Pharaoh and the Parable of the Four Soils

Read through the Bible in 2 Years: Exodus 9

Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” …

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.

Exodus 9:27-28, 34-35 ESV

Reading Pharaoh’s emotional reaction to the seventh plague followed by a total change of heart, I was reminded of the parable of the four soils in Matthew 13 which we read last month.

In this parable, a sower scatters seed in a variety of soils. Some soil is so hard that the seed never even begins to take root, and the seeds are eaten by birds before they even sprout. Other soil is rocky, but there’s enough good soil there that the seed begins to grow but it can never put down solid roots and persecution and tribulation causes these seeds to die. Still other seeds are scattered among thorny ground where the seeds are able to put down roots and even begin to grow, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the plant’s growth so it never bears any fruit. And then there’s the fourth soil, the good soil, that allows the seed to put down strong roots and bear fertile fruit, yielding thirty, sixty, or even a hundred-fold multiplication. (Read it for yourself in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

First, let’s remember that these seeds were all scattered by the same sower. It’s not about using better techniques – speaking more eloquent words or drawing better diagrams. It’s not the fault of Moses’s faltering speech that Pharaoh is not truly repentant of his sin. Yes, get trained to share the gospel … But don’t blame yourself when the seeds don’t take root.

The words of the man who shared the gospel with me took root and bore fruit – not because he spoke “just the right words” – but because the soil of my heart was finally right.

If you share the gospel with someone and they aren’t brought to repentance and salvation, don’t be discouraged. Keep sharing. Keep scattering seed. You might be preparing the soil for the next sower who comes along.

Secondly, remember the importance of continued outreach and discipleship after the seeds are scattered. Unfortunately, it seems that many people have misunderstood the Great Commission as being simply a charge to “preach the good news” rather than “go and make disciples.” Preaching the good news is the first step in making disciples, but our job doesn’t end there. Matthew 28:19-20 goes on to say that disciple makers are to baptize and teach the new disciples.

I believe that one reason why thorns grow up and choke out the growth of those newly planted seeds is the lack of continued discipleship. New believers need to be encouraged and taught so they can bear fruit and keep those thorny cares of the world from choking them.

Finally, remember that we are working together as fellow workers, fellow laborers, fellow gardeners in God’s fields. Like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

God is ultimately who gives the growth. Keep scattering. Keep watering. Keep going out into those fields with eyes open to the harvest, but remember that it is God who makes the soil, and the seed, and the sower and it’s up to Him to make it grow.

Would you like to learn more about how to make disciples and be co-laborers in the harvest? Check out No Place Left for some great tools to help you!

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