Yummy! I got a tasty treat from this chapter this morning. It took some effort, but I’m so grateful for this tidbit. Take a look…
Jesus had just finished telling the parable about the seed that fell on various types of ground. I was a bit confused when I read:
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret about the Kingdom of God. But I am using these stories to conceal everything about it from outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘They see what I do, but they don’t perceive its meaning. They hear my words, but they don’t understand. So they will not turn from their sins and be forgiven.’
I just couldn’t grasp why Jesus would want people to see what He’s doing but not perceive the meaning, or why He would want them to hear His words, but not understand. I really had trouble with “So they will not turn from their sins and be forgiven.” God doesn’t want us to be forgiven? So, I looked up the reference given and it led me to Isaiah 6.
The answer is – because He loves them too much.
Confused? Read on…
Isaiah 6 is the part where the seraphim took up a burning coal with the tongs and touched it to Isaiah’s lips, removing his guilt and sins. Isaiah said my favorite line: “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.” Then we read in Isaiah 6 verses 9-13 (and this is our reference from Mark 4):
9 And he said, “Yes, go. But tell my people this: ‘You will hear my words, but you will not understand. You will see what I do, but you will not perceive its meaning.’ 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Close their ears, and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn to me for healing.” 11 Then I said, “Lord, how long must I do this?”And he replied, “Until their cities are destroyed, with no one left in them. Until their houses are deserted and the whole country is an utter wasteland. 12 Do not stop until the LORD has sent everyone away to distant lands and the entire land of Israel lies deserted. 13 Even if only a tenth – a remnant – survive, it will be invaded again and burned. Israel will remain a stump, like a tree that is cut down, but the stump will be a holy seed that will grow again.”
Do you see it? In verse 12 of Mark 4, Jesus mentions, “so that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” He was referencing these verses in Isaiah. This is the reason He spoke in parables. The same reason God was allowing the destruction of Israel – every city, village, and tent…invaded and burned (and here’s the good part) but the stump will be a holy seed that will grow again.
Back to the seed analogy again. Full circle! Seeds mentioned in Mark 4, holy seed mentioned in Isaiah. Israel had to be completely destroyed because of their hardness of heart and repeated rebellion. But, rather than utter anhilation, like a cliff-hanger in a fifties sci-fi thriller, God speaks life and hope.
If you’re still confused, let me put it this way. If He left us to our own devices, we would continue on a downhill slide – just re-read the history of the nation of Israel if you need an example. If He just spoke in plain language to all those gathered, and healed and exorcized, fed and blessed – they would only follow Him for the blessing. God knows us better than we do – so the mystery and the pursuit are there for us to grow. He wants us to make the right choices when it comes to being tempted. He wants us to pursue Him even when He may feel distant. He wants us to praise Him through the suffering when it seems like there’s no hope at all. He wants us to choose to love Him for Him – not the gifts.
Jesus knew back then that most of those listening to His parables were more interested in themselves and their needs than they were with their pursuit of God.
Apply this carefully, gentlemen. God cannot tollerate sin. He is holy and expects us to be pursuing holiness. Constant repeat sin and rebellion will not be allowed. Like earth before the flood, like Israel before the invasion, your life will be shaped. Not because He has it out for you or hates you – quite the opposite – because He loves you too much to leave you alone. I know He has every right to pulvarize me into complete oblivion over and over, never to be thought of again, but He doesn’t! Instead, He has plans for me – to prosper and bless me. But, that doesn’t mean there won’t be pain, suffering and difficulty. I know that now.
In the end – it’s a win-win for us. How’s your soil today? Ready to receive the seed?