Part 1 – Sowing and Plowing
As explained Sunday, I feel led by God’s Spirit to use the appointed, celebratory Feasts as the subject matter for this year’s Advent services. They are described in Leviticus 23 and, as we learned last week, are based around specific harvest times of the growing season:
Passover/ Feast of Unleavened Bread – barley harvest; Feast of Weeks/ Pentecost – wheat harvest; Feast of Tabernacles/ Booths/ Ingathering – grape harvest. There are obvious ‘types’ regarding the Kingdom and Christianity found within the celebrations of these gatherings. It is my hope that these yearly, mandated assemblies give us insights into what has already taken place regarding God’s Kingdom, …. and to those glorious things for which we eagerly hope for.
However, before we trouble ourselves with gathering in what we have reaped, I would like to take this message to look at what and how we have sown. The Israelites agriculturally-based calendar starts with the final harvesting (late Sept./early Oct.), at which time they had most all of the seed needed for planting the next year’s crop. They would wait for the “early rains” (Hos.6:2,3; Joel 2:21-24; James 5:7) that fell annually in late Oct./ early Nov. These rains softened the sunbaked ground of that region, allowing for the turning/plowing of the soil with their primitive equipment, which coincided with the planting of the new crops. The rains continued intermittently until the time of the “latter rains” (late Feb./early March) Consequently, the months of Nov. & Dec.(our calendar) were spent preparing the fields and sowing the barley and wheat crops, …whilst Jan. & Feb. was the time for sowing millet, peas, lentils, melons, and cucumbers.
With this brief horticultural lesson in mind, let’s turn to Matt.13:1-9. The process of planting was to scatter seeds onto the soil in front of the animal-drawn plow. The plow was little more than a pointed branch at first, …. evolving into a stick with a metal blade on the end, … rigged together with cross-members, … one attached to the pulling animal, … and the other held by the plower. The one manning the plow would apply significant downward pressure in order to turn over as much of the freshly irrigated soil as possible, which would bury and cover the scattered seed. The plower would also pull up and/or redirect the plow if a large rock or other obstruction was in the way. The meaning of Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:62 becomes clearer with these insights into the plower’s duties: Once the plow is grabbed, …. and it starts to move forward, … all attention needs to be focused ahead, turning over as much soil as possible while avoiding dangerous obstacles.
We see in Jesus’ parable in Matt.13:16-23 that the seed is the ‘Word of the Kingdom’ (‘Word of God’ in Mark & Luke). But what is the soil? The OT prophets had already spoken of this, equating the soil to the hearer’s heart and soul (Jer.4:3,4; Hos.10:11,12). Again, beautiful parallels come into play as we look at the agricultural picture presented to us. Before ANY seed gets to be received by the soil, the early rains must fall to allow the ground to be prepared. Water is frequently a type of God’s Spirit (Jhn.4:9-15), …. and being such, we see that our hearts need to be prepped (convicted) by the Holy Spirit in order for our hearts to be broken up/ turned over (repentance). It is then, ….and only then, … when the seed (God’s Word) will find a fertile and deep place to take root and grow.
Let’s now take our attention over to Mark 4:30-32. I think it is here that our focus on agriculture and the harvest feasts cross paths with the Advent season celebrated by the church. We notice that God’s Kingdom is likened to a single small seed that, once planted, grows into a huge garden herb with branches that can support birds. We then ask the question; What does that ‘tiny seed’ represent? The Apostle John gives us an overview of Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel (John 1:1-14), which concludes with this proclamation: “… And the Word [Christ] became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled – fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile – among us; …”(AMP). I believe that tiny Seed was a little baby lying in a feed trough; announced by angels and worshipped by shepherds. <Now, brother Tracy, aren’t you stretching this analogy a bit much? I don’t think so, …. especially when our Lord states the same about Himself (John 12:23-26; AMP is great!). “… Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest.” (V.24). There is no other way to interpret what Jesus said. He clearly was stating that He must die in order for others like Him to be produced (ie followers of Jesus/ Christians). The Seed must die. There are even further implications regarding us, …. because if we are grains/kernels as He is, we too must ‘die’ (to ourselves) in order to bear fruit. That is probably the underlying meaning of v.25.
As we look into God’s glorious workings, … from creation (Gen.1:9-13) to the prophesied final days yet to come (Rev.14:14-16), … the picture of a growing season, …. sowing to reaping, … is portrayed throughout the hallowed pages of Holy Writ. I believe we will find profound and shocking truths as we glean through God’s Word, … tying the Advent/ Coming of the Messiah to the mandated appointed harvest feasts that appear in Leviticus. As we stated at the very beginning of our studies in Leviticus, …Jesus is present/ symbolized everywhere in its pages. May His Spirit enlighten us to new truths as we prepare for Christmas.