Sowing the Seeds of Truth

“In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” —Ecclesiastes 11:6

IN THE literal sowing of seed we have a very fitting illustration of the Christian’s privilege of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, the good news of his kingdom. It is an illustration which properly applies to any and all efforts we may make to tell the glad tidings to others. Our text indicates that it is proper to do this sowing at all times—in the morning and in the evening.

We could consider this as meaning the literal days which make up our lives, and throughout each and every one of these we should always be on the alert to use every possible opportunity to bear witness to the truth. Or, in a more general way, we could think of It as a reference to the entire Gospel Age—its morning time, or beginning, and its evening, or close. Whichever application we make, the lesson is that we should constantly be on the alert to sow the seeds of truth whenever and wherever we can.

Dispensationally speaking, the Scriptures give us a progressive picture of the Gospel Age, in which there is a sowing in the beginning and a reaping at the end. “The harvest is the end of the age,” the Master declared. (Matt. 13:39, Diaglott) However, in the actual outworking of the divine plan, even the harvest work at the end of the age is accomplished largely by sowing the seeds of truth. We are to thrust in the sickle of truth and reap, but this is done by making known the truth; by proclaiming the message far and wide, so that those who have a “hearing ear” may hear and be blessed.

Thus we see that the general illustration of sowing is applicable at all times, and there is no reason why the truth should ever be withheld when an opportunity presents itself to proclaim it. But some do find reasons not to “sow.” The Lord foresaw this and called attention to it in the chapter from which our text is taken. Verse 4 reads, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” In ancient times sowing was done by hand, and apparently when the wind blew, much of the seed would be lost—carried to places where it was not intended to go. Because of this, one who was expecting to sow would most likely hold back from doing it if the wind were blowing.

Whether or not this was a wise procedure on the part of the sower need not concern us, but the prophet indicates that it is not the right course for those who would sow seeds of truth. It suggests the finding of excuses not to sow. And oh how many excuses can be found to withhold the truth from others if we yield to the desires of the flesh to find them! The apostle speaks of “every wind of doctrine,” or teaching. (Eph. 4:14) For the most part it is this sort of wind that influences us not to sow the seeds of truth.

These winds of false teachings are many and varied. Some say that the time is past for sowing, and we should now be reaping, forgetting that the reaping work is accomplished by the dissemination of the truth. Others say that the “door” to the high calling is closed, so we should no longer preach the truth, forgetting that they have no definite knowledge concerning the door being closed, and that even if it were closed we should continue bearing witness to the truth. Still others may say that this is not the time to convert the world, hence we should confine our activities among ourselves, thus working out our own salvation, forgetting that no truth-enlightened Christian has every supposed that the world would be converted in this age, and forgetting also that the very best way to prepare ourselves for the kingdom is to be actively engaged in making known the glad tidings to others.

The prophet also says that those who watch the clouds will not reap. How well this describes the viewpoints and experiences of some as applied to the reaping work in this harvest time at the end of the age. Clouds are a symbol of the great time of trouble with which the Gospel Age comes to an end. We might be inclined to decide that since these clouds are hanging ominously over the world today, we should not endeavor to do any more reaping. But is this the proper attitude for the Christian?

In verse 5 we are reminded of how little we really know of the workings of the Spirit of God and of what the Lord has designed to accomplish through our sowing and reaping. The prophet says, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” How humble a statement of this kind should make us before the Lord!

It is so easy for us to decide what the Lord can do, and what he ought to be doing. We should be thankful that the Lord has revealed to us the general outlines of his plan, but let us not attempt to fill in details which are not revealed in the Bible, and decide that the Lord’s work must be confined to the pattern we have set. Let us remember that we know not the way of the Spirit, and that it is not for us to determine just what might be accomplished by the work the Lord has given us to do.

And there is no mistaking the Lord’s commission, for it is simply stated, “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand.” This is what the Lord has asked us to do. But because we do not know the way of the Spirit, or what will be accomplished by the Spirit through the truth, so also we do not know “whether shall prosper, either this or that.” What may be accomplished by our sowing is not our responsibility. The Lord has asked us to sow, disregarding the winds and the clouds which, should we follow the dictates of human wisdom, would tell us that it is not the proper time for either reaping or sowing.

The Parable of the Sower—Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

While the Lord does not from day to day reveal to us what may be accomplished by our self-sacrificing efforts to make known the glad tidings of the kingdom, in the Parable of the Sower he has given us a broad outline of what to expect. In the parable we learn that the “seed,” when sown, falls on various types of ground—by the wayside, on stony ground, among thorns, and on good ground. This indicates that much of the effort we put forth brings little or no tangible results. Only that seed which falls on good ground produces plants which bring forth fruit.

In Jesus’ explanation of this parable we have some very interesting facts brought to light. First, there is the seed which falls “by the wayside.” This class of hearers receive the truth into their hearts temporarily, but do not understand it. Not understanding it, they have no real desire to hold it, and thus the Adversary is able to snatch it away before it has a chance to take root. How much in keeping this is with what often occurs when the truth is proclaimed! There are many, of course, who pay no attention at all, but these do not seem to be represented in the parable.

But there are many others who pay some attention. They may pick up a tract and read part of it, and say to themselves, “This seems reasonable:’ Perhaps they find a kingdom card and send for the booklet which it offers, but before it arrives forget they sent for it. They might hear the truth over the radio or television and be sufficiently impressed to send for literature, but lose interest even before the literature arrives. It might be one of our neighbors to whom we try to explain the truth. He listens attentively, and we rejoice, thinking we have found a hearing ear, but a few days later when we meet this neighbor there is no interest and he indicates that he would rather talk about something else.

This “wayside” group has existed throughout the entire Gospel Age. It is not a new experience today to find that the vast majority of those to whom we witness and who show some measure of interest at the moment never make progress in the truth. They are not hypocrites—the truth sounds good to them to the extent that they understand it. Jesus said that the seed is sown in their hearts—appeals to their emotions—but since they do not understand the real import of the message, Satan is able to snatch it away from them, and then their interest is gone.

The importance of this lesson is that it should prevent us from becoming discouraged when seemingly so few take a deep interest in the Gospel of the kingdom. It is very easy to conclude that because the results of our efforts are so meager we should cease sowing. This is the wrong viewpoint, for the results have always been small. Most of the seeds of truth which have been sown throughout the entire age doubtless have fallen by the wayside, yet the Lord wants his people to keep right on sowing, regardless of visible results, for we know not which will prosper, this or that.

On Stony Ground

The “stony ground” hearers of the message are those who at first really rejoice in the message. They accept it as the truth. They acknowledge that it is the most wonderful thing they have ever heard. When we see them in their homes, or at the meetings, it is all they want to talk about. Perhaps they will attend several meetings and give every evidence of fully embracing the truth. They begin to tell their neighbors and friends about it. It they have heard the message over the radio or television they tell their friends to be sure to listen to the programs. They may even get a supply of literature to give to others, for they have found that which satisfies their longings as nothing else could do, and they want to share it with others.

Then we notice that they no longer come to the meetings. Thinking they may be sick, a brother or sister calls on them, only find that their interest in the truth has cooled off. What has happened? Exactly what Jesus points out in the parable—“tribulation or persecution” has arisen, and they did not have sufficient depth of “soil” in their hearts to stand up under the opposition. Like the tender plant rooted only in the shallow earth between the stones, which withers under the heat of the sun, so these wither under the sun of persecution.

When they first hear the truth and become interested in it, these do not realize that the vast majority of their friends will treat them coolly because of it. It never occurred to them that someone might even say they were “going crazy on religion.” They did not expect that even their pastor might be opposed and would warn them against heresy and the danger of being damned forever. But when some or all of these situations develop they are unprepared for them, and wilt, choosing to give up the truth rather than their friends. So let us not be discouraged if we find that some whom we believed to be “coming right into the truth” turn out to be “stony ground” Christians. Jesus gave us the Parable of the Sower in order that we might be prepared for experiences of this kind.

Among Thorns

“Some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them,” Jesus said. His explanation is that this is a class which permits the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches to choke the growing plant and prevent it from becoming fruitful. Here also is an illustration which fits many who for a time have rejoiced in the truth and enjoyed the fellowship of the Lord’s people. Most of us have doubtless observed cases of this kind; cases of brethren who have manifested great enthusiasm for a time. They were not affected by persecution. The enmity of the world did not wither them at the start. The “roots” became reasonably well embedded in a sincere and honest condition of heart, but the time came when they lost interest. What happened?

Jesus explains that “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word,” hindering their continued growth in grace. Here are influences which, if permitted, will destroy the life of the new creature at almost any stage of its development. Observation has proven that these “thorns” can grow even after one has been in the truth for many years, hence we should all be on guard. It is not a case of suddenly turning from the truth to worldly things, nor abruptly from laying up treasures in heaven to laying up treasures on earth. It is more subtle than that. Thorns do not grow up overnight. They are of gradual development.

So in actual experience, the Christian may at first conclude that he has been a bit one-sided in connection with his consecration; that he should give a little more consideration to the comforts of life. He begins to take time from the Lord’s service and devote it to “the care of this world.” He may even decide that it would be well if he could earn a lot of money “for the Lord,” and thus would the deceitfulness of riches consume so much of his time that there would be very little left for the truth. Thus, in an endeavor to carry out these new objectives—or old ones, perhaps, which have been but temporarily suppressed—he gradually loses interest in his spiritual development, and the new creature plant “brings no fruit to perfection.”—Luke 8:14

While it is regrettable that anyone who once rejoiced in the truth and its service should permit worldly cares and ambitions to choke his interest, we can be thankful that Jesus has foretold that this would be the case, for thus we know that it is not something for which the sowers are to blame, nor is it an indication that nothing is to be gained from sowing, simply because some who accept the truth do not remain faithful to it.

In ancient times the sower of literal seed was doubtless confronted with all the difficulties mentioned in the parable, yet he sowed his seed faithfully just the same, for he knew that some of it would fall on good ground, where it would grow and bring forth the “fruit” which he needed. So with us as sowers of the seeds of truth, our responsibility is to keep on sowing, knowing that in the Lord’s providence some of the grain will find its way to “good ground,” and that from this there will be a fruitage which will redound to the glory of the Lord.

The Good Ground

The good ground, or proper heart condition to receive the truth and bring forth fruit means, as Jesus explains, that the truth is not only heard, but understood. (Matt. 13:23) It is clear from this that an intellectual grasp of the great fundamentals of the Gospel is essential in order that the Christian may maintain his standing in the truth and before the Lord as one who bears fruit unto eternal life. In other words, accepting the truth and devoting oneself to the Lord is much more than an emotional feeling, for it must be based on an understanding of the Word. We must know on whom we have believed, and why, and be persuaded, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38,39

Only those who are thus deeply rooted and grounded in the truth and in whose hearts the love of God has been shed abroad, are able to withstand the heat of persecution and the allurements of the world, and become fruit-bearing Christians. Only such will give evidence that the Holy Spirit, operating through the Word of truth, is transforming their lives and making them daily more like the Master and more like our loving Heavenly Father. The apostle speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit,” and it is this fruit that manifests itself in the lives of “good ground” Christians. (Gal. 5:22,23) He explains that this fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace,” etc.—all elements of Godlikeness and Christlikeness.

It has been truthfully said that love is the sum of all the Christian graces; so if a Christian is bearing the fruit of love he is fulfilling the mission for which he was called. “God is love,” and as we grow to maturity in Christ we will become more like God, the fruit of love becoming more and more manifest in our daily lives. (I John 4:8; 3:16) As we become more like God, our zeal for the things of God will increase. His viewpoint will become our viewpoint. As he is continually seeking the good of his creatures, we will be watching for opportunities to bless our fellow creatures. Thus not only will the fruit of the Spirit develop into a luscious ripeness in our own lives, but as it does it will bring joy to the lives of others.

Peter admonishes us to add to our “faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.” Then he declares that if these things be in us and abound they will prevent us from being barren (margin, idle) or unfruitful “in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:5-8

Nominal churchianity thinks of the number of converts one makes as the “fruit” that is borne by the “good ground” Christians. This, of course, is the wrong viewpoint, for love is the fruit of the Spirit. Nevertheless, as Peter shows, if love and the other elements of Christian character are in us and abound, they will not permit us to be idle Christians. Like faith, which without works is dead, where genuine fruit of the Spirit abounds, there is sure to be a reaching out for the blessing of others. Thus the seed of truth that reaches the good ground multiplies itself in that the fruit-bearing plant which it produces, in turn becomes a sower of the seed of truth, the glorious Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.

All “good ground” hearers bear fruit and obtain an abundant entrance into the kingdom; but since they have been affected in different ways by the fall, the Holy Spirit does not control their lives to the same degree. Their hearts are right and pure, and the seed finds a ready reception and sufficient depth of soil to grow and bear fruit—“some an hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” The Lord knows about our handicaps, and when we do the best we can to crucify the flesh that the Spirit may have free course in our lives, his blessing is upon us and we can continue to rejoice.

Let us endeavor, however, not to permit the flesh and its interests to quench the Spirit and thus stunt the growth of fruit which otherwise would manifest itself in our lives. And if we are truly bearing the fruit of love we will want to be sowing the seed of truth, that others might be reached and comforted by a knowledge of God and of his beloved Son. We will want to sow in the morning and in the evening. We will want to hold forth the Word of life in season and out of season. And we will be faithful in sharing the joys of the truth irrespective of any visible results.

So here we will leave it, happy in the love of God which he has revealed to us, and glad that he has commissioned us to tell the glorious message to others. When we get beyond the veil, we will probably discover that in the great economy of God not a single sincere effort that was made by his people to tell forth the glad tidings of the kingdom was in vain; that in his wise and loving providence both the morning sowing and the evening sowing were “alike good.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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