine of His disciples and should us as well. There are other people, people that are not going to see, hear, nor understand what He is saying, no matter how simply and with the most relevant examples, He presents His message. The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom “is not given” to them. “Wait Greg, that can’t be right”, you may say. Well, Greg is not the one that said it, Jesus was.

If you read these passages in your Bible you may note indentions in the margins and references regarding those. Beginning in Matthew 13:14-15, Jesus is actually quoting from Isaiah 6 as he explains why He is speaking in parables. To properly understand what Jesus is saying we must refer back to the reference He uses. His disciples, most all of whom grew up learning “Torah” very well, would know of this passage but they themselves may not fully have understood it as Jesus is now explaining it. Jesus is telling His disciples as well as us that He has done this before and still does it today. There in Isaiah we see something very similar as to what we saw in Amos 8 a few weeks ago in our weekly note titled “The Lost Word”.

Isaiah 6 begins as a glorious passage with Isaiah saying, “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on a throne, and the train of his robe filled the temple”. Those of you my age or so probably remember a song that was very popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s that was sang by Dallas Holm titled “I Saw the Lord”. It was the first of Isaiah 6 that inspired that powerful song. Verses 1 – 8 give us a beautiful picture where Isaiah says he saw a vision of God in all His glory. This causes Him to say “woe unto me” in verse 5 and “I am ruined and live in a land full of people in the same condition”. Then in verses 6-7, a seraphim flies over to him and touches Isaiah’s tongue with a hot coal taken from the altar and tells Isaiah that his guilt is now taken away and your sins atoned for, signifying removed completely and covered by the blood of a sacrifice. God Himself then speaks in verse 8 and says “whom shall I send and who will go for us?” The “us” here gives us a vision of God the Father speaking among Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Our great triune God - God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all there. After this Isaiah stands there with a hot blister on his lips, bursting full of gratitude for what God has done for him in atoning for his sins, and cry’s out immediately, “Here am I, send me”.

Wow! What a beautiful vision to have. Isaiah has had revealed to him the glory of God. Isaiah has not only seen God’s glory but he has also had revealed to him his own personal condition and the condition of all the other people around him, seeing how lost and ruinous they all are in the face of God’s glory. This is what the Gospel should also reveal to us after which God shows us that there is also an atonement available for us but not via a hot coal to our lips. The Gospel atonement that is available to us is Jesus Christ Himself and the blood He shed for you. God has now asked Isaiah to go deliver a message, to be his prophet or messenger at which Isaiah jumps at the chance, as we all should. So, what does Isaiah get to go tell the people? In our culture and with what is preached in many churches today, we would think the first thing God would tell Isaiah is go tell the people how good He is and that He is good all the time, right?

Take your Bible please and read the remainder of Isaiah, chapter 6, verses 9-13. God makes no hints at His “goodness” in the message Isaiah is to deliver other than the symbolism of a small remnant, basically a tenth remaining in the land. Isaiah is told to go prophesy judgment or wrath; this second part of the character of God. This same character we are told to consider in Romans 11:22 as well as that powerful declaration God made of Himself when Moses asked God to show him His glory as was thus revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:6 -7. God first tells of His goodness, grace, mercy, love, faithfulness and forgiveness. But then God says that the guilty must be punished. In other words, those who do not have their sins atoned for as Isaiah saw, they will be punished and this punishment would start by God taking away revelation from them (Isaiah 6:9-10). They would no longer be able to hear or see from God and their hearts would become calloused and hard. Consider Pharoah and what he witnessed with the miracles God performed through Moses. With all that he saw with his physical eyes, his heart remained hard as stone.

Jesus quotes from the very same passage that Isaiah wrote some 800 years earlier and this same judgement laden prophecy for the nation of Israel. Here in Matthew 13 though you can see Jesus is also quoting it referencing individuals and not an entire nation as He did in Isaiah 6. Jesus is telling us that the eyes and ears of a nation can be shut and the eyes and ears of individuals can be blinded to the Word as well. These people Jesus is speaking to via parables are ones who for years had the words of the prophets at their disposal and would not pay heed to them. They are now going to have that privilege taken away. So, does that change how you look at wanting to “hear well” and have God reveal things to you? I pray your heart is crying out to not let our nation, our churches, yourself or others fall prey to non-hearing ears, blind eyes and a calloused heart. May you earnestly desire hearing from God, turning from distractions of the world and receiving the gift of revelation.

Martin Luther preached a sermon on our focus passage and honed in on the words “unto you it is given”. When emphasizing that point he referenced another passage of scripture from 1 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV) where we read, “The natural man (one without the Spirit of God – not born-again) receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. Luther points out that the Spirit of God gives the revelation to you to not only hear and see but to also receive, in other words believe with your heart. For others who heard it just as loudly from the same person speaking it as you did and have no faith given by the Spirit of God, it will remain a mystery to them.

Charles Spurgeon had an interesting quote regarding this passage as well, aimed at the ones that are receiving revelation, even hearing from God greatly. In one of his sermon’s he states, “brothers and sisters, if you and I understand heavenly mysteries, let us not be proud or boast of that. Instead let us hear our Savior saying to us, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God”. This is the gift of the free grace of God. Be very thankful for it, but give God all the glory for it. For if you begin to say to yourself, “I am a man of great understanding,” and if you shall take to yourself a high place, God may leave you to your natural blindness, and then, where will you be?” Spurgeon went on to challenge his congregation saying that although there were many there that were blessed at seeing and hearing as Jesus said about the disciples, that sadly he knew there were also others in his congregation that very day that did not have ears to hear nor eyes to see. He knew his congregation would be no different than those who willingly came to the hillside to hear Jesus preach that day.

Spurgeon said in another sermon, “Oh, take care of the little light you have! If you can feel a little light, be very tender of that feeling. If you can see a little of the beauty of Christ, be very jealous over that sight. Have I not often said that he who has starlight, if he thanks God for starlight, and uses it, will get moonlight, and he who has moonlight, and thanks God for it, and uses it, will get sunlight, and he who has the sunlight shall yet come to that light which is as seven days in the glorious presence of God? Take care, then, of any light that you have”. Spurgeon is describing the thankfulness for revelation we all should have and then demonstrate that through using what God reveals to us. The more we use or apply in our daily lives what is revealed, the more He subsequently reveals to us, building walls upon that foundation as we saw in Ephesians 2:20-22 when we reviewed the hymn “How Firm a Foundation”. That passage in Ephesians actually is saying that not only are you growing but you and all others of the church are growing and fitting together into a great group of believers where the Spirit of the Lord dwells. Our entire church needs revelation from God and not human philosophies and opinions. We need God’s revelation and we need it to continue.

Here is another passage from the Old Testament that speaks to revealing secrets of God. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV) states, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of the law.” Here Moses records that we are to basically use what God has revealed to us to help us follow God and His commands. Anything else is secret and will only be revealed if God deems so needed for you. As Spurgeon said, “cherish any light you have”. Maybe God will give you more one day but for now recognize that any light of revelation you do have is a gift from Him and is to be used for His glory which is to your ultimate good.

You may review our focus passage today and ask, “Is God blinding them and is God taking their hearing away?” That is a much-disputed question in some Christian circles. God tells us more in another passage from 2 Corinthians 4:4 to help answer that question. There Paul tells us “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not”. In that passage, who is it that is actually doing the blinding or making people deaf? It is the god of this world - Satan. These people have no interest in God. They are “lost” or “perishing” as verse 4:3 states, doing their own thing just as all mankind does unless acted upon by an outside force. Doing their own thing until something or better said, someone comes to gift you with something so you can be rescued from your lost and perishing state. The Holy Spirit comes to open your eyes via the Gospel of Jesus Christ and through that Gospel you see where you stand before a Holy God and the consequences, just as Isaiah did. This initial bad news quickly turns to Good News as this same Holy Spirit shows you the love of the One who gave His life for you, atoning for your sins, so that you may have eternal life, just as Isaiah saw in his vision. You then run and embrace Him and never want to let Him go just as Mary Magdalene did when she saw the risen Jesus outside the tomb that first Easter morning. You raise your hand as Isaiah did and say, “send me” so that others may see and hear what you have seen and heard.

Everyone is born with their eyes blinded spiritually and their ears closed spiritually. Everyone is born with a hard heart. That is the state of all “natural humans”. Only by the light of revelation of Jesus Christ via the Holy Spirit today can those eyes and ears be opened. Through the Gospel, the message you need to hear, comes the revelation that Isaiah saw in a dream as an example for us. You don’t open your own eyes and your own ears. God does that! That is grace. Your salvation is of God from first to last.

There is much more in this one parable if you read it. Many a sermon has been delivered from this passage. Preachers have used it to tell people only one group is saved or only three groups of people are saved to varying degrees. Others use it to say some are saved completely and others lose their salvation or never had it to start with. It is very tempting for a preacher to want to go there. I am not convinced that is the primary thing that Jesus would want us to focus on however. God’s Word is clear that we are not the judge – Jesus is. Matthew records for us a very interesting point in the very next passage from Matthew 13:24-30. There Matthew records for us the parable of the weeds among the wheat or the wheat and tares in some older translations. There Jesus basically says that He will straighten all that out when harvest time comes. Do not worry about the weeds. Leave that to Him. In other words, Jesus is telling them to just “Go fish. I will sort out what you catch later”. He is also saying what we covered months ago when looking at Jonah and that powerful revelation God gave him while inside the belly of the great fish in chapter 2. There in that fish, the last thing Jonah prays or states is that “Salvation is of the Lord”. It was after those very words that the fish spits him out. Jonah had seen that his job was just to go preach and do what God told him to. It was as if God was telling Jonah, “Now, you finally understand; get out of this fish and go to work”. It is our role to go preach, teach, proclaim the message of Jesus Christ to all the world. God though is responsible for the salvation via His grace which alone opens eyes, ears and hearts from their natural state.

My dear friends, revelation leading to salvation and beyond is a gift. Faith is a gift as well. Your salvation rests upon a foundation where “Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone”. “For no other foundation can be laid than that which is laid in Jesus Christ our Lord”. If there is anything else in that foundation it will crumble. All other revelation that comes to you, and I pray much comes to you, is revelation to further strengthen what is built on top of that foundation. May we all praise God for the revelation we have received and use it, inviting God to gift us with even more light and grow our church strong in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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