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The Scriptorium

The Four Soils

Which one are you? Luke 8.4-15

Luke 8 Part 1 (2)

Pray Psalm 107.1-3.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.

Sing Psalm 107.1-3.
(Faithfulness: Great Is Thy Faithfulness)
Lord, You are good, we give thanks and we praise You!
Your steadfast love will forever endure.
Let the redeemed, who from trouble You rescue,
gather and say that Your mercy is sure!
Refrain vv. 1-3
Lord, for Your wondrous works, and for Your steadfast love,
we give You thanks, we exalt Your great Name!
We who from east and west, north and south gather,
boldly redemption in Christ we proclaim!

Read Luke 8.1-15; meditate on verses 4-15.

1. Why did Jesus teach in parables?

2. What do the four soils represent?

Let’s begin in the middle of this passage and ask, Why did Jesus teach in parables? Not hard to answer (as the old Celtic teachers would say). Parables were impenetrable to those whose hearts were hardened against the truth. They didn’t bother to understand or try to apply them, so they couldn’t argue against them, either. But to those who sought understanding (“What does this parable mean?”, v. 9), Jesus would readily explain and grant them further insights to the Kingdom of God (v. 10).

Now the parable. The four soils represent four ways the seed of the Gospel is received. Some people are so under the thrall of the devil and his lies that they don’t even hear the Gospel (vv. 5, 12). Others may listen to the Gospel but their hearts are hardened against it, so that it cannot take root in their soul (vv. 6, 13). They may believe “for a little while” but the seed is not nurtured within them so that, when temptation comes, they bail out on the Gospel. Still others have so much worldly clutter in their souls – diversions, entertainments, idols, pleasures – that these choke off the good seed of the Kingdom so that it never bears fruit (vv. 7, 14).

But then there are those whose soul is ready to receive the Gospel. God has prepared their heart for the Good News and they receive it gladly and apply themselves to enabling it to take deep root and begin to grow. They “keep” the seed, like Adam was commanded to “keep” the garden (Gen. 2.15), so that it grows, flourishes, and bears fruit (vv. 8, 15).

Do you “hear” the parable as Jesus intends (v. 8)?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Parables, like music, bring people together without judgment and without rancor. They are stories. And who doesn’t enjoy hearing a good one? Parables usually have a purpose, and of course, when Jesus was at the helm of a story, it most assuredly had a Kingdom thrust and an eternal meaning.

His great multitude of listeners was an audience of people from every city. The first part of the story was for them. The second part—the explanation—was for those who wanted to pursue the truth. Some just wanted a little diversion from the day’s activities, others sought to be taught. “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23.23).

“But wisdom is justified by all her children” (Lk. 7.35). Again, this rings true. As Jesus said, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Lk. 8.15). And later Jesus said, “By your patience possess your souls” (Lk. 21.19). Proven by our obedience.

The beautiful music of Jesus’ words reached into the souls of many hearers that day. They gained truth, wisdom and understanding about their own standing; and learned the predicament of others who had already heard or will eventually hear the Good News and the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God. Those whose seed had fallen on unworkable soil.

But even those, can be reseeded and watered and have the light of the Son shine upon them. It is never too late for sprouts to appear. And we, as God’s children, are to have seeds ready to sow, full watering cans ready to sprinkle, hoes at hand to till the soil, and rakes to scrape away the rocks. And prayer—the compost and the mulch both to fertilize and protect the sown seeds. It will take a lot of gardeners to do this work, and happily there are many willing to strap on overalls and get this work done. As Paul opined, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3.6).

He who wants to garden, let him get gardening. “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3.9).
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Lk. 8.8) and be pushed by a parable to produce.

For reflection
1. How should you prepare each day to sow the good seed of the Kingdom?

2. Remember: Our job is only to sow. Only God can give the increase and bring forth fruit. Why is it important to keep this in mind?

Which of those soils best represents your life? Why?

Parables, we may say, are the images not of visible objects but rather spiritual and understandable by the intellect. The parable points out to the eyes of the mind what is impossible to see with the eyes of the body. It beautifully shapes out the subtlety of intellectual things by means of the things of sense and palpable to the touch. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Commentary on Luke, Homily 41

Pray Psalm 107.33-43.
Praise God for the abundance of His grace toward you day by day. Be specific in enumerating the many ways His undeserved love reaches, refreshes, and renews you.

Sing Psalm 107.33-43.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness)
You make the desert a river o’erflowing;
You make a wasted life fruitful and strong!
You bless the hungry with fields for the sowing;
Bless and increase us who to You belong!
Refrain vv. 1-3
Lord, for Your wondrous works, and for Your steadfast love,
we give You thanks, we exalt Your great Name!
We who from east and west, north and south gather,
boldly redemption in Christ we proclaim!

When we are low, are oppressed and in sorrow,
You pour contempt on our fierce, angry foes.
We will rejoice at the hope of tomorrow:
He shall be wise who Your steadfast love knows!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Grace is the divine power that moves the Kingdom of God. But what is grace? Our book, Grace for Your Time of Need, can help you gain a better understanding of God’s grace. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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