It’s one of the most often taught New Testament lessons - the parable of the sower. Yet as Yeshua presented the parable, and as He explained it to His disciples, He was referencing the Tanakh, Isaiah Chapter 55 in particular.
Messiah used the parable to encourage and explain evangelism. He said in Mark 4:14, “The sower sows the word.” As was often the case, He was using what the Lord had already advanced in Scripture. Of course He did, He was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
Look at the connection to what God had the Prophet Isaiah write in 55:10 & 11, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;”
His word shall be like seed to the sower, as in . . . the sower sows the word. And when the word falls on good soil, it produces, by the metaphor, salvation. Going back to Mark 4, in the next several verses Jesus continues the evangelism/seed/word theme in a few other parables. In verse 21 He asks, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand?” The implication is to let our light shine, our evangelistic light based on the Word.
In verses 26-29, Yeshua helps us understand how the spiritual significance of spreading the word bears fruit. He says when a farmer plants seed, it grows, he doesn’t know how, but the crops are brought forth and are ready for the harvest. It’s like sowing the word into the lives of unbelievers. Although we don’t know how, it has the ability to bring salvation to sprout.
Then there’s the story of the mustard seed in verses 30-32. Jesus heralds that seed as tiny, yet it produces a plant with large branches. Again, linking it to the spiritual power of the word, the size of the seed sown is not as important as that it is sown at all.
Sowing seed, sowing the word, that’s the theme and connection between Isaiah 55 and the parables. Yet as we continue the passage from Isaiah, there’s a corollary clarification: “It (My word) shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah says the word accomplishes what the Lord intended, not what we think it should. Compare that to Jesus’ explanation that not all ground on which the seed falls is good (some out of the way, some stony and some thorny). The spiritual power of the seed sown (the word) is manifest in good ground.
I believe that shows us the purpose of the word is to convict us to make a decision, that we determine if we are good ground by our heart attitude. As Moses wrote of the Lord in Deuteronomy 30:19, “. . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life . . .” That is echoed by Joshua in his writings in 24:15, “ . . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . .”
Take note, Messiah didn’t instruct to sow only in good ground (like we could determine those who are good ground anyway), but essentially to scatter the seed. I personally believe sowing the word is more than just quoting Scripture, but living and explaining it. The Holy Spirit uses His Word, our words and our lifestyle in ways we can’t imagine.
Yeshua calls us to evangelism in the sower/seed parables. Isaiah helps us understand the fullness of that assignment.