Lessons From The Garden

 

Introduction

Preparing the soil

Fallow Ground

Tilling and Planting

Planting the Seed

Germination and the nature of seeds

Sunshine

Watering

Weeds

Pests and Insects

Fertilizer

Pruning

Harvesting

 

Conclusion

 

Introduction

 

The garden is God’s place where we fulfill His calling.  Man was created in the beginning, and placed in the garden.  His first encounter with God took place there, and, unfortunately, sin began in the garden.  God cursed the ground because of man’s sin in the garden, but He also gave hope and a divine promise for restoration in the garden.

 

The garden’s prominence did not begin and end in Eden.  Nearly 4000 years after man’s first transgression of the holy commandment, Jesus the Christ knelt in the garden of Gethsemane, agonizing, over the will of his Father in heaven and declaring with droplets of blood on his forehead, “Father, nevertheless, not my will, but Thine.”

 

The garden can be a place of hope, of decision, and as Jesus found out, a place of betrayal.  The garden has both good and bad in it; in the garden is evil and righteousness.  In the garden is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and also the tree of life.

 

Many Americans and folks across the globe love to plant, grow, and tend the garden.  In this study a common love for God’s creation in the rich and productive soil of their gardens is looked at from a natural and spiritual perspective.  It is an adventure in your own back yard and Christian life with the lessons learned from composting, planting, pruning, harvesting, and yes, even weeding!

 

Our prayer together for you is that the Creator will enrich your life as He has ours.  Step-by-step we can learn something from all phases of gardening, through the preparation of humus, the nurturing of garden soil, choosing the right kind(s) of seed for both ground and raised gardens, including proper drainage. 

 

What does the Lord teach us from His word, the scriptures, in each phase of gardening?  You will see that each weed represents those areas in our lives that must not be allowed to “take root” and, for example, like bitterness, be allowed to grow unchecked.

 

We are called together with the Lord Jesus Christ to work diligently in the harvest field of souls each year, living and loving God’s creation, and nurturing individual crops by listening to and obeying the word of God as we get our gloves dirty.  Many things, even slugs, snails, grasshoppers and aphids teach us lessons from the garden.

 

There is a two-fold purpose in writing this study.  First, to share the joy of gardening, and to make it something you can identify with as you plant and water your own garden.  Sharing insights and helpful gardening tips, including how to compost, how to build and maintain a raised garden, soil preparation, planting techniques, and even weeding tips help build upon our understanding of God’s agrarian church.

 

You will go on an adventure that takes you from seed to harvest, and secondly, but most important, learn that each labor of love in the garden has a spiritual counterpart…a lesson…a ‘Lesson In The Garden!’  So sit back, pour yourself a cup of hot tea, or hot chocolate, snuggle in front of the fire, and let the Lord Jesus use this humble work to teach you His marvelous and simple ways.

 

Have you ever raised a vegetable garden?  Every Spring I prepare my small vegetable garden for planting, and raise a variety of vegetables.  I plant carrots, lettuce, summer squash, zucchini squash, cucumbers, rhubarb and potatoes.  I was never too successful with tomatoes...not enough sun.  There are many spiritual lessons to be learned from working in the garden.  Each year, as I work in my garden, numerous truths from scripture come to mind.  So, as we embark on a journey together in the garden, let’s see what we can learn from God’s word.

 

Before starting, consider how much emphasis God puts on agriculture in the scriptures.  Here are a few examples:

 

1.  From the beginning of creation, God created the earth to bear seed and fruit:

 

Genesis 1:11-13

Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, {and} fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth”; and it was so.  And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.  (NAS)

 

From the beginning of our new life in Jesus Christ, God intended us to be as plants that yield seed, and bear fruit after our “kind.”  That is, we are to bear the fruit of the Spirit of God, and we are to mature as plants that yield the “seed” of God’s word.  Of course, “seed” can speak of the nature of the man Jesus Christ, who was planted in God’s garden.   Through Christ’s death and burial, God brought new life forth in us through his resurrection.  Except the seed (Christ) goes into the ground (tomb) and dies, it cannot bear fruit of itself (John 12:24).

 

2.  God’s plan for communing with mankind began in a garden:

 

Genesis 2:8-9

And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.  And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  (NAS)

 

God had created man (Adam) in His own image and likeness, so that man could have fellowship with Him.  Just as the gardener plants his seed, that he might nurture and tend the plants to bear fruit, so God made man in the garden, so that He might nurture man with His love and truth. 

 

God planted the “tree of life” in the garden of Eden to represent the place where man could come to commune with Him.  Later the “tree of life” in Eden’s garden symbolized the eternal life given to us as the “fruit” of Jesus, who bore our sins in His body upon a tree (the cross). 

 

Just like there are good and fruitful plants in a garden, so there are also harmful plants (weeds and thorns), which can choke out the plants.  There was also the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” that which man could choose as an alternative to communion with God.  The weeds are things like greed and the cares of life that choke out the spiritual life and our growth as believers.  The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” represents a toxic and noxious plant, and, as such, is what man partakes of when he lives by his own human reasoning instead of living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

 

3.  Temptation and sin began in a garden:

 

Genesis 3:1-13

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field, which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’”  And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make {one} wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”  And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  And the man said, “The woman whom Thou gavest {to be} with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate."”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”   (NAS)

 

A gardener, who is not careful to tend his or her garden, can allow harmful weeds, and even poisonous plants to grow amongst the good vegetation.  The tree of life is like the good vegetation; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents poisonous plants, which result in sickness and death. 

 

The serpent tempted Eve to partake of that which would bring forth death, while promising her that it would make her “wise” like God.  Satan deceived her, appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16). 

 

When we try to use our own reasoning, rather than being obedient to what God commands us, we become deceived.  Watch out!  There may be a snake in the garden of your heart!  If we choose our own knowledge of what we think is “good” or “evil” rather than seeking the mind of Christ, it brings forth death (Romans 6:23).

 

4.  Redemption began in a garden (Gethsemane):

 

Genesis 3:14-15

And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”  (NAS)

 

Matthew 26:36-39

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.  Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  (NKJ)

 

John 19:41

Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.  (NAS)

 

Even though Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and listened to the voice of the serpent, the LORD promised them there would come a plan for redemption.  In Genesis 3:13-14 God said the “seed” of the woman would “bruise” (Literally “crush”) the head of the serpent.  The MASTER GARDENER, who is God Himself, planted a perfect “seed” (Jesus) in the garden of humanity (Galatians 3:16, 19).  Jesus came, not only to redeem mankind from sin, but also to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  Jesus crushed the head (authority) of the serpent, for all who will believe in His name. 

 

After planting His holy “seed” in the womb (uterus) of the virgin Mary, there came forth from the earth of humanity (Mary) the fruit (Jesus) of the Spirit of God (the Master Gardener).  Jesus grew up as a “tender shoot” and was made like his brethren in all aspects (Read Isaiah Chapter 53 with Hebrews 2:16-18).

 

Isaiah 53:2

For [the Servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground…    AMP

 

Jesus “grew” in wisdom and stature, and in favor with both God and man (Luke 2:52).  As he matured, Jesus bore the fruits of righteousness, love, mercy and compassion.  In the garden of Gethsemane the seed of redemption was planted, as Jesus chose not His own will, but the will of God (Matthew 26:36-42).  Jesus chose to die, that having tasted death, He might become the source of eternal life for all who believe in Him.

 

Hebrews 2:9

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  (NKJ)

 

Finally, in the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden with a tomb, and that is where God’s seed (Jesus) was planted (buried).  Other references for Jesus’ body being planted in death are found in Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56.

 

John 19:40-42

And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.  Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.  Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.   NAS

 

When Jesus was raised from the dead, new life sprouted in God’s garden, offering hope to all who are seed “after it’s kind” (i.e. - that are followers of, and believers in Jesus).  Read Matthew 28: 1-11; Mark 16:1-8; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 Peter 1:23; James 3:18.

 

5.  The kingdom of heaven is compared to a garden:

 

Matthew 13:31-32

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all {other} seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”  (NAS)

 

The kingdom of heaven is likened to a mustard seed.  Just like a man sows seed in a field, so Jesus sowed himself into the ground of God’s garden.  He likens the mustard seed that is the smallest of seeds to Him, because Jesus made Himself the least, that He could be exalted to the position of the greatest of all plants (Philippians 2:8-10).

 

So many analogies of gardening, farming, and vegetation exist in scripture, that it is literally impossible to list every example without quoting a great percentage of the Bible itself!  Next, we will look at the steps of gardening.  We will begin with preparing the soil, fertilizing, planting, watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting.  In each category, you will see a simple, yet very ‘truth yielding’ crop of ideas found only in the...garden of God.

 

2 Corinthians 9:8-10

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have abundance for every good deed; as it is written, "He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever."  Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.    NAS

Preparing the soil

 

Perhaps the most important ingredient of growing a garden is the proper preparation of the soil.  Those who are new to gardening often fail to recognize this vital step, and so their gardens yield small, unripe, diseased, and unappealing vegetables.  Soil speaks of the ground of our heart.  Unless we prepare our hearts properly for what God wants to plant inside of us, we will not yield good fruit.  If the soil of our heart is not “fertile” it will not receive what God plants in obedient growth.

 

Ezekiel 17:5,8

“He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil.  He placed {it} beside abundant waters; he set it {like} a willow...It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit, {and} become a splendid vine.”  (NAS)

 

2 Chronicles 26:10

{He also had} plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil.  (NAS)

 

The Lord loves the soil of a heart that is fertile, and ready to receive the implanted word of God.  Fertile soil is that kind of heart which is both humble, and responsive (obedient).  We must also be as plowmen, who are willing to break up the hardened ground of our hearts.  Ground can become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and so we must pray and ask that God put the sharp blade of His plow into these areas of our life (Hebrews 3:12-13).  Also, we must encourage one another in these areas, as good vinedressers.

 

James 1:21-22

Therefore putting aside all filthiness and {all} that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  (NAS)

Fallow Ground

 

The ground must lay fallow for a season to enable it to produce a crop.  When treating fallow soil, it is important to till mulch (decomposed organic material) into it to enrich it.  Proper mulching requires that the organic material be regularly turned.  This allows the old material to decompose, and become a rich, dark material, from which the roots of the plants can obtain the necessary nutrients.  This tilling of decomposed organic material represents us dying to the things of the world, and allowing God to make our weaknesses into our strengths.  Wisdom is the nutrient of healthy soil, learning from our mistakes.

 

We need to be constantly tilling the soil of our hearts, particularly in the cold seasons of our lives.  Winter and Fall Seasons are the times of year when soil lays fallow, and winter speaks of those difficult times in our lives.  It is when we are in a season of spiritual barrenness, when trials come, that we must till up the mulch in our hearts.  All that old, rotten material must be thoroughly turned over, so that God can decompose it, and cause it to be transformed into something that will enrich our hearts to receive His word.

 

Hosea 10:12-13

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors.  (NAS)

 

We can see from this scripture that God wants us to plow our soiled hearts so that He can rain righteousness on us.  The rains and snow of winter, fall, and spring all contribute to adding certain trace minerals back into the garden soil.  So also, God’s Spirit is the only source of righteousness for us...given freely through the shed blood of His son Jesus Christ.  If we plow improperly (wickedness), we will reap injustice.

 

Jeremiah 4:3

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.”  (NAS)

 

It is also important WHERE we plow our soil.  In the Northwest where I am from, the thorny blackberry plants and other thorny vines are prolific.  These hearty plants are able to grow in just about any kind of soil.  Any good gardener will tell you that it is a mistake to grow your garden amongst the thorns, for they will overgrow your garden plants, and choke out any fruit producing ability.   I have seen blackberry vines overgrow an entire acre of land in just a few seasons of growth, unless the roots are pulled out.  You can hack it down, but if the roots remain, it will just grow back.  These thorny plants represent the kind of things we allow to reside in our hearts...cares of life, greed, and bitterness:

 

Hebrews 12:15

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.  (NAS)

 

Thorns speak of weed-like plants, which are good for nothing except being uprooted, and thrown into the burn pile.  We live in the country, where most people with land have burn piles when they are allowed to burn brush.  God will burn up all of the things in our life that are not eternal and lasting.  Christians spend far too much of their time pursuing careers, riches, and all the “things” of life which will make them at ease, giving very little consideration to their eternal destiny.  Bitterness comes from unforgiveness, and holding a grudge against those who have wronged us.  We must keep the soil of our hearts tenderhearted, and kind, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

 

John 15:6

“If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”  (NAS)

 

Jesus spoke of different types of soil upon which the word of God is sown.  Thorny soil is the kind that represented the cares of life, the desire for riches, and things like these.  As you read these verses, let them apply to your life; consider what thorns may need uprooting from your garden:

 

Matthew 13:3

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow...” (NAS)

 

Matthew 13:7

“And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.”  (NAS)

 

Luke 8:14

“And the {seed} which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of {this} life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”  (NAS)

 

Mark 4:18-19

“And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”  (NAS)

 

Tilling and Planting

 

Isaiah 28:23-26

Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my words.  Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he {continually} turn and harrow the ground?  Does he not level its surface, and sow dill and scatter cummin, and plant wheat in rows, barley in its place, and rye within its area?  For his God instructs and teaches him properly.  (NAS)

 

Not only is it important not to plant in soil that is not inundated with thorns, but also to wisely choose soil that has the right essentials.  I use a topsoil mixture, because it includes sand, clay, sandy loam (screened), ash, and peat moss.  The right soil must also have the right depth, and proper drainage.  If we allow God to work in us, He will provide the proper mixture of spiritual elements that will bring forth good fruit.  Just like the experienced gardener or farmer instructs those who are new to agriculture, God instructs and teaches His children properly.  If we rely upon Him, He will show us how to prepare the ground of our heart so that the seed of His word can be planted to yield a crop of righteousness.

 

Mark 4:26

"The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil.”  NASU

 

God makes topsoil in the hearts of those who allow Him to work in them.  He adds sand to filter out the fungus of sin, and clay to hold the soil together and give it consistency.  In fact, ironically, man was first formed from the earth itself:

 

Genesis 2:7

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  (NAS)

 

Soil is symbolic of mankind in general, and also of man’s heart.  Adam was the first man made by God.  Adam means, “ruddy” or earth-like.  There are all types of soil, but only the finest, and richest soil will produce fruit.  Only God can put together the right elements in our hearts to bring forth what we want.  And yet, God commands us to develop the condition of our own heart’s soil as well:

 

Matthew 13:8-9

“And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  He who has ears let him hear.”  (NAS)

 

Matthew 13:23

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”  (NAS)

 

Mark 4:8-9

“And other {seeds} fell into the good soil and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”  And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  (NAS)

 

Luke 8:15

“And the {seed} in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”  (NAS)

 

There are some key elements in what God considers to be good soil:

 

He who has ears to hear, let him hear...this is the man who hears the word and understands it...as they grew up and increased...these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance

 

Ears to hear, and to understand.  A good gardener has understanding and knows what it takes to bear fruit.  We must have intimacy with God, and with Jesus to understand His will, His plan, and to follow it.  Jesus said that whoever is willing to DO His will, will understand His word (John 7:17; 8:31-32).

 

They grew up and increased.  Here Jesus likens us to the manner in which crops grow.  They start off as tiny offshoots, but they continue to grow, and mature.  God is looking for those who will increase, who will bear fruit, who will mature in their relationship with God and man.  Maturity is allowing God to complete, or perfect us (Romans 12:2; Philippians 3:12-16; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:14).

 

Lastly, those with hearts of good soil must hear what God says with an “honest and good heart” and hold fast to what they know God has commanded them to do.  Jesus said if we love him, we would keep his commands.  Good soil, enriched with mulch, tilled, and properly prepared, enables the seeds to hold fast to it.  Good soil allows the word of God to hold fast to it, to sink its roots deep, so that the plant can bear fruit with perseverance.  Jesus told the Philadelphia church, his end-time bride, that they must hold fast the word of His perseverance:

 

Revelation 3:10

‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that {hour} which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.’  (NAS)

Planting the Seed

 

When gardening, and planting from seed, it takes experience to know the exact depth in which to put the seed.  The number one reason that seeds fail to germinate is because they are planted either too deep, or too shallow.  If they are planted to shallow, they won’t have enough moisture to soften the hard outer shell.  And if they are too shallow, the birds of the air can easily find them as they are exposed by heavy rainfall and wind:

 

Luke 8:5

“The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road; and it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the air ate it up.”  (NAS)

 

Luke 8:11-12

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.  And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved.”  (NAS)

 

Sometimes when I am about to plant seeds in my garden, a few will accidentally fall on the untilled ground around the garden.  The next day, I will look out my window to see birds pecking the ground, and gobbling up the wasted seed.  Oftentimes, we can become careless with the word of God.  We take for granted what the Lord has been saying to us, or what we know from scripture.  Through carelessness, the devil is able to come (like the birds) and snatch up the precious seed of God’s truth before it can germinate in our hearts.  This is what happens so often with unbelievers, who, having heard the gospel, let it fall by the wayside, where Lucifer sends his demons to rob them of salvation.

 

Another aspect of planting seed is the quality of the seed.  Sometimes I have purchased vegetable seeds that were on sale (always looking for a bargain).  But oftentimes, what seems to be a bargain is actually old, outdated seed.  It is seed that has gotten so old and dry, it cannot germinate.  This is like some teaching that comes from churches which is old, stale, and man-made tradition.  Or it is like sin, which the devil makes it “seem” like it’s a bargain.  Sin is never a good deal; it only leads to death; no life can come from the seed that has been spoiled by sin.  It will never germinate in men’s hearts and bring forth fruit, because it has become worthless.

 

Matthew 13:19

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is the seed sown along the path.”

(From New International Version)

 

So, what is good seed?  How can you tell which seeds are ones that will go in the ground and die, and bring forth life?  To understand this mystery, one needs look no further than Jesus himself.  Jesus was the seed planted by God; God’s seed was the choicest seed of all, and the seed (Christ) died that he might bring forth new life.  After Jesus was buried, he was raised from the dead.  Jesus is the healthy seed that brings forth new life, and bears fruit:

 

John 12:23-26

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also.  If anyone serves me, him my Father will honor.”  (NKJ)

 

Jesus did not love his own life; he was fully surrendered to do God’s will.  Jesus said that those who want to follow him must follow his example.  To be a healthy seed like Jesus requires that we hate our life in this world.  Whatever we do, must be done with an eternal perspective in mind. 

 

It was foretold by God from the beginning the seed of the woman would be the one who would crush the head of the serpent (Satan) for what he had done in tempting man to sin, and break fellowship with God.  Jesus became that good seed through his perseverance, and the honest relationship he had with God. 

 

Jesus was that “grain of wheat” which fell into the ground, and died (through crucifixion).  Having died, Jesus became the source of life giving salvation to all who trust in, and rely upon him.  Through his death and resurrection, he produced much grain (the body of Christ; his disciples).  Indeed, Jesus was the “seed of the woman” prophesied about in Genesis chapter three:

 

Genesis 3:14-15

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!  You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  (NIV)

 

Germination and the nature of seeds

 

It is truly a marvelous process of germination that God has created. During germination, water diffuses through the seed coats into the embryo, which has been almost completely dry during a period of dormancy.  The water causes a swelling of the seed; the swelling is often so great that the seed coat is ruptured.  Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God, and prepared for death and burial.  This swelling of the seed of God and Mary began with Jesus in the garden, when, as he agonized over the death he was about to face, Jesus sweat great drops of blood:

 

Luke 22:44

And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.  (NAS)

 

When Jesus hung upon the tree, his heart became so overwhelmed by the weight of sin, that it burst, mingling blood and water, which poured from his side when he was pierced by the Roman spear:

 

John 19:33-35

But coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.  And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.  (NAS)

 

The blood was shed for our redemption.  Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.  Without the remission of sin, there can be no spiritual or eternal life.  The shell of the seed in vegetation can symbolize the fleshly body of Jesus; his skin, veins, and arteries burst from the rugged nails that held him to the cross:

 

Hebrews 9:22

And according to the Law, {one may} almost {say}  all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  (NAS)

 

When Jesus died, his heart burst from the extremes of human agony, and bearing the guilt of the sins of the world.  When his heart burst, water and blood mingled within the cavity of his heart.  The soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, and out flowed water and blood together. The blood was for our atonement, and water for our cleansing from sin.  The water that poured from Jesus’ side represents baptism by immersion, for the remission of sin.  The water and the blood testify, and bear witness with God’s Spirit and ours:

 

I John 5:7-12

And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.  If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son.  The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.  And the witness is this that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  (NAS)

 

In the germination process of a seed, there is absorption of oxygen by the seed, giving it energy for growth.  Jesus said that wind and air (where oxygen is found) is like the Spirit of God (John 3:8).  Just like the outer part of the seed dies, and oxygen gives life to the inner seed, so too, Jesus died, but was given life when God’s Spirit raised him from the dead.  Jesus is the seed of God that brings forth new life for us as well. Through faith in him, we receive the same life of God’s Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:10-11).

 

Galatians 3:13-16, 29

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.  Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life.  Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ…If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (From New International Version)

 

Sunshine

 

Any experienced gardener will tell you that sunshine is essential for the growth of plants.  The sunshine warms the earth, so that the seeds can be softened by moist soil, and then it germinates.  Sunshine plays an important role in the growth cycle of plants.  Germination does not take place unless the seed has been transported to a favorable environment where there is adequate water, oxygen, and a suitable temperature.  Differing species of plants germinate best in different temperatures; as a rule extremely cold or extremely warm temperatures do not favor the germination of seeds.  Some seeds require adequate exposure to light before germinating.

 

The scripture says that God is light (1 John 1:5), and there is no darkness in Him.  God is our sunshine, He is the one whose light causes the seed of His word to germinate in our hearts, come to life from our dormancy, and bring upward growth of the planting.  Without the light of God’s revelation, the seed (word) is lifeless, dead, and unable to become alive in us.

 

2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as {coming} from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate {as} servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  (NAS)

 

John 6:63

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”  (NAS)

 

Zechariah 4:6

Then he answered and said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  (NAS)

 

Sunlight can bring life and growth to plants, or it can result in the death of a plant.  If the sun becomes too hot, or there is inadequate moisture for the plants during a hot season, the plants will wither and die. 

 

It is possible to plant seeds to deep in the soil that they cannot germinate and reach the soil surface where the warmth of the sunshine helps germination.  Seeds can also be planted too shallow, so that when the sun shines upon the tender seedlings, they don’t have enough root to withstand the heat.  This speaks of those who have not allowed the word of God to be properly planted in their heart.  They have not counted the costs of walking with God, so that when trials and temptation come, they wither in the sunlight of God:

 

Luke 8:6, 13

“And other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture...And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.”  (NAS)

 

Mark 4:5-6, 16-17

“And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.  And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away...And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.”  (NAS)

 

I am always so disappointed when a little plant withers and dies.  All the time that goes into preparing the soil, and planting the seed makes you become attached to these little guys.  How the Lord must be so hurt and disappointed when we don’t allow His word to go deep in our hearts, and we fall away from the source of His light and life.  God loves us, and He does want anyone of us to perish:

 

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  (NAS)

 

2 Samuel 23:3-6

The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning {when} the sun rises, a morning without clouds, {when} the tender grass {springs} out of the earth, through sunshine after rain.’  Truly is not my house so with God?  For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and secured; for all my salvation and all {my} desire, will He not indeed make {it} grow?  But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns, because they cannot be taken in hand.  (NAS)

 

Sunshine is also needed for the bearing of fruit.  Without adequate sunshine, the plants will not grow blossoms, and without blossoms, the plant cannot bear fruit or vegetables.  I am always amazed at how quickly plants grow in my garden when there is plenty of sunshine.  As long as I am faithful to water the plants, God’s sunshine does the rest.  How amazing!  We simply plant the seed (symbolic of the word of God), and God’s light causes it to grow.

 

Matthew 6:28-29

“And why are you anxious about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.”  (NAS)

 

This is a good lesson for us as believers.  We need to simply look to God, His word and His Spirit, cease from our own striving, and allow Him to mature us.

Watering

 

Water is the most important thing we have been given by God to support our life system.  We can go many days without food and live, but without water, we will be dead in a few short days.  Water is a key element in growing a garden.  Both seeds and plants need adequate moisture to grow.  Seeds cannot germinate unless their hard outer shells are softened by the moist soil.  So too, our hearts can become hardened without having communion with the Spirit of God.  Jesus promised that when we receive the Holy Spirit, it would like rivers of living water:

 

John 7:38

“He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  (NKJ)

 

Rainwater is the best way to water a garden (and it keeps your water bill down too!).  God, in His infinite wisdom, knows how to send rain in proper proportion to each stage of growth for the plants.  One must be faithful to properly prepare the garden, so that the rain God sends will be beneficial to the plants.  For example, with plants such as squash and cucumbers, I have found that it is best to plant the seed on a small mound, encircled by a round trough to keep the moisture in.

 

When we are obedient to God, loving Him with all of our hearts, and preparing ourselves by serving Him in obedience, making the soil of our heart ready, God sends the rain of His Spirit in it’s seasons.  By preparing the soil of our hearts through active and daily prayer, like my water troughs, our hearts are both receptive to receiving God’s spirit when He pours down on us, and we are able to contain more of what He sends.

 

Deuteronomy 11:13-14

“And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.”  (NAS)

 

Without water, plants will die.  Once I forgot to water my garden during a particular hot part of the summer season.  When I finally went to water the plants, most were drooping and fatigued.  This reminds me of when we go without prayer and fellowship with other believers.  It is like the saying, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.”  Also, sin and disobedience takes us out of fellowship with God’s Spirit, and He withholds Himself so that we might hunger and thirst after righteousness again:

 

Amos 4:7

“And furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while {there were} still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on, while the part not rained on would dry up.  (NAS)

 

God is no respecter of persons.  He may pour out His Spirit on one person, or group of persons, and yet withhold Himself from others.  It is not because He is cruel, but because He loves us.  Those whom the LORD loves, He chastises, and disciplines (Hebrews 12:6).  Have you ever had a dry season, where you couldn’t sense or feel the presence of God?  It makes you feel spiritually droopy doesn’t it?  But when God sends the refreshing waters of His Spirit raining down, we are revived!!

 

Isaiah 55:9-11

“For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding {in the matter} for which I sent it.  (NAS)

 

Hosea 6:3

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.  His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”  (NAS)

 

Hebrews 6:7-8

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.  (NAS)

 

What will you do?  Will you keep your garden watered with prayer and communion with God?  Will you be satisfied with a droopy spirit, or press on to know the Lord?  It is a matter of life or death, for no one can live without the rain of the Holy Spirit.

Weeds

 

Genesis 3:17-19

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  (NIV)

 

From the very beginning, weeds have been a symbol of mankind’s disobedience to God.  God had made the garden to be cultivated, but after the curse, man would have to work to remove thorns and thistles from the fruit bearing vegetation.  What a bummer!  Have you ever had to pull weeds?  Weeds are the most prolific of all vegetation.  It has been said, “Weeds never sleep.”  Weeds are like sin.  They don’t take any nurturing or care to grow.  They will overtake us unless their roots are yanked.  The root is the cause of the sin.

 

Every year, I clear the weeds from the soil in my garden.  How nice the dark, rich soil looks without the presence of weeds.  And yet I know that within a matter of a few short weeks, the weeds will be back.  When I plant my vegetable seeds, and water them faithfully each day, the tiny seedlings eventually pop up out of the ground.  But guess what?  Right alongside the precious vegetable seedlings there are tiny weed sprouts.

 

It is difficult to tell the difference between some weeds and the good plants.  For example, carrots seedlings look almost identical to small grass-like weeds when they first sprout.  If I try to pull the weeds when they are young, I risk pulling up the carrot seedlings.  As much as I want to weed right away to keep things under control, I must wait.  There are small weeds that grow in our hearts, and we are unaware of them until they become large enough to see.  If God showed us all of the weak areas in our lives when they were too small to see, we would perhaps pluck up the good seed of what God is trying to do.  He knows how and when to open our eyes to the weeds in the garden.

 

Even while I sleep at night, the wind and other elements spread weed seeds in the garden.  Like sin, weeds can creep into our lives when we are unaware of it.

 

Matthew 13:24-30

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away.  But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.  And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have tares?’  And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’  And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them.  Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”  (NAS)

 

 

Jesus taught we must be careful when trying to distinguish between good and bad in the garden.  The devil is clever, and he will sow those persons into the body of Christ who are destructive...malicious gossips, greedy, promiscuous, selfish, argumentative, false prophets, dishonest, manipulators, ambitious etc..  He likens true believers to wheat, and those who are not to tares (weeds).  As we see the interaction between the true and false, and give it time, the nature of the tare will be revealed.

 

Hosea 10:3-4

Surely now they will say, “We have no king, for we do not revere the LORD.  As for the king, what can he do for us?”  They speak {mere} words, with worthless oaths they make covenants; and judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.  (NAS)

 

Again, weeds are compared to sin.  God’s judgment for sin is like weeds that sprout amongst the furrows of a farmer’s crop.  His judgment comes because men’s words are worthless.  They make oaths, and then don’t keep them.  God wants honest people.  Often ministers and pastors are like the “kings” mentioned in the text above, whose judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field of the kingdom of God.

Jeremiah 12:9-10

"Is My inheritance like a speckled bird of prey to Me?  Are the birds of prey against her on every side?  Go, gather all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour!  Many shepherds have ruined My vineyard, they have trampled down My field; they have made My pleasant field a desolate wilderness. NAS

 

Pests and Insects

 

Insects and pests are the gardener’s number one enemy.  Here in the Northwest, we have slugs.  Long, slimy, ugly looking little creatures (like snails out of their shell) that do all their damage to the crops at night.  They work like the devil does, in the cover of darkness.  They hide by day in the shadow of the leafy plants, in places that are damp and dank. 

 

Also, once the plants begin to mature, one has to watch out for birds, which will peck away at the fruit of your labors.  Birds are compared to demons, which nest in the branches of our lives, waiting to devour whatever fruit of the Spirit we can grow to maturation.  Oftentimes, I will find raspberries, plums, and other fruit half pecked, and left to rot by these pests.

 

Matthew 13:31-33

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all {other} seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”  He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.”  (NAS)

 

Isaiah 18:4-6

For thus the LORD has told me, “I will look from My dwelling place quietly like dazzling heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.  For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms and the flower becomes a ripening grape, then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives and remove {and} cut away the spreading branches.  They will be left together for mountain birds of prey, and for the beasts of the earth; and the birds of prey will spend the summer {feeding} on them, and all the beasts of the earth will spend harvest time on them.”  (NAS)

 

2 Chronicles 7:13-14

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.   NAS

 

From the verses above, we can see birds of prey, and other pests represent the judgment of God.  Pharaoh found this out when he refused to listen to Moses to let the children of Israel go from their captivity.

 

Exodus 10:14-15

And the locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; {they were} very numerous. There had never been so {many} locusts, nor would there be so {many} again.  For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt.  (NAS)

 

When I first plant my seeds, and the seedlings sprout, I take protective measures against the slugs.  Slugs and snails will devour all tender shoots of the new seedlings if left unchecked.  I use a product called Slug Bait, which is like sawdust with a poison that will kill the slugs when they crawl over the soil it is spread on.  This same slug poison won’t harm the good vegetables.  I liken slug bait to the word of God.  If we surround the good plants in our hearts with the protection of the word of God, the slimy creatures the devil sends our way will not destroy the work that God has done in us.

 

We must be like gardeners in our lives and walk with God.  We must look ahead, and realize that we have an enemy named Satan who seeks to devour us as we walk steadfast in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9).

 

Fertilizer

 

Fertilizer is like food to the plants.  Without food the plants become weak, sickly, and will even die.  We are like plants.  We need food too.  Jesus called himself the “bread of heaven.”  If we feed on Jesus, by doing his commands, then our lives will be like healthy, fruit bearing plants.  If we are self-seeking, and disobedient, then our lives become unproductive, and we can even lose our salvation.  We must ask God to feed us with whatever is needful for us to serve Him in righteousness, in order that we grow in the knowledge of our Redeemer.

 

Proverbs 30:8-9

Remove far from me falsehood and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”  Or lest I be poor and steal, and so profane the name of my God. [Deuteronomy 8:12,14,17; Nehemiah 9:25,26; Job 31:24; Hosea 13:6.]  Amplified Bible

 

One of my favorite products for fertilization is called Miracle-Gro.  This product is mixed with water and sprinkled on and around the plants every two week.  It is a systemic fertilizer, and will be absorbed by the leaves of the plant, as well as nourishing the plant roots from the soil.

 

God’s word is like Miracle-Gro.  When we pray, and hear, and obey the word of God, it is like mixing the Lord’s commands with the power of His Spirit.  This is a winning combination for bearing fruit, and for making us healthy plants.

 

It is the responsibility of the shepherds of God’s people to feed them, just like the gardener does his plants.  God is going to restore true shepherds to His people that they might grow into a healthy crop, mature and bearing the fruits of His spirit.

 

Ezekiel 34:2-4

"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.  Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves!  Should not the shepherds feed the flock?  You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.”  NASU

 

Jeremiah 3:15-16

"Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.  It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land," declares the LORD…”   NASU

 

Jesus told a parable of a fig tree in a vineyard (representing Israel, but applicable to us as well).   The fig tree did not bear fruit, just as Israel (as a nation) did not bear the fruit of repentance when their Messiah came.  Though Jesus tried to fertilize Israel with the truth, yet after awhile, their unbelief caused them to be cut off.  If we won’t bear fruit in our lives, the fruit of the Spirit, we can be cut off from the life of God.  We can lose our salvation, and backslide.  If we have become unfruitful in this way, only through repentance, and God’s forgiveness, can we be revived as a healthy plant in His vineyard.

 

Luke 13:6-9

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’  ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine!  If not, then cut it down.’”  (NIV)

 

What is the best food that we, as followers of Jesus, can use to nourish God’s plantings in our hearts?  The same food Jesus partook of!  Doing the will of God!  How can we know the will of God?  It is revealed by His spirit, through His word, and when we listen to the counsel of His only begotten son Jesus!

 

John 4:31-34

In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”  But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  The disciples therefore were saying to one another, “No one brought Him {anything} to eat, did he?”  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”  (NAS)

 

Pruning

 

Pruning is essential in maintaining the health, and fruit bearing ability of any plant or tree.  Even in my vegetable garden, I have learned that simply pruning older leaves on plants like squash and cucumbers can yield more vegetables, and cause the plants to thrive.  I also prune my plum trees, cutting away dead branches, or branches known as suckers (which grow vertically, and do not bear fruit).

 

When pruning vegetable plants, one must be careful not to do too much pruning, as it can put the plant into shock, and even result in the death of the plant.  Usually, I prune away older leaves that have yellowed and lost their deep green hue.  This yellowing of the leaves is an indicator that the leaf is no longer beneficial to the plant.  It has become dead weight, and is draining the plant of nutrients that could be going into new leaf growth, or blossoms, or increasing the size and yield of the crop.

 

We are like these vegetable plants.  We are like God’s garden.  We are like His vineyard, or His orchard.  God prunes away those things in our lives that have become old, and useless.  Sometimes that pruning is the removal of our “old ways’ of the world.  Sometimes God prunes away our old concepts, and doctrines.  Sometimes He allows us to suffer the loss of our health, or our ability to generate income, or other areas to learn dependence upon HIM.

 

By so doing, the Lord knows that we will grow healthier, and stronger.  We will grow higher towards the sunlight of His love.  We will bear fruit of the Spirit, and harvest many souls for Him.

 

Jesus told the parable of the vine and the branches.  The main Vine represents Jesus.  The branches represent His followers and disciples.  The branches (us) must be connected to the main Vine, from whence comes the source of life.  If the branches are broken off of the main Vine, they dry up, and become useless.  They can no longer bear fruit.

 

John 15:5-8

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be my disciples.  (NAS)

 

We must abide (continue) in Jesus; that is, we must continue to grow in Him.  It is not enough to just be connected to Him.  We must yield fruit.  Sometimes we lose our vision, or we backslide.  When this happens, we become dried up spiritually, and no longer glorify God.  If this condition persists, and we don’t repent, and be grafted back into the Vine (Jesus), we are cast into the fire (Gehenna, or eternal destruction), and burned. 

 

Christians don’t like to be taught about hell because it doesn’t feel good to them; they are self-deceived in thinking that to avoid this topic it will go away, or cease to be a reality.  A healthy fear of hell can lead to a healthy fear of God.  We need not cower before God’s throne of grace, but we must not ignore the fact there are eternal consequences for failing to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-16).

 

Leviticus 25:2-5

“Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a Sabbath to the LORD.  Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.  Your harvest's after growth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.”  (NAS)

 

As I mentioned earlier, when pruning fruit trees, only the dead and sucker branches are to be removed.  I know that I cannot do major pruning every year, because the plant must have time to be renewed.  This is especially true with fruit trees, and vines that bear fruit (e.g. - grapes, berries, etc.).  God told the sons of Israel to prune for six years, but on the seventh year, they were not to prune, and give the plants a rest.

 

God does not do His entire pruning in our lives at once.  Now, after 6000 years of history, we are approaching the time when God will give His church rest from pruning, as they are to be glorified with Him, and reign with Jesus during the Millennium.  This is what can be seen typologically in Leviticus 25:2-5.  There is a sabbatical year coming, which is representative of a thousand year period during the Millennium.  Why?  Because, a day is as like a thousand years to the Lord.  In other words, God is not bound by time, but He has a plan for mankind that will be fulfilled. (READ Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 20:3-7)

 

When Israel continually disobeyed God, the LORD said they would become like a wasteland; that is, like a vineyard that is unkempt, and unpruned.  When we continually refuse to heed the voice of the Lord, (that prompting He puts inside of us to do His will), soon briars and thorny plants fill the garden of our heart.  It is no longer a joy to read the Bible, or pray.  We don’t feel like sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost.  We would rather watch TV, or do some other mundane activity for our pleasure and happiness.  But without God in our lives, there can be no true happiness. (Ecclesiastes 2:25)

 

Isaiah 5:5-6

“Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled.  I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.”  (NIV)

 

So, what is it that causes a person to leave the garden, or vineyard of their heart unattended?  What causes a believer to allow the thorns and cares of life to choke out the fruitfulness of God’s word?  There are many things, but at the root of it all is unbelief. 

 

Israel was God’s covenant people; they were, by nature, the natural branches of His vineyard.  They were the ones that God had designated a Redeemer for.  But, as we know, God does not show partiality towards any man, or group of people. (Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9)  God loved the Gentiles (non-Israelites) just as much as He loved Israel.  The reason Israel (as a nation) was broken off of God’s Vine (Jesus), is because they refused to accept His only begotten son as their Messiah and Redeemer.  Thus, God grafted the Gentiles into His Vine of life, because they readily accepted their Savior.

 

Romans 11:19-23

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.  Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.  Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  (NAS)

 

Job 18:16

“His roots are dried below, and his branch is cut off above.”  (NAS)

 

We can become like Israel too.  Oftentimes we struggle with sin.  God knows that we will sin.  What KEEPS us in sin however, is failing to believe that we can come to God for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.  Oftentimes we just don’t feel ‘worthy’ enough for the Savior’s love and mercy. 

 

This feeling of unworthiness, coupled with unbelief, can cause us to dry up, and be broken off of the Lord’s Vine.  We will never be worthy enough for the blood of Jesus.  Scripture tells us, that while we were yet in sin, Christ died for us. (READ Romans 5:7-11)  Jesus came not to save the righteous, but the unrighteous. 

All have sinned, and have fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23)   We must repent, and confess our sins to God, no matter what we have done, or how many times we have done it. (1 John 1:8-9)  He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Song 2:12

“The flowers have {already} appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning {the vines,} and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.”  (NAS)

 

If we allow God to prune us when we need it, getting rid of the old branches that have died, and are not bearing fruit, we will yield as His fruit bearing plants. (Galatians 5:22-25)

 

Harvesting

 

Mark 4:26-29

And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows-- how, he himself does not know.  The soil produces crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”  (NAS)

 

It is one of God’s greatest wonders to watch a garden grow.  After preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering, and fertilizing, all a person can do is watch the plants grow.  If the conditions are not right, the plants won’t grow to maturity.  So it is with our walk with God.  We have the responsibility of preparing our hearts, and planting the word of God in our hearts.  We have to water our hearts with prayer.  But only GOD can truly cause the growth.  He provides the right spiritual conditions for us to grow in Him.

 

Galatians 6:6-10

And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.  And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.  So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.  (NAS)

 

The type of seed that we sow into the soil of our hearts determines what kind of crop we’ll get.  There have been times when a seed manufacturer slipped seed into packets I bought that contained weeds and weed grass.  Of course, this means more weeding once the bad seed grew up out of the soil.  This is what it is like when we sow bad things in our lives. 

There are a variety of bad seeds, which represent the desires of the “flesh.”  The seeds of the “flesh” are those things which are opposite of God’s will, and His desire for our growth.  Some examples of bad seed are:

 

Excessive television; also watching programs filled with sarcasm, violence, nudity, sexual promiscuity, etc. (you can include Hollywood’s movies along with the corruption on TV)

 

Obsession with things: sports, hobbies, work, the Internet, etc.

 

Pornography of any type…especially on the Internet, but also in movies, magazines, and even on TV (in commercials, travel programs, etc)..

 

Aimless thought life; never taking control of one’s thoughts, and allowing Satan to breed thoughts contrary to God

 

Gossiping about others behind their backs; even so-called “innocent” gossip is harmful to others, and to one’s own self

 

Slander and telling lies about others

 

Exaggerating; bragging; telling half-truths

 

Unforgiveness, bitterness, and hatred

 

Greed (which includes spending too much time making money, and not enough time for God and family)

 

Hanging around with the wrong crowd for one’s fellowship; bad company corrupts good morals

 

Other things like strife, arguments, pride, selfishness, laziness, boasting, and things like these.

 

Striving for a position of recognition in church organizations or ministry.

 

Reading lots of secular books, magazines, newspapers, and feeding on things that offer no life in Jesus, and fill one’s thoughts with negativity and the world secular view.

 

Cheating…on taxes, in business, in personal finances etc.

 

Job 4:8

“According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.”  (NAS)

 

Of course, we can sow things that will build up our spirit, and this is like sowing good seed into the soil of our hearts.  Sometimes thinking of what we can plant as good seed is so simple; it merely takes a friendly reminder to start doing it:

 

Daily reading and meditation upon the scriptures

 

Prayer, and fellowship with God the Father, and with His son Jesus

 

Reaching out to help others, sharing our faith, resources, time, and money to be a blessing wherever there are needs

 

Praising and thanking God for who He is, and all He has done for us

 

Thanking others for their kindness to us

 

Listening to uplifting music about the Lord

 

Reading books about God, and other people’s experiences with the Lord

 

Taking time to pray for others, including when you assemble together anywhere

 

Meeting with other believers regularly for fellowship, edification and encouragement

 

Sending a card, a note, or as letter to someone who needs our love

 

Making a phone call to a friend

 

Loving those who are your enemy, or who demonstrate hatred towards you

 

Forgiving others when they wrong you; never holding a grudge against someone

 

Leaning on God during the hard times

 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  (NIV)

 

Haggai 1:5-7

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!  You have sown much, but harvest little; {you} eat, but {there is} not {enough} to be satisfied; {you} drink, but {there is} not {enough} to become drunk; {you} put on clothing, but no one is warm {enough} and he who earns, earns wages {to put} into a purse with holes.”  Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!”  (NAS)

 

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, {and} gathers her provision in the harvest.  “How long will you lie down, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest”--And your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man.  (NAS)

 

The verses above indicate that the amount of time and energy that we invest in seeking God will be the measure of what we harvest.  It is not necessarily just a matter of doing more things for God, but of surrendering our whole person and life to His will.  Jesus is the supreme example of being wholly given to God’s will.  He is our example.  He is the Master.  We are his servants. 

 

Many Christians are lukewarm without even knowing it!  They have become satisfied with status quo Christianity.  To them, going to church, putting some money in the offering basket, and reading a few scripture verses are enough.  Some don’t even do that.  These kinds of believers will harvest very little of that which is of eternal value.  It takes discipline, and a continued seeking of God to harvest plentifully.  It is allot of work at times to serve the Lord, but it always a joy.

 

Matthew 9:37-38

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  (NIV)

 

John 4:34-38

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work.  Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and {then} comes the harvest’?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  For in this {case} the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”  (NAS)

 

The verses above speak about laboring for souls in the kingdom of God.  It is crucial that a person harvest their fruit when it is ready, or it can become rotten, or the insects and birds of the air can eat it.  There are always many hurting souls that need our love.  There are always people that need Jesus.  Many Christians make excuses for why they won’t reach out to the lost.  They say, “I’m not ready yet; I need to know more first.”  While it is true that knowledge is helpful, love is the greatest gift God gave us.

 

There is no greater reward to a gardener than to pluck fresh, ripe, healthy vegetables from the garden.  Nothing tastes as good as homegrown veggies.  It is the reason the gardener invested so much time and effort.  God has invested much time and effort into us, that He too, might have a harvest of souls.  God planted His own son Jesus as the most precious seed in the soil of humanity.  Now the Father waits on us to be His harvesters.  The crops are ready...will we go pick them?  Will we step outside of ourselves, and reach out to others?

 

Sometimes we have the opportunity to become partakers of another person’s labors for the Lord: “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

 

If you have prayed for a loved one who doesn’t know Jesus, but have been unable to reach them with your own words, wouldn’t you want some other Christian to be obedient to God’s voice, and harvest their soul?  You see how personal this harvest of God’s has become?  We are fellow workers together with God and each other.  Each one, then, must take responsibility for the harvest of souls:

 

1 Corinthians 3:6-9

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.  (NAS)

 

Conclusion

 

Genesis 8:22

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  (NAS)

 

John 9:4

“We must work the works of Him who sent me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.”  (NAS)

 

We must work in God’s garden, in His vineyard while we have the opportunity.  It is never too late to begin!  The devil will lie to you, and tell you it is too late, and that your life has been wasted.  But there is a plentiful harvest, and fertile soil out in the world.  Men, women and children are hungry for the reality that comes from knowing God, and fellowshipping with His son Jesus.

 

Will you work in God’s garden?

 

Selah

 



 

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