Why Does Scripture Have So Much To Say About the Heart?
By Richard Allen – September 4, 2023
Let me start this week’s blog by quoting what some believe is the last parable that Jesus delivered in Matthew Chapter 13. I believe that it is also an interpretive key to understanding all the parables:
(Jesus said to them) “Do you understand all these things?” ‘Yes,’ they said, ‘we do.’ Then He added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” (Matthew 13:51-52 NLT).
The bottom line is that the concepts we’ll study from this wonderful Parable of the Soils are not new. These truths are revealed everywhere in both the Old and New Testaments, from which I will quote freely. The fact is, Jesus tells us that the different Soils are different hearts within fallen men and women, so it’s important that we understand what Jesus meant by “the heart.” This really means we need to grasp what the Scripture has to say about the Heart. Consider one of the verses we learn from Proverbs, a verse which many of us were taught in childhood:
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23).
In the wisdom that God gave to King Solomon, he utters these words of wisdom to all of us. And this proverb makes clear that “it’s our heart” that determines the outcome of our life.” Since this is so, we certainly need to understand what Scripture means by the “Heart.” It’s this term that comes to the forefront of the Parable of the Soils. Regardless of what we believe about God’s work in Salvation, in the Parable of the Soils – it’s the Nature of the Heart (i.e. Soils) that actually determines: 1.) Our Receptivity to the Word of God, 2.) The Depth of Growth we experience in the Word, and 3.) What Things we Really Value in Life, and ultimately, 4.) What will be our Fruitfulness to God in His Kingdom.
There are many passages in Scripture which teach the importance of “the heart” in all things spiritual. Sometimes it appears that the heart is an organ that we think with: “For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). Other times the heart is clearly identified as the part of man that controls his mouth and behavior: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Here’s a brief description of the “heart” from Bible Study Toolshttps://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/heart/
"The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil."
It is this part of man to which Jesus refers, saying different soils are different “hearts” into which the Seed, that is, the Word of the Kingdom, falls. What exactly does He mean? First, it appears from the Parable of the Soils that receiving the Word of God into our heart means that we understand it’s meaning and importance, and our affections are attracted to the truths that the Word proclaims. Further, it changes our thinking, behavior and the direction of our lives. To say it simply, the Word bears “spiritual fruit” in our lives. This sets the bar fairly high as to what receiving and believing means. As we dig into this Parable of the Soils (pun intended), the first thing we see is a Sower going forth to sow, “And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (Matthew 13:4). Again, the Sower did not intentionally sow on a hardened path, rather some of the seeds fell along the path as he was sowing.
The Hard-Hearted Hearer
When the disciples asked Jesus later to explain, He tells them that:
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path” (Matthew 13:19).
Mark’s Gospel says it this way:
“The Sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: When they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them” (Mark 4:14-15).
And in Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus told this parable, He adds:
“A Sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it” Luke 8:4).
Remember, some commentators refer to the people to whom this portion of the Soil refers, as the “hard-hearted hearer.” So, taking all three Gospel accounts together, the indictment against this hard-hearted hearer is, that he doesn’t understand the Word at all (Matthew 13:19). Instead of hearing and receiving the Word of Life, it’s “trampled underfoot,” a common idiom in the Scriptures denoting that one thinks little of something, trampling it under foot. In this parable it means a total disdain for the Word of the Kingdom. Left uncovered, the “Birds of the air,” that is Satan, takes away what is sown in their hearts. This stands to reason, as the evil one is referred to as “The Prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2-4). It’s clear that in this fallen world he does have considerable power over fallen men and women. But this is where I need to be honest with my readers. Left to ourselves, the entirety of Mankind has trampled God’s Word underfoot and we think it’s foolishness. Paul tells the Athenians that in this Gospel Age, “God now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). But the first response from fallen men and women when confronted with God’s command to repent and believe is: “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” (Exodus 5:2).
Let me emphatically state that Scripture makes it abundantly clear: “ALL OF US IN OUR FALLEN STATE ARE HARD-HEARTED HEARERS!” Here’s just a sampling from Scripture:
“The Heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know if?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.” (Romans 8:7)
“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’ ” (Romans 3:10-11).
So the first big take-away from the Parable of the Soils is, that ALL MEN WHO HAVE DESCENDED FROM ADAM AND EVE have no capacity to “hear and understand” the Word of God. Moreover, “we lack any desire to believe and obey His Word!” This is a pretty strong indictment against mankind. And what Paul says about our natural condition before God, is spot on. Here is a pretty good description of what the “Hard-Hearted-Hearer” looks like:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved and raised us up with Him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Notice the similarities between Paul’s instruction to the Church at Ephesus and Jesus’ own words in the Parable of the Soils: 1.) The “Prince of the Power of the Air” (Satan) is at work in the sons and daughters of disobedience, 2.) We are considered “dead,” not sick or weak, but DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS! 3.) And while we are saved through Faith, Faith itself is a “gift of God” and not a work that we initiate – IT COMES FROM GOD! 4.) First, God had to make us alive in Christ by raising us up and seating us in heavenly places. In closing, let me say that in order for us to believe, God had to give us a new heart, one made not of stone but of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). In the New Testament the Apostles of our Lord explain this phenomenon over and over again: God performing surgery on our hearts, writing His Law on our hearts by His very Spirit. Remember, Paul had just explained in Ephesians Chapter 1, in order to bring His Children who were “dead in trespasses and sins” to faith, God used the same power on them that He used to raise Jesus from the dead! Any way you see it, that is a consequential act (Ephesians 1:18-20).
“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:18-20).
The Sower did his best to avoid dropping precious seed on a hardened path for good reason, it was not Fertile Ground in its Natural State, it needed preparation! No wonder Solomon said that our hearts “determine the course of our lives!” Our hearts are the real person, with all of our strengths and weaknesses included. And a real experience of the Grace of God will bring about major changes to our whole being!
Soli Deo Gloria!