Last time we talked of Jesus urging His disciples, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” It’s a warning. We are to take heed to our hearing. Whether or not the ground of our heart brings forth the fruit our Lord is looking for depends on the quality of our hearing. Do we take his word seriously—that shallow soil or weed-infested ground can hinder the seed from bearing fruit? If our hearing is good, we lay that to heart. We cooperate with the Divine Farmer, seeking His help to make sure our hearts are good ground with deep, fertile soil where nothing is growing but the Good Seed He planted. In this kind of ground the seed will surely bring forth… an hundredfold.
And, as we see in what Jesus says next, our work in done when we present to the Lord this kind of soil. The rest is up to Him—and to the Law of life in the seed He plants. After exhorting His disciples to make sure they are hearing what He is saying, Jesus continues with this:
So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day,
And the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear (Mk. 4.26-28).
The emphasis in the original is, “How, he knoweth not.” There is a mysterious process of life at work in the seed—the same process we mentioned in an earlier blog.
As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, 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 (Eccles. 11.5).
In the natural creation, it’s life that causes the child in the womb to grow. It’s life that causes the seed to grow and bear fruit. These are the inner workings of a law of life God set to work in nature when He created all things.
And God created all these things with this in mind: their voice speaks to us of the wonder and beauty of the Kingdom of God. Jesus in His parables drawn from nature is speaking of the Kingdom of God. It is “the word of the Kingdom” that the sower sows, and, depending on the soil conditions, brings forth fruit. And so, as we said, we have a part to play there. He that hath an ear, let him hear. We can seek to be good deep soil, and keep out the weeds.
But once the conditions are right, our job is done. It’s no use the farmer standing anxiously over the ground as if so doing could help the seed along. “The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself.”
This word in the Greek is automate (pronounced automatay). Sound familiar? I’m not much of a Greek scholar, but even I could tell what that word likely meant. Here’s what a real Greek scholar (Kenneth Wuest) has to say about it.
The words of herself are the translation of automate which is made up of autos (self) and memaa (to desire eagerly). The word means in its totality, “self-moved, spontaneously, without external aid, and also beyond external control, with a way and a will, so to speak, of its own that must be respected and waited for.” We get our English word automatic from this Greek word automate. There is only one other example of its use in the New Testament, where the gate opens to Peter of its own accord (Acts 12.10). The earth, therefore, brings forth fruit automatically. The nature of the soil, the weather, and the cultivation of the plant, all enter in. But the secret of the growth is in the seed itself.
This is very encouraging to us, isn’t it. The farmer doesn’t stand anxiously over the seed he planted. He isn’t wringing his hands as to what will happen next. He doesn’t stay up all night worrying. He just goes about his daily routine, sleeping, rising, sleeping, rising… and… what’s this? The ground that received the seed is bringing forth now! The seed has yielded to a law of life that meant it first had to die… and now it is growing, growing, growing… “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”
So with the Kingdom of God that is growing in the earth right now, and in due time will be openly manifested. There is a beautiful mystery at work that the hand of man has no part in—the mystery of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which is at work in those who believe. We need to respect that working, and wait patiently for the results. Something spontaneous–automatic– is happening while we wait, something that is working of its own accord as we rest in the Lord. Having kept out the weeds, we only need to yield to the seed that has been sown, trusting the Law of the Spirit of life to bring forth the seed that was planted in abundant fruitfulness… to the praise and glory of God.