Thursday, 1 April 2010

by grace through faith: part 7

For many years I was deeply puzzled by the Matthew interpretation of the parable of the Sower. When his disciples asked him why he was using parables Christ quoted Isaiah 6:9-10. (remember that if you hover your cursor over that reference you will get the NKJV version) It seemed as though God were blocking their understanding in response to their dullness of hearing. Matthew’s account of Christ's exposition of the parable added to my puzzlement. The response of the earth to the sown seed begins with the seed sown on the downtrodden wayside. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.” Matt 13:19. There’s that reference to ‘understanding’ again. It is because the hearer did not ‘understand’ the word of the kingdom that the sown seed is unproductive and quickly stolen by the birds. The theme continues in the account of the good ground; “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." Matt 13:23 and we find here another reference to ‘understanding’. Does salvation depend on our ability to understand? Apparently it does but that is not the whole story and ‘understanding’ in not the same as having a certain inherent intelligence; this is not salvation by IQ.

My puzzlement lasted a long time until I came across another part of the prophecy of Isaiah. God promised spectacular signs which would capture the attention of his people and then Isaiah declares the purpose of these eye-catching signs; Isaiah 41:20. I am going to do my own translation here “so that they may see and recognize and consider and understand in a unity that the hand of the LORD has done this”. Let’s observe the order here...

1 That they may see; God would take care to ensure that men and women would be drawn to what he was doing. This is one of the purposes of miracles. They serve as burning bushes which cause us to ‘turn aside’ from our daily activities to pay attention to something out of the ordinary. God would ensure that they were alerted to the fact that something extraordinary happening in their midst.

2 ...and recognize; by some inner intuition they would discern that the phenomena which had drawn their attention was something of significance. They would recognize ‘the hand of God’ or ‘the voice of God’ in that moment. Their consciences would bear witness to the truth they were experiencing. far these are involuntary stages of a process. They ‘happen’ without any action on the part of the one who sees and recognizes, but then there is a change...
3 ...and consider; this is the process when the mind begins to engage with what has been witnessed. We are no longer a passive witness but we begin to consider the meaning of the event. This stage requires action on the part of the witness. We are to take hold of the truth which has fleetingly flashed across our consciousness and we are to think through its implications. I think it was D L Moody who used to say that he had ‘more hope of a murderer than of a lazy man’. Here is a really obscure verse for your consideration; “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man's precious possession.” Prov 12:27. What a folly, to never profit from the thing that you have held in your hand. When truth ‘comes to us’ we are required to ‘do something’ with that truth otherwise we will lose it. “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Matt 13:12. That verse is from the same passage in Matthew.

4 ...and understand; and now see what will inevitable follow the man who has seen and recognized and considered. He will understand. This is not the understanding of a superior intellect but the blessing of God upon the man who has taken ‘revelation’ seriously. Now we see that God is right to hold a man accountable for ‘not understanding’ for that man has slighted the miracle of revelation and thereby chosen to remain in his voluntary darkness. From such will be taken even the little that he had. God will hold men accountable for what they do with revelation.

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