Posted in discernment, parable, tares, weeds

Parable of the weeds (hint, it’s not about the church)

The Parable of the Weeds

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Donald Grey Barnhouse, in his sermon “What is God Doing Today?” explained,

Now, the Lord Jesus Christ taught clearly that we are in this age to sow the seed – that is, to spread the Gospel. But we are to expect that only part of the seed will fall on good ground, that is, believing hearts. And that the rest will not produce good fruit. The fault is not with the seed, but with the hearts. Christ taught that satan would plant counterfeit believers in the midst of true believers so that it would be difficult to tell the real from the false. The true and the false, the real and the counterfeit grow together until the harvest which is the end of the age in which we live. These truths He taught in the Parable of the Sower and the Wheat and Tares. And he gave the explicit interpretation Himself, not leaving it to man’s imagination. The good and the bad are to grow together. Neither will destroy the other. God will take care of the separation.

Matthew Henry:

So prone is fallen man to sin, that if the enemy sow the tares, he may go his way, they will spring up, and do hurt; whereas, when good seed is sown, it must be tended, watered, and fenced.

EPrata photo

What is a weed? It is useful to study the properties of the object of the agricultural metaphor which the Lord in His wisdom used to explain the parable to us. As we read these properties of weeds, let’s keep in mind how these properties mirror the properties of the unbeliever. At the Penn State Extension website, we read Introduction to Weeds,

–a plant growing where it is not wanted
–a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. (R.W.Emerson). [Ed note: i.e. a virtueless plant]
–plants that are competitive, persistent, pernicious, and interfere negatively with human activity (Ross, et. al.)
–No matter what definition is used, weeds are plants whose undesirable qualities outweigh their good points, according to man.

These qualities of weeds certainly mirror the unbeliever’s qualities. Unbelievers in the world interfere with our activity, in pernicious, persistent, and competitive ways. This is because they are sown by satan. To continue looking at weeds:

Certain characteristics are associated with and allow the survival of weeds. Weeds posses one or more of the following:

a) abundant seed production;
b) rapid population establishment;
c) seed dormancy;
d) long-term survival of buried seed;
e) adaptation for spread;
f) presence of vegetative reproductive structures; and
g) ability to occupy sites disturbed by human activities.

I was particularly struck by the notion that weeds engage in “rapid population establishment”. Satan does not rest. One weed soon leads to others.

Weeds are troublesome in many ways. Primarily, they reduce crop yield by competing for water, light, soil nutrients, and space.

The parable is fairly simple, as parables go. The field is not the church. The Lord said the field is the world. (Mt 13:38). If we interpret the field as the church, then we would have a conflict with Matthew 18:15-17, which says to put unrepentant sinners out of the church, i.e. uproot them. So the field is the world, and the unbelievers are sown by satan.

In this tolerant, all-inclusive age, some people chafe when we say that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who are children of the Kingdom and those who are children of satan. We hate to think that there is no middle ground, or love to think that there must be ‘some good’ in people, they’re kinda, almost, mostly good. But no. If a person is not under the control and sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, they are under the control and sovereignty of satan. Wheat or tares. There are no hybrids.

The parable is telling us that we believers are sown into the world by Jesus. Let’s stop there. How wonderful! To be specifically planted by Jesus in the time and in the place He desires us to be grown is a very comforting thought. Matthew Henry wrote the comment to the verse by saying, “when good seed is sown, it must be tended, watered, and fenced,” and how wonderful it is to know we are being grown, nurtured and tended by Christ Himself.

The last part of the parable reminds us that Christ will do the separating at the end of the age. Again, this does not mean pastors aren’t to pursue biblical correction or even excommunication for unrepentant church members. It means that the world’s harvest will be accomplished by Jesus, since he has the power and discernment to see men’s hearts.(John 2:24).

The tares’ fate is to be thrown into the fire, and a woeful moment that will be for them, but for believers it will be an honor to watch Jesus right everything and avenge His name. (Revelation 6:10, 19:2).

Angels if you notice are God’s ministers of judgment. They often carry out the judgments God pronounces. They did at Sodom, also, it was an angel of the Lord that struck Herod down, and throughout Revelation angels execute the dread judgments, to name a few examples. And at the end of the age, they are the harvesters. Revelation 14:16 says,

So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

The five worst words in the Bible in my opinion. “…and the earth was reaped”. It demonstrates the power and might of the Lord to easily punish men. It also shows the meager and measly efforts of man to thwart Him. It is not possible. It is a terrifying verse because at some point all things will not go on as they have been. There is an end day. It will end for the tares. But it will continue in glory for the wheat!

Posted in interfaith, satan, tares, wheat

Ecumenism never works, Interfaith is not what it seems

Listen to this. This is a good story. From Ezra 4:1-5, a one act play in three parts, with application for today.

Pt 1: Question

“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.”

Pt 2: Answer

“But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Pt 3: Reaction

“Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

Note that the first verse states that these were enemies of Judah and Benjamin. Every translation uses the word enemies or adversaries. These people who showed up undoubtedly had heard the shouts of praise and weeping as recorded in the previous verse (Ezra 3:13). And no one could miss 50,000 or so people tramping back with all their families, servants and animals. Their arrival was noted. And not appreciated. What to do? What to do? Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

“Let us help you!” they said. They were all nicey-nice. They asked politely. They said that they respected the Israelites’ God. For gosh sakes, we worship Him, even sacrifice! We’re like you!

The two tribes said … drumroll please … NO.

By today’s standards, we’d say that the Israelites were being mean, impolite, “exclusive”, “intolerant”, and “haters” by refusing the offer. After all, weren’t the would-be helpers seeking? Wouldn’t it achieve a dual common goal by getting the temple finished earlier and offer the seekers the opportunity for the Jews to dazzle the pagans with their wonderful personalities before setting the bait-and-switch of … ta-DA! … sharing the knowledge of the LORD?

No it would not. First, the Jews knew that the LORD had placed it upon their hearts to do the work, He had not placed it upon the Gentiles’s hearts. Therefore they were respecting the decree of the LORD by working exclusively toward fulfilling His command. Second, they were respecting the decree of the King to be the ones who built it. And third, we knew then and we know now that there is never a common spiritual goal when pairing with Gentiles. They promote satan’s goals, we promote Jesus’s. There is between them a great gulf fixed.

Sure enough, their true colors came out. And right away too. They immediately began a multi-pronged approach to thwarting the goal of rebuilding the temple and thus of God’s work. They were doing satan’s work. It had only been a ruse in that first prong approach of joining them. When that didn’t work, right away began to bribe the officials, appeal to the king, discourage the Jews, frustrate them, and bully them. They kept this up for fifteen years. Fifteen years. As we can see by their persistence, their goal was never to help get the temple built, it was only to prevent the temple from being built.

See? Ecumenism never works. The seeker’s goals are not the same as ours, and their true colors will come out soon enough.

We can see by one of satan’s methods that he sows tares among the wheat, something undoubtedly the pagans had wanted to do. The Jews would have naturally relaxed their guard by being in daily proximity to the pagans, and satan would have started sowing the tares. Intermarriage, friendliness, social mixing or melding their different religions, pollution would have begun. Just ask Solomon how that works out.

Note I’m talking about maintaining separateness when setting out to accomplish a purpose of God, or a consecrated thing, not that we never mix with unbelievers. The fact is, though, the bible is replete with warnings not to mix holy and profane:

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

The Greek lexicon defines this unequal yoking as “used figuratively of Christians wrongly committed to a partner holding very different values (priorities), i.e. that run contrary to faith (the kingdom of God). Scripture uses symbols to teach about the importance of keeping spiritually pure. Along this line, Scripture prohibited partnering with the apistos, or the unfaithful, by evoking the picture of two different animals yoked together. Would the field get plowed if you yoked a bull and a goat together?

“…but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away…(Matthew 13:25)

Félicien Rops, Satan Sowing Seeds, pencil, c. 1872.

I’ve used this pencil drawing before recently. I like it. Why? I’m amazed at the accuracy the drawing evokes of satan’s activity and methods. It reminds me of so many different verses. The wheat and the tares is one. The verse where God asks satan where he has been and satan says he has been roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it. (Job 1:7). Another verse is good to remember here, satan is god of this world, (2 Corinthians 4:4) and he has been given power to deliver kingdoms to all he chooses (Matthew 4:8-9).

We must resist the world because satan is the god of it. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

We should not combine with unbelievers, or even with those who say they worship the same God as we do but obviously do not. Let not the political, cultural, or social desires get in the way of the biblical desire to remain dedicated to being pure and bringing glory to Jesus. Ecumenism, or interfaith, is not what it seems. This is evidenced by the immediate reaction of the rejected pagans who had asked to “help” build the temple but only wanted to allow satan to go back and forth on it, sowing tares.

Posted in end of days, end time, pre-tribulation rapture, prophecy, tares

Mystery of dying wheat in Oregon

There is an interesting story out of Oregon today:
Investigators baffled as wheat fields wither
Mysterious yellowing affects 40,000 acres of Eastern Oregon; new problem feared

“The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University are investigating the yellowing of upward of 40,000 acres of wheat in Umatilla and Morrow counties. So far, the cause is a mystery, and researchers do not know if the problems in the two counties are related. In early November, Umatilla County growers noticed wheat fields turning yellow and dying, OSU Extension soil scientist Don Wysocki said. Sixteen fields from three to 10 miles northwest of Pendleton were affected, Wysocki said. They are “more or less but not completely contiguous,” he said. Not every field in the area was affected. The area was predominately planted to soft white Clearfield variety ORCF-102, but other varieties were also affected, Wysocki said. “There’s probably more than one thing going on in these particular fields, like in any field,” he said.”

“OSU Morrow County Extension associate professor Larry Lutcher said 30,000 to 40,000 acres of wheat in his county have plants with yellow or purple tips. The discoloration spreads inward and downward on the leaf. In some cases, plants are completely desiccated and will not recover. The symptoms have been observed in many fields in the county, Lutcher said, but do not appear tied to any particular location. “Most of the symptoms in Morrow County are unlike anything I have ever seen,” Lutcher said.” [emphasis mine. more at link above]

It is interesting in light of what is going on with wheat around the world. It is interesting in light of what prophecy says about wheat. Finally, it is interesting in terms of the allegory and symbolism of harvest used so often in the bible. First, here is what is happening with wheat around the world.

1. Ug99 is a wheat rust disease that was discovered in Uganda (Ug) in 1999. The stem, black or cereal rusts are caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis and are a significant disease affecting cereal crops. An epidemic of stem rust on wheat caused by race Ug99 is currently spreading across Africa, Asia and most recently into Middle East and is causing major concern due to the large numbers of people dependent on wheat for sustenance. The strain was named after the country where it was identified (Uganda) and the year of its discovery (1999). It spread to Kenya, then Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen, and is becoming more virulent as it spreads. Scientists are working on breeding strains of wheat that are resistant to UG99. It is virulent to the great majority of wheat varieties. Unlike other rusts, which only partially affect crop yields, UG99 can bring 100% crop loss. Up to 80% yield losses were recently recorded in Kenya.

However, that genetic work seems to be failing. “Four new mutations of  Ug99, a strain of a deadly wheat pathogen known as stem rust, have overcome existing sources of genetic resistance developed to safeguard the world’s wheat crop. Leading wheat experts from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, who are in St. Petersburg, Russia for a global wheat event organized by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, said the evolving pathogen may pose an even greater threat to global wheat production than the original Ug99.” That was from Science Daily, May 2010. So the wheat is being killed all over the world and there is nothing we have yet been able to do about it.

2. The Oregon wheat failure is interesting in light of prophecy. Wheat figures into end time prophecy quite starkly. In the Seal Third Judgment (Black Horse) it is said, “When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”Wheat will be in such short supply, a person will have to spend his entire day’s wages just to get enough to feed him, never mind the family. Barely will also be in short supply. The Black Horse is famine, which will affect all the people on the earth, except the very rich.

3. The Oregon wheat failure is interesting in light of the bible’s use of harvest and reaping. One example of the judgment God brings is the following from Joel 1:10-11- “The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed…” Matthew Henry says about that verse, “Let the husbandmen and vine-dressers lament, v. 11. Let them be ashamed of the care and pains they have taken about their vineyards, for it will be all labour lost, and they shall gain no advantage by it; they shall see the fruit of their labour eaten up before their eyes, and shall not be able to save any of it. Note, Those who labour only for the meat that perishes will, sooner or later, be ashamed of their labour. The vine-dressers will then express their extreme grief by howling, when they see their vineyards stripped of leaves and fruit, and the vines withered, so that nothing is to be had or hoped for from them, wherewith they might pay their rent and maintain their families. The destruction is particularly described here: The field is laid waste (v. 10); all is consumed that is produced; the land mourns; the ground has a melancholy aspect, and looks ruefully; all the inhabitants of the land are in tears for what they have lost…”

A less direct and a more symbolic use of wheat and harvest in the bible is in Matthew 13:30 parable of the wheat and the tares. Read it in its entirely in Matthew 13:24-30. “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (v. 30; KJV) This parable represents the present and future state of the church of Christ’s gospel; His care of it, the devil’s hatred against it, the mixture there is in it of good and bad, and the separation between them in the other world.

The LORD looks at the saved sheep as wheat, at the lost sheep as tares, and judgment as harvest time. (Rev 14:14). I think that it is very interesting that the wheat died in Oregon. It is dying elsewhere due to Ug99, it is dying in OR due to who knows why, and it is dying in places like Australia and Russia because of ‘natural’ disasters like floods and heat, respectively. The wheat is dying. It is dying in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It is dying in Australia, Russia, and America. The wheat is dying, and soon and very soon, it will cost you everything to even obtain a fistful. Hunger is coming, and then the harvest. Are you ready?

I’m ready, because I know I will escape all these things. I will be raptured to Jesus when He calls us (read here) and I will be dining with Him at a wedding banquet while those who refused His offer of salvation by His grace will perish from famine on earth. If you ask Jesus to forgive your sins, and make Him LORD of your life, worthy to be obeyed and followed, you, too, will dine with the King. Or, you can choose to be harvested like chaff on the last day. As always, it is up to you.