My father was never interested in fishing until I came along. After three daughters and at age 46, he adopted me. I guess he thought he would be an irresponsible father if he did not take his son fishing. It’s an OK hobby I suppose, but it always hit me as a bit passive for my tastes. It would have been much more interesting to me if there was a competitive element to it … like if the fish could fight back and jump out of the water and drag you in if you weren’t looking, or something like that. Dad fished for years after I was gone from home, though I never much kept up with it.
We actually did more salt water fishing than anything else, as being from New Jersey we went to “the shore” quite a lot. A major memory, be it fishing on the beach or from a pier, was the need for constant vigilance – being ever on guard that sea gulls would not swoop down while you weren’t looking or close enough to the bait, and snatch it up and fly away with a giant hunk of squid or whatever.
Birds can be a real pain that way. I remember when planting my first lawn of 1.5 acres of grass seed at the home we built in New Jersey… I spread the seed widely over the expanse of the property and covered it as best I could with dozens of bales of straw. I remember doing this in the fall of 1983 and listening to the Orioles/Phillies World Series while I spent several days on guard duty chasing away the birds that showed up to eat all of the seed I had spread.
The parable that Jesus told of the farmer planting his seed would picture much the same sort of planting technique of widely throwing grain seed over a large area. The portion of the field that annually grew a crop would likely be somewhat tilled and permeable. But on the edges of the field, or along pathways through or around the field, the ground was more hardened. And thus the seed was more exposed to ever-watching eye of the local fowls.
Jesus portrayed the scene with these words from Mark 4:3,4:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Later in the passage, as Jesus gave the interpretation of this first of four soils, it says in Mark 4:13-15 …
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word.15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Something I have attempted to avoid in life, though not always successfully, is that situation in a grocery store where there is an employee giving a taste test of some cheese or spread that they want to sell. When I see that, I make a circle around it … though sometimes I have had to “experience” it just to be polite. There is no way I’m going to buy it, no matter how good it is. In the words of the first George Bush, “Not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent.” Frankly, I’m just hardened to being hit up that way. I’m not saying this is good or commendable; I’m just being honest about it. The fact is that my heart in hardened toward it.
And that is the way a lot of people are about God’s Word. Their heart – their soul – is simply hardened from years of resistance, and the good seed of the Word does not penetrate. Along comes the bird, Satan, and eats it before there is a chance for it to germinate in the soul.
We might call the person with this sort of soul soil “the taster.” That is about as far as their experience with the Word of God goes. We have them in church with us every week. The seeds are landing all around them on a Sunday morning. But the heart is hard, and thoughts of a dozen other things to happen later in the day or the week ahead, or the phone speaks to them, or some other mental priority grabs their attention away. And in comes the Evil Bird and snatches the seed away.
Chances are pretty high that if you are reading this devotional, you are beyond this description. But we are never beyond the possibility of our heart being hard, our souls being distracted, to the extent that the truths of the Word around us do not penetrate. So don’t be a hard-heart, compacted soil hearer of God’s Word.
Some questions and thoughts for further discussion…
- What makes people lose the seed to Satan?
- How have you seen a hard heart in yourself or others?
- Why is Satan intent upon snatching the seed of the Word away?
- How can you actively prevent this from happening in your life of the lives of others near you?
I was just talking to my wife a few days ago about sports teams with birds names. Seahawks, Cardinals, Orioles, BlueJays, Blackhawks … am I missing a few?
Let’s think about – tilling the soil for it to be receptive to God’s word before the birds come along and eat it. How does that play out in life? Maybe humility. When we are humble we are receptive to God’s leadership. When we are proud we don’t listen to God and God doesn’t give us much growth. As a matter of fact he might break our pride if he loves us.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Also God wants us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and love him with our entire being. Maybe as we love him completely it will help us avoid tangents that don’t lead to him. In any case we “all stumble in many ways” and we need to have the heart of the tax collector (the humble heart) rather than the proud heart of the Pharisee. A broken and contrite heart is an offering that God will not despise.
Yep, yep, yep … good stuff friend.