Surely one of the most uplifting passages in the Bible. For those who are poor or poor in spirit, the opening words of this chapter entice the reader to buy “the richest of fare…without cost”. What an offer! Come and get the best that money can buy, but you won’t need any money.
The thread swings from an individual perspective to a national and historical perspective. This Utopia will come about because I (God) will make an everlasting covenant or agreement with you (the reader). The LORD (Yahweh) your God will give you (the Nation of Israel) such splendour that other nations you have never even heard of will want to come and see what is going on.
The thread swings again to a spiritual dimension. God says that we cannot even begin to comprehend his plan for humanity. He will freely pardon us to the extent that we will go out in joy and live in peace. The hills will be alive with the sound of music (my paraphrase), the trees will clap their limbs and fruit and flowers will replace weeds.
By this stage of the chapter, we are clearly in an analogy which is a prophecy referring to Jesus (the Lord’s renown) and the promises of God’s bounty are clearly spiritual in nature as the success of the nation of Israel has certainly not “endured forever”.
What would average Israelis have made of this 3000 years ago? We don’t know but they may have trusted God for his word that he was going to do something good.
But we know that God did send Jesus to provide a covenant for the forgiveness of sins; that this covenant and its sign (Jesus’ death) will endure forever; and that the knowledge of this free pardon does provide us with spiritual riches beyond belief. In fact we will be so blessed that we will want to burst into song to praise him. Gosh, it would be great to live like this all of the time!
We don’t know what we don’t know. Jesus first tells a parable then states that the reason for teaching in parables is that so some people will hear and not understand. He then begins to explain the parable. But what if Jesus had not explained the parable? Would we have reached the same conclusions? We don’t know.
The Bible is full of many parables as told by Jesus. Many other stories in the Bible may be parables, or they may be historical accounts or they may be both. We should be cautious about reading the words of the Bible and concluding that it is “those other people and not us” who do not understand the parables. After all, when Jesus chided them for their lack of understanding, it was his own disciples he was talking to. The very parable itself is about those who hear the word and fall away for one reason or another.
Like the 3000 year ago Israelis in Isaiah who may not have understood exactly what God was going to do through Jesus, we should not expect to know the full extent of the meaning of this parable, despite the explanation of Jesus. What is the “crop” produced from the word that falls on the good soil? And exactly what constitutes the good soil? All too easy to insert ourselves into this explanation and say that “we” are the good soil. Who are “we”? The church? Those born again? Some parts of the church? And the crop! More converts? A church of more committed and loving people? A lifestyle that demonstrates faith, hope and love?
To be a part of this parable we must first read or listen to the word otherwise there is no seed sown. To be the good soil clearly has to do with perseverance but it may be a lot more than that. And the crop? We should leave that to God because even Jesus did not explain what the crop was other than it returned 100 fold. (See the parable of the growing seed Mark 4:26 – 29).