The light and delight of truth
Feb 19, 2014
When the word truly lodges in our heart, it cannot be hidden, because it changes our lives. In the parable of the sower, those who receive the seed in good soil eventually bear fruit for all to eat.
Jesus’ explanation is not done, for then He uses a different metaphor to illustrate the results in Luke 8:16, 17,
16 Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, in order that those who come in may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that shall not become evident, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light.
Too often these verses are read as if disjointed, rather than as a continuous flow of the narrative. Mark’s account of the sower ends with this lesson as well (Mark 4:21-23). Matthew places it earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16), but the wording is different and was probably a similar lesson applied to a different context.
The lesson in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:16 is this:
16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works band glorify your Father who is in heaven.
In other words, Jesus instructs His disciples not to hide their light under the bed or in a basket, because “a city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). He goes on to link this “light” to the law itself, saying in verse 17,
17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Hence, the “light” in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is shown to be the Law and the Prophets—i.e., the word of God. Later, the parable of the sower speaks of the word being sown in various types of soil. That word is the law and prophets specifically, but these stand for the whole of the word. So Matthew’s account helps us identify Jesus’ definition of “the word” in the parables.
Getting back to Luke’s explanation of the parable of the sower, we see that those who receive the word with “an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” are pictured as lamps in a dark world. The light was meant to guide people and to overcome darkness (i.e., blindness). Jesus referred to Psalm 119:105, which says,
105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
The link between Psalm 119 and the parable of the sower is evident. Psalm 119 is all about “the word” and how the revelation of the law was such a “delight” to David. One might say that the light of delight cannot be hidden. This particular psalm is divided into 22 sections according to the Hebrew alphabet—the letters which are used to form words. Each section has eight verses, each of which begins with the letter of the Hebrew alphabet that is appropriate for its section.
Each verse in Psalm 119 makes some reference to the word, the law, the commandments, the statutes, or some other description pointing to the law. In verse 105 it is said to be a “lamp” and a “light.” David was a good example of the “good soil” in which the seed of the word was sown, and the light of the word in him was too delightful to be hidden.
The two words translated “delight” in Psalm 119 are: shashua and its root word, sha’a. It is interesting that sha’a not only meant “delight,” but also means “to be blinded.” The word is used in Isaiah 6:10,
10 Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim [sha’a, “blinded”], lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.
This is the verse that Jesus quoted to explain the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:15. It is plain, then, that Jesus had this verse in mind when he spoke this parable to people. Most of their eyes had been blinded, but the contrast is found in the few whose eyes were blessed to see (Matthew 13:16) and who, like David, delighted in the law.
This double meaning for sha’a applies prophetically as well, because when God blinds the eyes of the people, it is not forever. The same prophecy that speaks of God blinding the eyes of His people is the prophecy establishing the fact that in the end they will find God’s word to be a delight.
In this way the law of blindness is fulfilled, as stated in Exodus 21:26,
26 And if a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye.
Isaiah 6:10 tells us that God blinded the eyes of His people, and Isaiah 42:19 asks, “who is blind but My servant?” Therefore, we see that God blinded the eyes of His servant, or slave, obligating Himself in the end to set them free by the principle of the Jubilee. All of this is bound up in the single word sha’a, whose double meaning gives a dual prophecy. The blindness is for the present, but the “delight” must come in the end to all of God’s servants and slaves who have been blinded.
In a sense, when Jesus spoke of putting one’s light under a container or under the bed, he was comparing it to blindness that comes from the lack of light. No one does such a thing deliberately, of course, but the fact that Jesus spoke in parables was a deliberate act of putting the light under the bed. He spoke in parables so that the people would NOT see or understand, in order to fulfill Isaiah 6:10, as we read in Luke 8:10 and in Matthew 14, 15.
In other words, it was not yet time for the people to see the light. They were under divine judgment, and the light was being withheld from them. To some extent this judgment began with the sin of Adam, but the darkness and blindness deepened through the sin of Israel and Judah. Yet divine judgment is limited by time, as the law says in so many ways. In this case it is limited by the law of blindness, whereby a slave must be set free if his master destroys his eye.
Luke 8:18 continues,
18 Therefore take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him shall more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken from him.
This verse begins with “therefore.” It is Jesus’ conclusion to His explanation of the parable of the sower. The warning is not about what you hear, but how you hear. This is the ultimate lesson of the type of soil you represent in Jesus’ parable. When a sower finds good soil, more seed will be sown. When the sower sees thorns or rocky ground or an area where an accuser is able to steal the word from men’s hearts, the sower will not only stop sowing in that area, but he will also take back the precious seed that he has already scattered.
Insofar as the revelation of the law is concerned, many Christians have either cast it aside, or have thought it unimportant, or they have studied the traditions of men—that is, what men have understood it to say according to their carnal minds. Years ago I learned a very important lesson from personal experience that when we reject divine revelation, it creates a blindness that is very difficult to overcome. It was only by the mercy of God that I came to see that I had a problem of blindness and needed to know its source in order to overcome it. I prayed and fasted on and off for a month until God opened my eyes to see the problem so that I could repent and rectify the situation.
Israel as a nation cast aside the law of God during most of their time in Canaan. The curse for such disobedience is found in Deuteronomy 28:28 is that “the Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness.” Furthermore, they were to be cast out of the land, and Deuteronomy 28:64 says, “there you will serve other gods.” To the extent that men are blind, to that extent they will serve other gods and believe the teachings of the priests of those other gods.
We are all blind in varying degrees. Therefore, it is advantageous for us to pray daily that God would heal our blindness, open up His word to us, and give us understanding and light, so that we may shine forth as lights in the world.
After Jesus had concluded His explanation of the parable of the sower, it happened that Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived and asked to see Him. This provided an illustration to His disciples. Luke 8:19-21 says,
19 And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your bothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
There is an old saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” It means that bloodline family takes precedence over mere friends. Years ago I realized that this is only true in the world of the carnally minded ones. Many of us have relatives who have little or no fellowship with us on account of our differences in understanding the word. The revelation I received in June 1984 was that “Water is definitely thicker than blood.”
Whereas we find it difficult to fellowship over the word of God with family, God has provided us with many good friends with whom we may share the light of the word. Of course, surely Jesus showed respect for His family on that occasion and did not leave them on the outer fringes of the crowd. Nonetheless, John 7:5 tells us,
5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
Jesus’ brothers were James and Jude (i.e., Judah in Hebrew; Judas in Greek). After Jesus’ resurrection, both of them came to believe in Him, and both eventually wrote a book of the New Testament. James became the first bishop of Jerusalem after the disciples were scattered by persecution. In Acts 12 we read how Herod Agrippa killed James (the disciple, not Jesus’ brother) after he had returned from a missionary journey in Spain. Peter too was cast into prison but was freed by the angel and fled to Caesarea. Herod followed him to Caesarea but died there after someone proclaimed him to be a god.
History tells us that Herod died in 44 A.D. It was at this point that James became the head of the church in Jerusalem, having been a believer for about eleven years (since 33 A.D.). Previous to this, there was no single bishop in Jerusalem, but it appears that authority was shared with any of the apostles who were present. James was martyred on the temple grounds in 62 A.D., and his office was passed to Symeon, his cousin.
Jesus said in Luke 8:21 that those who truly heard and acted upon the word of God were His family. Faith was more important to Jesus than bloodline, as the law teaches.
This is part 39 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones