The Good News - Home

Hearing God -- Parable of the Sower

by David A. DePra

Behold, a sower went forth to sow. And when He sowed, some

seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them

up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth,

and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of

earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because

they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns.

And the thorns sprung up, and choked them. But other fell into good

ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold,

some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt. 13:3-9)

     Of all of the parables of Jesus, the parable of the sower holds

special significance. Regarding this parable, Jesus said, "Don't

you understand this parable? How then will you understand any

of the parables?" (Mk. 4:13) This is a clear indication that the

parable of the sower holds the key to understanding all of the other

parables. Understand it, and the rest of the parables become much

easier to grasp.

     Why? Because the parable of the sower is actually a parable

about parables. That is, it explains to us the purpose of parables,

and how parables -- and all the Word of God -- works. It shows us

what spiritual dynamics are going on when the Word of God is

spoken in parabolic, or other form.

     Have you ever wondered how God works? How He reveals to

us the Truth? Why some of us just don't get it, while others do? Or

why it sometimes takes so long for us to learn some of the most

simple things from God? The parable of the sower tells us. It

unlocks the answers to many of these, and other questions.

Seeing the Truth

     Many Christians have not understood that God wants to do more

than save us. Salvation through Jesus Christ is essential. We must

be born again or nothing else matters. But once we are born again,

we are not finished. No. We have merely been born. Now we have

to GROW. We have to "work out" the salvation -- in our living, and

in our understanding -- that God has freely given us. In short, we

need to discover the Truth about our new life in Jesus Christ.

     The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ saves us from our

sin. But the Truth sets us free from error. And while the former leads

to the latter, they are not the same. Salvation through Jesus Christ

does not, in and of itself, set us free from walking in deception and

lies. Look around you. The Body of Christ is filled with SAVED

people who don't know anything about God. In fact, many believe

lies about Him.

     In a nutshell, the Blood of Christ sets us free from all sin. But the

Truth sets us free of lies and deception. We can be saved, but

remain deceived. This is not the will of God.

     In this day and age of "relativism," many people have become

skeptical and even cynical. Many do not believe it is possible to

know the Truth about anything. Even some Christians have taken

the attitude that there is no use asking God for answers to their

questions, because He won't answer. Some get bitter. At the very

least, some Christians get discouraged and resign themselves to

a life of spiritual stagnation.

     The Bible, however, doesn't paint the picture of Christianity which

many Christians have settled for. In the Word of God, we find that

there IS such a thing as absolute Truth, and of course, error. And we

find that fundamental to the life of a Christian is a progressive

journey out of deception into the Truth.

     Now, we must get this. Being set free from error by the Truth is

NOT -- according to the Bible -- something which is supposed to

happen to only a few, once in a while. No. It is supposed to be

NORMAL for a Christian. It is supposed to describe our walk once

we are saved.

     Of course, the REASON our Christian life is to be one of moving

out of darkness into light is because we are all born in darkness.

That is the place we start. We do NOT start on neutral ground. We

do NOT start with the ability to go either way. We start in darkness.

In deception. Without any knowledge of God. We have to come

OUT of that by the power of the Truth.

It's All About God

     When we talk of lies, error, and deception -- in the Christian

context -- we must be sure we know what those terms mean. In the

final analysis, all heresy -- all false teaching -- is a lie about God


     Too often we think heresy or false teaching is merely a distortion

of Biblical doctrine. It IS that. But it is much more. Doctrine is only

a written expression of Truth and reality. It is not THE Truth or reality.

Thus, while heresy does distort doctrine, it distorts the reality! In

the final analysis, all heresy and deception are lies about God


     For example, the Jehovah Witnesses deny that Jesus was God.

They try to say that Jesus was A God, not THE God. Are they in

error merely because they violate a Biblical doctrine? No. Again,

the doctrine is only a vehicle we use to convey thoughts. A vehicle

we use to express Truth. It is not Truth itself. A denial that Jesus is

God is a lie about Jesus Himself, not merely a distortion of doctrine.

What this shows us is that error affects lives. It controls faith and it

controls conduct. In fact, it keeps us from being able to walk in

harmony with God. That is why error is to bondage as Truth is to

freedom. The Truth -- about God -- sets us free. It sets us free

FROM those errors which stood between us and God.

     Truth sets us free from error. Error about God. Error about what

He is like, and error about what He is doing with us. This goes far

beyond doctrine. Truth sets us free at the root of what makes us

tick. It sets us free morally, spiritually, and in every other way.

Through sin, man was plunged into the realm of sin and darkness.

Not only are we incapable of obeying God, we don't know Him. We

spend our lives accumulating a picture of Him based, not on the

Truth, but on our reactions to life.

     Through Christ, God has dealt with all sin and death. But we must

go on to see the Truth. We must have our minds renewed. We

need to be set free to worship God is spirit and in TRUTH.

     These things are vital to understand if we are to understand the

parable of the sower, or any other parable. Parables are intended

to reveal Truth to those who have "ears to hear." They are

revelations of how God works and what He is doing. They

generally speak to the spiritual growth of a Christian, rather than to

the event of salvation.

     With the parable of the sower, Jesus is going to show how God

reveals Truth to people. He is going to show us the dynamics of

what happens when He speaks His Word to the hearts of men.


     When Jesus explained this parable to His disciples, He clearly

stated that the "soil" in the parable stands for the HEART. In Matt.

13:19 He speaks of the seed which "was sown in his heart." That

seals it. The Word of God, or seed, is sown into the heart.

     Now, this begins to lead us in the right direction if we want to

understand the parable. And based on it, we can, up front, establish

three things. First, the four "kinds of soil" are representative of four

conditions of the heart. Secondly, regardless of the differing

conditions of the hearts, the seed sown is the SAME for all. And

thirdly, it is the condition of the soil, i.e., the heart, which determines

what happens to the seed.

     Jesus describes a sower who indiscriminately goes forth sowing

seed. In other words, Jesus is speaking His Word of Truth

continually, and to everyone. But not everyone has the same

condition of heart. Not everyone receives the Word the same way.

The condition of each heart determines how the person hears, and

what eventually happens to the Word Jesus gives.

     In one of the cases, the "wicked one" snatches away the seed,

because the condition of the heart (soil) was "by the wayside." In

other words, NOT plowed, or part of the field intended for planting.

     In another case, the condition of the heart is said to be stony. Thus,

the seed is scorched by the sun. A third condition is that of thorns

and weeds which choke the Word. And of course, then there is the

good soil. There the seed eventually grows and brings forth fruit.

     So again notice: The condition of the soil -- the HEART -- is

what determines the outcome. It is not the condition of the seed

which determines the outcome -- for it is the same for all.

     In this parable, Jesus does not address the issue as to HOW

the soil got into the conditions it was in at the time of the sowing. He

simply brings us on the scene at the time of sowing. But we can

know, by inference, and by other scripture, how the soil got that way.

And since it is the condition of the soil which determines everything,

it is essential that we see how it got that way.

     Let's continue speaking in parabolic language. How is soil

made ready for planting? Normally, by plowing. If you don't plow

a field before sowing, you are not going to have much of a crop.

Thus, we can conclude that the GOOD SOIL had been plowed.

It had been made ready for the seed. Or, to switch back to real time

language, the heart had been conditioned and adjusted so that it

could receive the Word of God. And once received, the end result

was spiritual fruit to God's glory.

     So here's the question: What is God's plow? Well, what does a

physical plow do? It OPENS the soil to the light. It REMOVES the

obstacles to growth. It UNSETTLES and OVERTURNS the soil from

it's rather dormant state. In effect, it disrupts, disturbs, and exposes

the soil, so that it made be made fit to receive the seed.

     Note that to this point, there has been no seed; no sowing. No.

Only preparation. God must prepare our hearts before He can give

us the Truth. He must do a work in us so that we can be receptive.

     Actually, if you think about it, the plowing is more of a disturbing

of the OLD, rather than an addition of something NEW. The soil is

already there, whether it be rocky, overgrown with thorns, or by the

wayside. It got that way through natural means. The plowman finds

it in this condition. But THAT is what must be disturbed -- by the

plow. THAT is what must be unsettled and opened to the light -- by

the plow. THEN the new can be added -- the seed. It will find a

receptive home.

     This is telling us that not only do we have much to LEARN, but

also much to UNLEARN. And the process cannot begin until God

starts to disturb the things we must unlearn. Until we see how wrong

we are, we will not be open to other options. Until we become

disturbed and unsettled in the status quo and comfort zone, we will

not want to move.

     The plow is whatever God uses to disturb us -- to get us exposed

for what we are. To get us more open to the light. This "plow" can

be circumstances, ministers, people, spiritual warfare, our failures,

or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But in the final analysis, the plow

is Truth -- as ministered by some vehicle or circumstance.

     Herein we see that there are two sides of Truth. There is the

"plowing side," that is, the disturbing side which will show us our

error and expose our sin. But then there is the "sowing side." This

is the life, light, and Truth. It is what we move forward to once we

discard our old errors and sin.

     One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is to try to skip the

plowing side, and grab the sowing side of Truth. But this, in fact, is

addressed in the parable. If you try to receive Truth without first

being plowed, the Truth remains the Truth. But your heart will be in

no condition to receive it. It will not bear fruit. You will be as soil

which is by the wayside, or rocky, or overgrown with thorns.

     We have to continually remember: Truth is not facts about Jesus.

Truth IS Jesus. Truth is not doctrines and teachings. No. Doctrines

and teachings simply tell us about Truth. To receive the Truth I

must BECOME altered and adjusted -- the same way dormant soil

must become plowed soil. That is because Truth is the eternal

reality about God Himself. And that is something for which I am not

prepared or adjusted -- nor can be -- until God undertakes a

plowing work within my heart.


     The question now becomes, "Who determines the condition of

heart?" God determines the sowing. But who determines whether

I am able to receive the seed He sows?

     Actually, I do. I determine the condition of my heart. God wants

to do a work of plowing in me. But He is not going to force it. I must

choose to allow Him or resist Him.

     As God goes along plowing in my heart, He is going to come

upon many a thorn bush, and many rocky places. He is going to

say to me, "This must go. It must be unearthed and disturbed. It

must be removed." It is then that I must choose whether I will let

Him plow forth.

     Actually, God often starts plowing through these places before

I realize I have to choose. He will bring about circumstances, trials,

and all manner of things in my life, for the purpose of exposing me

and showing me these obstacles. Then, as I begin to feel the pain

of the plow share tearing at me, I must choose.

     If a plowman comes across a difficult area in his field, and it will

not be removed, what does he do? He plows AROUND it. And

even though he does have a crop in other places, he won't have

one in THAT place. So it is with us. It is where we refuse to be

moved from the old that there can be no light; no Truth. There can

be no seed brought to fruition.

     There are many Christians today, who God is trying to plow. He

comes to these areas in them, and they will not allow Him to dig

deep enough to unearth the problem. It is too uncomfortable. Too

painful. Too demanding of them. So they make Him plow around

that area. They refuse to be disturbed out of their comfort zone.

     We need to get something settled here, once and for all. If you

and I want to grow to know Jesus Christ, we are going to be

DISTURBED BY GOD. This is NOT "maybe." If I were never

disturbed by God, it would mean I was already at one with Him. But

none of us are. We have so much to unlearn and to learn. We need

much adjustment to the Truth.

Ignorance vs. Self-Will

     Actually "learning" is a bit easier than "unlearning." Do you know

why? Because "unlearning" means I have to admit I've been wrong.

In fact, it often means I have to repent of an entire line of thinking.

Maybe I've practiced it for years. Maybe I've done a lot of damage

with the errors I've believed.

     It is here that we must understand the difference between real

ignorance, and WILLFUL ignorance -- otherwise called "self-will."

Real ignorance means I do not know, and am not responsible for it.

Real ignorance is actually the inability to know. But self-will is the

refusal to know -- either by deliberately refusing the Truth or by

neglecting it.

     Ignorance which is the product of self-will is really unbelief. It is

to be so set on my own way, and involved in my own self-interest,

that I never open my ears to what God says. People who are

truly ignorant have never had the chance to hear the Truth. People

who are ignorant through self-will have had the chance continually.

But they never open their ears and give God their attention.

     We need to realize that there are very few people in this world

who stand with a clenched fist and defy God. No. Most of us simply

neglect Him. We are too busy with ourselves. But we are

accountable to Him. We are surrounded by Truth and know enough

to at least turn to God.

     For example, everyone of us fact problems and trials each day.

These are "plows" God uses in our lives. How do we respond? By

getting on our knees, and by getting into the Word of God? Or do

we do whatever is necessary to get our way? Do we completely

ignore the Word of God, and deceive ourselves into thinking we

are IN God's will? How would we even KNOW?

     The fact is, I am responsible for responding to God in an

attitude of hearing and receptivity. I am responsible for being in the

spiritual condition necessary to receive the Truth -- the seed God

plants. If I yield to God and obey Him in all that I know, He can

plow me. But if I do not, I'll not be able to receive the seed. And this

is NOT ignorance. It is self-will and unbelief, and I am to blame for it.

     In effect, God does not hold us responsible for what we cannot

know. But He does hold us responsible for what we COULD know.

What we COULD know is the seed. We determine whether we DO

come to know it by whether we believe and obey God. This makes

our soil able to either receive the seed, or it leaves it unplowed and

unable to hear and receive the Word of God.


     If I had a five-year old son and walked up to him and said, "Will

you please HEAR me!," everyone would know what I was really

saying. I would not be ordering him to turn on his hearing aid. I

would not be telling him that he needed to see a ear doctor. It would

be clear that what I meant was this: "Will you please give me your

attention, and obey what I say?"

     This is why it means to HEAR someone. That is how the Bible

means the term. To HEAR God means to open your heart and your

life to Him. It means to desire His will and then to obey it.

     All of this is really nothing more than a description of -- what? Of

FAITH. You aren't going to open your heart to God if you don't

believe and trust Him. But if you do believe and trust Him, it will

automatically motivate you to turn to God and open yourself to Him.

     Now notice something here. We are not yet talking about WHAT

you hear. No. You have to be open BEFORE that. You have to be

receptive and yielded to God IF you want to hear His will. The

spiritual position of HEARING is the requirement upon us if we want

to hear the will of God.

     Notice something else: This has yet nothing to do with our

UNDERSTANDING of what we will hear. Nothing to do with it at all.

We are here, at this point, simply dealing with our spiritual condition.

With our willingness TO hear. God hasn't even spoken anything to

us as of yet. But we are, right now, either in the spiritual condition

of HEARING, or we are not.

     You and I cannot understand the things of God unless we first

hear God -- anymore than my five-year old son would be able to

understand me until he stopped, listened, and was willing to obey.

We must be open and yielded to God FIRST. Then we will HEAR.

And after that, we will grow to UNDERSTAND what we hear.

     Notice how this ties into the parable of the Sower. I must be in

the spiritual condition of HEARING -- in order for the seed to take

root. I must have ears to hear. But I only GET into that condition by

allowing God to get me there through His plowing. Again -- I must

turn to God and open my ears by faith and surrender, when trials


     The good news is that in one moment I can be plowed and

ready to hear. I need only turn with all my heart and surrender to

God. But some won't. And then they wonder why they cannot seem

hear God or understand Him.

Believe, Then Understand

     God has a progression: Hear, and then understand. There is no

other way things can ever work. But do you notice how we usually

get this backwards? We think that we must first understand, and

then believe and obey. But no. According to God, we must first

believe and open ourselves to God -- i.e. HEAR. Then, and only

then, will we be able to understand.

     Paul writes, "By faith we understand....." (Heb. 11:3) Paul is not

talking about some mindless abandonment of reality. He is saying

that once you believe God, you WILL understand.

     This is a Truth which runs throughout the Bible. In the Old

Testament we read:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good

understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise

endures forever. (Ps. 111:10)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the

knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

     Again, the very BEGINNING of wisdom is "fear of the Lord." The

"fear of the Lord" is not "being afraid of Him." It is a reverence for

Him. It is a consciousness of His value; of His worth and holiness.

And what would such a "reverence" motivate us to do? Submit our

hearts to God. Open ourselves to Him. In other words, reverence

for God motivates us to HEAR Him. And that, the Bible says, is the

"beginning of wisdom." It will pave the way for understanding.

     If a child values his parent, he will value what the parent has to

say. The child will HEAR the parent. That will be his attitude toward

the parent even before the parent speaks. So it is with God. If we

have any fear of the Lord at all, we will recognize that we need to

open our ears to God.

     Isn't it amazing that we are told that the BEGINNING of wisdom is

reverence for God? In other words, you and I cannot even get

started being able to see things from God's point of view -- which is

what wisdom is -- unless we first revere Him. No wonder the world

is so foolish? If the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord, how

much wisdom can there be in a life which has no reverence for God?

     Over and over again, Jesus made it plain to those around Him

that if they wanted to know the will of God, that they must FIRST be

open to God:

And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters,

having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My

doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man is willing to

do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or

whether I speak of Myself. He that speaks of himself seeks his own

own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is

true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the

the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to

kill Me? (John 7:15-19)

     The Jews could not figure out how Jesus knew so much! But

Jesus told them. He not only told them how HE knew so much

about God, but how anyone could know the Truth. He said, "If you

want to know the will of God, first be willing to obey it."

     That was simple enough. But Jesus went on to elaborate. He

said, "If you are seeking your own glory, that is, seeking your own

will and agenda, you will never see the Truth. Only if you are open

and yielded to God will you be able to hear and understand."

     The Pharisees, of course, had an excuse for everything. So

Jesus capped off His answer to them by saying, "Do not try to

plead ignorance. Do not try to say that you cannot know the Truth.

Moses gave you the law and you are the experts on the law. Yet

none of you keeps even that. You want to kill Me. Start obeying

what you DO know before trying to plead ignorance."

     Again, we see that it is a willingness to hear God that results IN

hearing God, and then will lead to understanding God. Perhaps

one of the most direct passages on this subject is found in the book

of Hebrews:

Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice,

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of

temptation in the wilderness. When your fathers tempted me,

proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was

grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their

heart; and they have not known my ways. (Heb. 3:7-10)

     IF you will hear His voice, what shall you do? NOT harden your

heart. Again, a heart which is not open to God is a heart which

cannot hear God -- much less come to understand Him.

     In all of these verses, we see one theme emerging: Open up

to God. That is FAITH. That is HEARING. That will lead to an


The Rebuke of Jesus

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, you would love me:

for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself,

but He sent Me. Why do you not understand my speech? Even

because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father, the devil,

and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the

beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in

him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar,

and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, you believe Me

not. Which of you convinces Me of sin? And if I say the truth, why

do you not believe Me? He that is of God hears God's words. You

therefore hear them not, because you are not of God. (Jn. 8:42-47)

     Jesus was talking to the Pharisees in this passage. They were

NOT understanding Him. And He told them WHY.

     Jesus asks and answers two questions in this passage. But they

are NOT the same question and answer. He is not at all being

redundant. The questions address two levels of the same problem.

Seeing this is a key to the passage.

     The first question is: "Why do you not understand My speech?"

He answers it for them. He says, "Because you cannot hear My

word." Note what He is saying: You cannot UNDERSTAND

because you do not HEAR. Thus, Jesus is telling the Pharisees,

and us, that the reason for our lack of understanding is that we do

not HEAR Him.

     The Pharisees were not listening to Jesus with an open heart.

They were listening with pride, envy, and judgmentalism. They

had set up THEIR beliefs as the standard by which to judge Him.

And pride would not give room for them to budge. That is self-will.

It is a refusal to be "plowed." And that meant their "soil" was not

receptive to the Truth.

     Notice something here. The Pharisees were not thinking, "We

know this man is telling us the Truth, but we will not hear Him." No.

They were saying, "We will not admit to learning anything from this

man." Do you see the difference? The RESULT is that they

closed themselves off from the Truth -- not because they saw it was

Truth -- but because they were so set in their own pride and self

will that they could not see it was the Truth. But make no question:

They were totally responsible for doing so. And if we do that, so

are we. God holds us responsible for what we COULD know.

     There is, however, a second question and answer. And it really

comes out of the first answer. The second question is: "If I say the

Truth, why don't you believe Me?" His answer reveals that He was

really asking, "If I say the Truth, why don't you HEAR Me?" Jesus

answers by saying, "He that is of God HEARS the words of God.

You therefore hear them NOT because you are NOT of God."

     The relationship between the two answers is this: First, Jesus

says they cannot understand because they do not hear. Second,

Jesus says they cannot HEAR because -- why? Because they

not are "of God."  Or to go back to the parable, they are not plowed.

     Do you see that? The second answer is actually a step farther

back into causation than the first. The first addresses why they do

not understand. It is because they cannot hear. But why can't they

hear? The second answer tells us: Because they are not of God.

The Pharisees were "not of God" because they were not open

to God. Again, no surrender to God, and thus no "plowing," and

thus, no hearing. And consequently, the seed cannot take root,

let alone grow.

     We see this played out all the time today. Thousands of

Christians hunger for God and His Truth. They open their Bibles

and cannot at first grasp the Truth in there. But over the course of

time they do. It "sinks" in. Why? Because they have allowed God

to "plow" them -- even if this consists of nothing more than simply

allowing Him to remove a few obstacles which would have hindered

the plowing. So they can HEAR. And the seed which is sown is

taking root.

     But then there are others. They seem totally disinterested in the

things of God. They make the excuse of not being able to grasp

the Bible. But they never open it. The "light" is too bright. They are

dull of hearing because they have heard so often, but NEVER

obeyed. Thus, the Word seems dead to them. What they don't

know is that THEY are dead.

     What is the solution? OPEN YOUR EARS. Surrender to God,

right where you are, in faith and obedience. And begin exposing

yourself by faith to the Word of God. And then, as you walk, go to

God about everything. God WILL plow you. And you will grow.

The Sower is Sowing

     Jesus parable makes it clear that the Sower is always sowing.

There is Truth everywhere, if we would just open our ears to hear it.

If you were in a room with a loud radio, and didn't want to hear it,

what would you do -- if you could not touch the volume? You would

"tune it out." We are able to do that, aren't we? And the best way

is by tuning something else IN. This is how we "tune out" God. We

tune in something else -- our own way. But we can reverse the

process. We can "tune out" what we want, and tune in God. This is

HEARING. Then, in time, the Truth we receive by being open

begins to renew our mind. We begin to understand.

     Of course, the fruit which the seed brings forth is the will of God.

But this fruit is not merely our understanding of God's will. No. God

wants us to do more than understand His will. He wants us to

BECOME His will. This means that the seed we receive must

come to govern our lives, and bring us into conformity with it. In

effect, just as Jesus, the Word of God, became flesh, God wants

the Word He plants in us to "become flesh" -- that is -- to be made

manifest through us.

     Now, if you will notice, there is a lot of Truth which can be gleaned

from this example of sowing into various kinds of soil. For instance,

even if a plot of ground is not presently plowed, and is difficult to

plow, it is always possible to get it plowed. In other words, I may

be represented by one of the plots of ground in the parable of

Jesus -- or may be represented by all of them on different levels of

my walk with Christ. But God is always plowing, always sowing, and

always trying to bring forth fruit in us. Thus, we need not remain in

any one of the conditions which failed to bring forth fruit. We can

let God plow us, and we can surrender to Him and HEAR.

     The parable of the Sower tells us how God works with us. It is

a template, not only for all other parables, but is a wonderful

revelation as to what God is doing with us in this age.

The Good News - Home

Hit Counter