Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. (Matthew 13:18-19, NASB)
The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. (Mark 4:14-15, NKJV)
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. (Luke 8:11-12, ESV)
Three Methods of Snatching the Seed
In this first soil of the heart, the seed of Word of God is sown, but it has no chance to grow because the Devil comes immediately and snatches away the seed. Even though seed that falls on the road would have little chance to grow on its own, the Devil takes no chances. He immediately seizes the seed before it can do damage to his kingdom.
The Enemy comes in three different ways to steal this valuable treasure of the Word of God from the heart. He comes as the Devil; he comes as Satan and he comes as the Evil One. Each one of these names emphasizes a different approach and method in snatching away the seed from the heart. The snatching of the seed is not always done in the same way by the kingdom of darkness as the devil analyzes the best way of taking the seed from this soil of the heart. All three methods involve the use of “fowls or birds” which in these verses is a figure of speech referring to devil spirits or demons. These birds are commissioned and sent by the prince of the power of the air. One of the main functions of demons is to take away the seed of the Word of God from as many hearts as possible so the seed does not grow. The seed gets devoured and there is no trace of it left. There is no seed to grow. There is no seed to flourish. There is no seed to mature. It is gone from the heart.
Charles Spurgeon in Satan’s Punctuality, Power and Purpose says:
To the man’s heart the good Seed is lost, the fowls have devoured it. It has become to him nothing, having no power over him, no life in him. Not a trace left-no more would there be a mark remaining of seed cast on the wayside after the birds had taken it away-so effectual is the work of the Prince of the Power of the Air.[i]
The first method of seizing the seed from the heart uses the word “Devil”. This emphasizes a more direct involvement of the Devil himself in the taking of the seed. The Devil is the great devourer and He comes as a roaring lion seeking to steal the seed from the heart.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NLT)
The word “devil,” is the Greek word “diabolos,” and means a false accuser and slanderer. It describes one who throws out accusations and false charges to hurt, destroy, and damage its object of scorn. It comes from the word dia meaning “through,” and ballo meaning “throw or cast.” Wuest in his Word Studies in the Greek New Testament says:
“Diabolos,” comes from another word which literally means “to throw through.” Thus it means “to riddle one with accusations…it was used not only of those who bring a false charge against one, but also of those who disseminate it…and do so maliciously, insidiously, with hostility.[ii]
The Devil is the chief of slanderers and his false accusations are primarily directed at God and His Word. He has complete disdain and contempt for the Word of God and relentlessly attacks it with malicious intent to defame it. He disseminates a host of lies about it so people doubts its integrity, accuracy and truth and reject it as being the Word of God. This is the roar of the devil and the seed is often lost and taken from the heart in the roar.
Luke is the gospel that uses the word “devil” in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed and it is the only gospel that states the seed is trodden down on the path where it fell. In Israel there were well-worn paths through cultivated fields where people had walked while traveling. The seed fell on this hard path and was trodden under foot.
The Greek word for “trodden” is katapateo and is made up of the word pateo which means to “tread and trample” and kata which means “down” and intensifies the meaning. It is a forceful treading and trampling down into the ground. This word was also used figuratively meaning to treat contemptuously, to thoroughly despise, to spurn, to reject disdainfully and to treat with insulting neglect. In the Bible times one of the gestures to show contempt for someone was to lift up your foot against them (Psalm 41:9; I Samuel 2:29). To walk on top of someone or something was an extreme gesture showing utter contempt and scorn (II Kings 9:33; Micah 7:10).
The Devil is seeking any opportunity to devour the seed of the Word of God from the human heart as he prowls throughout the entire earth. In this first soil, the Devil prepares the heart so that it is like a hard path and he can easily snatch up the seed that has been sown. He conditions the heart through his roar by leveling an intense attack of false accusations and slander against the Word of God. His goal is to build unbelief concerning the Word of God by ridiculing it as full of fables and myths and unworthy of our trust. He sends out his demon spirits like an army of locusts to carry this message of defamation to every heart that will listen. The heart becomes so hardened against the Word of God by the roar that it becomes easy to take the seed from the heart.
This is a very effective strategy. If the Word of God is defamed as a ridiculous book written by a bunch of men, then people will not want the Word of God to dwell in their heart. Look at our universities, schools, and culture as contempt for the Bible is spreading like wildfire. Atheism and agnosticism is running rampant. People are intimidated into not believing the Scripture for fear of rejection and ridicule. This first condition of the heart is becoming more and more prevalent in our times as the seed of the Word of God is taken away with relative ease from the heart because people believe all the lies being promulgated about the veracity of the Bible.
Why is the Devil so intimately involved in this approach as he roars his countless accusations against the truth? Why does he have a fierce hunger to devour the seed of the Word of God and destroy the heart of a person? Because salvation is at stake. Because eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Above all, the Devil does not want a soul to be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. He wants to kill faith and replace it with doubt so the heart never comes to Jesus Christ and receives the new birth. He is trying to prevent another birth into God’s kingdom, another citizen in the kingdom of His love, and another child of God being welcomed into God’s family.
I Peter 1:23 says we are born again through the living Word of God. Without faith in the Word of God, there is no new birth and no redemption and this is why the seed of the Word of God is so vital to our spiritual life. The Devil slanders the Word of God to deceive us into not having trust or confidence in it. Without faith in the Word of God the heart remains in this condition of the wayside heart. Only trust in God and faith in His Word will deliver the heart from this hardened state of barrenness. If this condition of the heart does not change, then a person will not believe and be saved. Hell is the destination of the wayside heart that contains this first type of soil.
So the first approach the Devil uses to snatch the seed completely from the heart is to roar out false accusations, slander, and contempt for God and His Word. This is a vicious attack on the truth and a defiant mockery of the sacred text. It has one aim in mind to devour the seed of the Word of God from the heart. This ruthless mockery of the Word of God causes the heart of many to become hardened in unbelief and to reject the Bible as the God-breathed inspired Word of God and the fountainhead of all truth.
The second method of snatching the seed from the heart is revealed in the gospel of Mark and centers on the word “Satan.” The Hebrew word “Satan” means the adversary and emphasizes Satan as the archenemy of God. He stands in direct opposition to God and His holy purposes and will upon the earth. He resists and contends against God, His Word and His people. The first usage of the word “Satan” in the Bible sets forth the two things that Satan does throughout the entire earth.
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. (I Chronicles 22:1, ESV)
Satan stands against the children of God and opposes every movement, purpose and direction of God for their lives. Satan also incites the heart to disobey God and pridefully turn away from Him. He incites a rebellion of the heart against God. The Hebrew word for “incite” means to stir up, to lure, to instigate, and to stimulate. The first usage of this Hebrew word “incite” in Deuteronomy 13:6 sets forth the essence of the lure of Satan and the fundamental tactic Satan uses to oppose God, His Word and His people.
If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him… (Deuteronomy 13:6-8a, NKJV)
Satan attempts to entice the heart with this invitation, “Let us go and serve other gods.” The emphasis on the word “Satan” is his relentless strategy to get every heart to place an idol on its throne and foolishly worship other gods. Satan tempts the heart to go in a direction and on a path that is not the Lord’s path, direction or way. Satan cries out “Follow me!” as he leads the heart into enslavement and servitude to another god. The call for idolatry often comes from family, close friends, and work associates, which can make it very difficult for the heart to resist. He tugs at the heart strings through people we love to “go and serve” a host of idols that seem harmless like play things, but in reality are extremely toxic to our heart and our intimacy with God.
Satan uses fascination in the things of this world and the dominant trends of our culture to create thousands of idols just waiting to be the object of our adoration. He has god after god lined up in every nation ready to replace God Almighty in the heart of a person. He has a plethora of idols ready to be loved, treasured, and worshipped as the top priority in a person’s life.
Jesus Christ was promised all the power and glory of every kingdom on earth if he would just turn his heart, bow his knee and worship the devil. Jesus did not succumb to the wiles of Satan.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Luke 4:8, KJV)
If we do not turn our back on Satan and worship the Lord God only, then our heart becomes “easy pickings” for Satan to snatch the seed of the Word of God. If Satan is not behind us, then he is in a position of authority, influence and control before our face. We have allowed him complete access to our hearts because we believed the lie that the world has more to offer than God. We so often have worshiped and honored the things of the world and cast God behind our backs. Jesus Christ rebuked Peter and told him to “get behind me Satan” because he honored the things of man more than the things of God.
Who and what we worship determines whether the soil of our heart is hard or soft. If we do not love God with all our heart, mind soul and strength, then the seed of word of God will not grow in our hearts. We must ask ourselves “who is before me and who is behind me?” Our face and our heart are either turned toward Jesus Christ or turned toward Satan. Satan comes as a beautiful angel of light to tempt our hearts to worship him and everything he offers and thrust God behind our back. If we fall for the bait, if we believe the great masquerade, then he seizes the Word of God that has been sown in our hearts.
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14, NIV)
Job 2:2 says Satan “walks to and fro on the earth and up and down on it” actively seeking to stand against every purpose of God and to provoke people to seek the idols of this world. The word “Satan” is often used in an indirect sense emphasizing the entire system of the world and the trappings of sin, which the Devil has set up as hostile to the will of God. Satan is the great adversary and antagonist of God and he has sets up a seductive evil system of values and beliefs in the world that excludes and actively opposes God. This world system is set up to subtly attract one’s loyalty away from the true God. Its presentation is polished and full of beautiful decorations and is designed to mesmerize the heart and pull it into its snare.
This world system has a gigantic neon sign at its entrance, which flashes, “God is not wanted.” The Word of God is looked at with great disgust in the system of the world and considered foolishness. The world convinces the heart that it has so much more to offer than some outdated book written by a bunch of religious fanatics. Satan is the master puppeteer of this world system of evil and his name is represented in every part of this wicked network that has engulfed the earth.
This second method to snatch the seed from the hardened soil of the heart is to entice the heart to go and serve other gods. This is accomplished by dangling the bait of the world and its glistening ornaments before the eyes of the heart. Objects of fascination like money, fame, beauty, lust, and possessions are used to lure the heart away from God. The heart is enticed into joining the world’s party and ignoring God. The heart becomes branded for the world and erects altars where every imaginable idol is worshipped with blind ignorance.
When the soil of the heart is in the first category, Satan wastes no time as he comes IMMEDIATELY and seizes the seed and devours it. All the beautiful potential of the seed of God’s word blossoming in the heart and producing stunning spiritual fruit for the glory of God is gone. All that remains is a desolate wilderness of hard, worthless soil where the Word of God cannot grow. Satan wants to keep the heart in this condition, destined for destruction, steeped in failure, never able to reach its true potential in God.
This is why Satan wastes no time in snatching the seed of the Word of God from the heart. He knows the power of the Word of God and that it can transform the human heart. If the good seed grows, it crushes the growth of Satan’s kingdom in the heart. It dispels darkness and brings great deliverance. It extinguishes rebellion and builds strength in God. As the great adversary and antagonist of God, Satan opposes every single seed of the Word sown for it has the potential to destroy all his strongholds.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this first category of soil is just reserved for the non-Christian. There has been a massive infiltration of this condition in the church. It is in epidemic proportions. The Bible gives us many examples of those who claim to follow God, but the fruit of their hearts betray them.
Judas was in the inner circle with Jesus Christ, one of his original twelve disciples, who followed Jesus. Yet Satan entered into his heart at the last supper and he went out into the night to betray Jesus. Ananias and Sapphira were believers in the early church, yet Satan filled their hearts to lie to God. Demas forsook Paul and strayed from the truth because he love the world more than he loved God. Even Peter was rebuked by Jesus Christ as he said, “Get thee behind me Satan, for you are not setting your heart on the things of God, but the things of men.” I Timothy 5:15 declares, “For some already have turned aside after Satan.” Oh the tragedy for a Christian heart to have this type of soil that allows the enemy to snatch the Word of God from it. We must guard our heart from becoming so hard against the seed of the Word of God that we never receive it. Let us not fall for the masquerade, and allow Satan to condition the soil of our hearts to reject the Word of God.
The third method of snatching the seed of the Word of God from the heart is revealed in the gospel of Matthew and centers on the words “the Evil One.” The Evil One is the Devil, but these words emphasize another characteristic in the scheme to devour the Word of God from the heart. The word “evil” is the Greek word poneros and it is the active, deliberate will to corrupt and inflict injury, pain, and evil on others. It is an active evil in opposition to all that is good. At its core is the intense desire to harm and produce pain, misery and oppression. It is a malignant evil, destroying whatever it touches. In its essence it is a state of being in one that seeks to reproduce itself in another. This evil seeks to propagate itself by converting others to its pattern of thinking, action and conduct. There is a harassing and pressing nature to this evil, as it pursues the heart relentlessly attempting to draw it into its snare. This evil is not content unless it is drawing others into its corruption and destruction.
Poneros is the fuel of the kingdom of darkness and the outward manifestation of the heart of the Devil. It builds unbelief, which is the great catalyst that hardens the heart against God and His Word. When this evil is absorbed, it pollutes the heart against the things of God. The Devil’s goal is to build an evil heart of unbelief in every human being on the face of the earth, a heart that is molded in his image and that serves his kingdom, a heart that been converted to sell itself to evil. God designed the heart to reflect the image of its Creator. However when this poneros evil is allowed to grow and dominate, the heart begins to mirror the image of the Evil One.
There are only two spiritual fathers that can give birth to their image in our hearts: God or the Devil. The heart is like a womb ready to give birth to an image. Who is building your heart? What image does your heart reflect? We are always leaning toward one image as we choose the image-bearer of our heart. Intense spiritual warfare determines whose flag will fly in the fortress of our heart.
We have two natures warring within us as a Christian, two natures in hand to hand combat trying to gain control of the territory of our heart, two natures trying to build, expand and protect their kingdom. One is the sin nature that embraces poneros evil and welcomes it into every room of our hearts. This sin nature is hostile toward God and resists against every movement of the Spirit of God in the heart. This is the rebel within that is the breeding ground for evil thoughts, actions, and attitudes.
The other nature is our new nature in Christ, birthed in us at the time of our salvation, which radiates the very life and glory of God. When we are born again, we literally become partakers of the divine nature, and God seals us with the gift of Holy Spirit, the great teacher that helps us build the heart into His the image. The new spiritual nature continually exerts an influence on us to be like Christ and stirs the heart to walk in holiness and godliness. The new nature encourages our heart to walk in the goodness of God and gives us the energy and strength to do so. Our old sinful nature of the flesh influences us to walk in selfish and lustful desires that do not please God and rebel against His kingdom agenda. The condition of the soil of our heart is greatly determined by what nature is ruling our lives.
This poneros evil injures the heart with harmful contaminants that bring spiritual disease infecting the lifeblood of the heart. This poneros evil is a serious environmental hazard that can pollute the soil of the heart so that it cannot produce good works for God and the glory of His kingdom.
What a tragedy to have a polluted heart whose soil is worthless to God. What a waste of a life! God has placed a huge warning sign on our lives of this dangerous pollutant. It causes serious injury and death to the heart. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to deliver the heart from every vestige of evil in this present world (Galatians 1:4). Only in Jesus Christ is poneros evil overcome. He dismantled evil on the cross so it never need raise its ugly head in even one corner of any person’s heart. O God build my heart so it reflects the Lord Jesus Christ and not the evil ways of this world! Let the soil of my heart be rich and full of Jesus so there is a pure outflow of Jesus Christ in every thought, word, and action that comes forth my heart. Never let evil be the lord of my heart, but shine your light brightly so that all darkness flees and all evil retreats.
The Dangers of a Hardened Heart
When poneros evil starts to rule the heart, a hardening process begins. A callous begins to form around the heart that makes it indifferent and resistive to the words of God. The soil of this poneros heart becomes hard and dry, causing it to revolt against God and actively oppose the truth. This hardness of heart originates in unbelief and poneros evil is the carrier of unbelief into the heart. Hebrews warns us against allowing the soil of our heart to harden and turns aside from God.
Therefore beware brethren, take care, lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart which refuses to cleave to, trust in, and rely on Him, leading you to turn away and desert or stand aloof from the living God. But instead warn, admonish, urge, and encourage one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened into settled rebellion by the deceitfulness of sin by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamor of his sin may play on him. For we have become fellows with Christ (the Messiah) and share in all He has for us, if only we hold our first newborn confidence and original assured expectation in virtue of which we are believers, firm and unshaken to the end. Then while it is still called Today, if you would hear His voice and when you hear it, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion in the desert, when the people provoked and irritated and embittered God against them. (Hebrews 3:12-15, AMP)
See to it, brethren, that there is never in any one of you-as perhaps there may be-a sinful and unbelieving heart, manifesting itself in revolt from the ever-living God. (Verse 12, Weymouth)
You should therefore be most careful, my brothers, that there should not be in any of you that wickedness of heart which refuses to trust, and deserts the cause of the living God. (Verse 12, PHILLIPS)
Unbelief is the great enemy of the heart. It causes the heart to harden and abandon the living God. Unbelief is a refusal to trust and obey God and harbors doubt as to His very character. Unbelief says God is not faithful to His Word. Unbelief has no confidence in God. As unbelief mixes in the soil of the heart, this soil allows evil and sin to take root and flourish.
The Greek word for “refusing to trust” in Hebrews 3:12 means to stand aloof, to cause to withdraw, to incite to revolt, to desert, to shun, to flee from, to fall away, and to stand afar off. The twin companions of unbelief and poneros evil cause the heart to withdraw from God and flee from every vestige of truth and every revelation of light from the Almighty God. These two comrades of rebellion build their tower of Babel in the heart revolting against the rulership and dominion of God. They violently oppose every commandment and purpose of God and prevent the seed of the Word of the living God from sprouting its roots into the depths of the heart. The heart is conditioned to reject the word of God and embrace evil.
A hard heart is a dwelling place for Satan, a fertile growing place for sin. The Word of God cannot grow there. A hard heart is a stronghold of unbelief. Christians are faced daily with this persistent threat of the deceitfulness of sin hardening the heart. We must vigilantly guard our hearts that they are never hardened into settled rebellion against our Lord because we have been deceived by the glamor of sin. Do not be played by the devil through his trickery and strategic devices.
The Greek word for “harden” is skleruno and means to become dry, to be impenetrable, and to become unyieldingly obstinate and stubborn.
Skip Moen in his article Brittle Bones describes it this way:
Christians live with a constant threat. Sin can do immense damage at any point. There is no vacation from the possibility of attack as long as it is “today.”…We are in a war….Every day we live, the war comes to us in one form or another…We are cautioned to be on guard from the enemy within. The Greek word here is very descriptive. It is skleruno from the noun skleros. It means “to harden, to dry up, to make stiff.” You can think of the dry bones of a skeleton. No life. Withered away. Hard. All the vitality has been removed and there is nothing left but bones. This is the objective of sin-to make you into a walking skeleton, brittle, hideous and lifeless. Did you notice this verse is written to believers? The possibility of a hardened heart existence is real for believers. All it takes is the deceitfulness of sin making its way into the life of the follower.[iii]
The heart becomes dry like a tomb of dead men’s bones, a skeleton of what it was meant to be, a lifeless barren wilderness where the spiritual life of God has withered away. Sin never delivers what it promises, but it always hardens. There are degrees of hardness of heart, but the more sin rules in your heart, the harder the heart becomes until the hardness is almost impenetrable.
The hardened heart has many characteristics, but it is especially known for a radical stubbornness, and blindness to God and the commands of His Word. The hardened heart is full of pride and arrogance and does not understand the things of God or follow after them. The hardened heart refuses to obey God and will not honor Him. A heart hardened by sin, and poneros evil that flows out of sin, does not hear God and or understand the magnificence of the Word of God. It bounces off their heart like a rock thrown on a trampoline. It does not penetrate the hard callous of deadness that surrounds their heart.
Hardness of heart causes the heart to be in a state of spiritual darkness, ignorant to the ways and purposes of God. There is no revelation from God, there is no divine guidance, there is no understanding of the kingdom of God and there is no enjoyment of the life of God contained in His Word.
Hosea 4 stands out as a clarion call to God’s people warning them of the consequences of a hardened heart. The hard heart has no love for God, no awe of God and no acknowledgment of God (Hosea 4:1). The hard heart ignores the law of God and is destroyed for lack of the true knowledge of God revealed in His Word. God’s people come to ruin because they have no understanding (Hosea 4:6). The hard heart deserts the Lord as it exchanges Him for something disgraceful (Hosea 4:12). The hard heart feeds on sin and relishes wickedness (Hosea 4:7,8). The hard heart is unfaithful to God and joins itself with idols seeking spiritual guidance from the kingdom of darkness (Hosea 4:12). The hard heart rejects every vestige of the kingdom of God and in pure selfishness follows the desires and impulses of the flesh.
No wonder the hardened heart has no idea where it is going! It stumbles around in darkness and a spiritual stupor, intoxicated with the ways of the world. What a tragedy for the heart to have its soil so hard that it rejects the Word of God and falls prey to poneros evil.
What is even more despicable is that this poneros heart of unbelief goes on a recruiting mission and attempts to lure others into its lifeless wilderness. Poneros evil always evangelizes, as it intensely desires to take as many down as possible.
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. (II Corinthians 4:3, NLT)
They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! (Ephesians 4:18-20, ESV)
In Greek writings, skleruno was also a medical term describing something that becomes hardened or thickened. Our English word “arteriosclerosis” comes from this Greek word and means the hardening of the arteries, which is a potentially fatal condition of the heart. This happens over time by a buildup of plaque in the arteries that restricts the flow of blood in the heart and throughout the body. The arteries eventually become so clogged that the blood flow stops circulating. This causes the heart to go into crisis and often have a heart attack. The arteries must be opened or bypassed to prevent death.
Now let us think about spiritual arteriosclerosis for a moment. This is a gradual day-by-day process where our spiritual arteries become clogged and hardened by sin, poneros evil and unbelief. The flow of the Word of God and the voice of the Spirit of God into the heart are restricted. The heart becomes harder day-by-day and more resistive to the voice of God. Finally the day comes where a spiritual alarm is sounded in the heart. The arteries are completely clogged and no life from the words of God or the spirit of God is flowing into the heart. A heart attack seizes the spiritual life of that person. Unless these arteries become unclogged and free of spiritual plaque, our love, desire and true worship of God dies. Our heart becomes like a stone toward God, like a dry desert with no living waters from the word or spirit of God.
The deception of sin continues to justify the hardness of our hearts. We pridefully form our own idols and doctrines to justify our spiritual blindness and call it religion. There is an epidemic of hardness of hearts in religion, and I know of nothing that can harden the heart quicker than religion. True Christianity is not a religion as it is God acting through Christ and has nothing to do with the rules, regulations, philosophies and doctrines of people.
The entire Bible is an indictment against all hardness of heart against God and His Word. There are countless illustrations in every book of the Bible about the dangers of the hardened heart.
One of the greatest examples of hardness of heart is the Pharisees and Sadducees in the times of Jesus. These were the great religious leaders of the day who thought they knew and understood the writings of the Old Testament and the law. They thought they were so pious that God Himself should move over in heaven and share part of His throne with them. They thought God was pleased with them.
This is why spiritual blindness, ignorance and hardness of heart always go hand in hand. The Pharisees and Sadducees honored God with their lips, but their heart was a thousand miles away from God. They also illustrate just how hard the heart can become to God, His Word and the purposes of God. When their Messiah came, they hounded him with criticism, ridicule, contempt, and accusations and finally killed him. They crucified the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son Of God, the Prince of Peace, the Branch of Righteousness, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How hard their hearts must have been! How blind they were! How they lacked understanding of the Word of God! How deceived they were! All because of the hardness of their hearts.
Nothing is more detrimental to the gospel than Christians getting spiritual arteriosclerosis. Nothing destroys the testimony of the gospel in a Christian’s life quicker than a hard heart. We must always be on guard against this deadly spiritual disease and take preventive measures so our spiritual arteries remain free of the spiritual plaque of sin, evil and unbelief. We can never let our heart become dull, unresponsive and insensitive to the voice of God speaking through His Word and the Spirit of God that dwells within us. We must always have our ears tuned to the Shepherd’s voice.
God can break through this hardness of heart no matter how thick. In the early days of the Christian church, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, Saul, was casting stones at the broken body of Stephen until the religious mob killed this great believer and saint. He breathed slaughter against Christians and barged into their fellowship meetings and arrested them hauling them off to jail and tried to put them to death. Yet Saul had an encounter with the Sower on the road to Emmaus and when Jesus sowed the Word of God in the heart of Saul, it shattered his hardness of heart into a million pieces.
No matter how hard the heart is, Jesus Christ can break through and heal the heart. The Sower and His Seed bring great light, deliverance and liberation from the curse of a hardened heart.
The Evil One is constantly surveying our heart to find a breach where he can gain entrance and harden it against God. He constantly hurls his fiery arrows of unbelief to damage all defenses and allow poneros evil to enter turning the heart into a dry, desolate wilderness. Ephesians 6:16 says that when we put on the whole armor of God to protect our spiritual heart and engage the enemy, we should take the shield of faith above all, as it enables us to extinguish every fiery missile. Faith is the great catalyst to battle poneros evil and the hardened heart.
Faith: The Critical Ingredient in Changing the Condition of the Soil
Faith is a critical ingredient in changing the condition of the soil of our hearts especially in avoiding this first category of soil. Faith needs to be mixed in the soil of our heart like a rich fertilizer that makes it ready for an abundant harvest from God. The seed of the Word of God desperately needs faith if it is to take root in the heart and begin to grow. Faith is just as essential as sunlight or water to the growth of the seed of the Word of God. Faith is an unwavering trust and confidence in God and the integrity of His Word. There is no doubt, fear, worry and anxiety in faith. Faith believes what God has said and that He cannot lie and is faithful to perform what He has promised.
The Evil One can sift our heart like wheat and completely contaminate the soil of our heart without faith. As Hebrews 10 exhorts us, we never throw away our confident trust in God and never shrink back from faith. Our faith must never be shipwrecked on the island of unbelief. There is no faith in this first soil of the heart. That is why it is so easy for the Evil One to snatch the seed from it.
Faith is so critical for the soil of our heart for we cannot please God without it. Faith allows God to move and gives Him the substance to mold Himself into the very depths of the heart. Faith builds a protective shield around the heart and keeps the heart tender for God. Without the shield of faith, the fiery arrows of the Evil One begin to penetrate the heart and unbelief spreads like a virus. Unbelief always causes a breach of the protective wall of our heart that can only be built by our unwavering trust in God and our stand on His Word. Unbelief causes the wall to crack and allows evil to seep in. The heart becomes hard and dry towards the kingdom of God and the spiritual arteries become clogged with poneros evil. The life of God is squeezed out of the heart and it changes into a reflection of the Evil One in thought, work and action.
It is important to mention two more points in Matthew’s account of this parable. First there is a different Greek word used for “snatch” than in Mark and Luke. In Matthew “snatch” is the Greek word harpazo, which means to take suddenly, abruptly and vehemently, often with violence and speed without warning. It conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised. The idea is to take by force with a sudden swoop, which cannot be resisted. It was used in Greek literature for petitions complaining of robbery. A robber uses the threat of violence and forceful intimidation to take the possessions of another.
Harpage, a related Greek word, means robbery, plunder, seizing of one’s possessions, ravenous wolves, extortionists, swindlers and embezzlers. Harpazo is used in John 10:12 to describe the wolf that comes into the sheepfold as a thief and attacks the flock and scatters them because they have no Shepherd. It is also used in Psalms 10:9 in the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Old Testament) to describe the wicked man who lurks in a hiding place like a lion in his lair and seizes (harpazo) the afflicted and draws him into his net. In Psalm 7:1 the word is used to emphasize that only if we take refuge in God can we avoid the enemy tearing our soul like a lion and dragging (harpazo) us away. In Genesis 37:33 the word is used to describe Jacob’s lamenting about Joseph when he thought a wild beast had devoured (harpazo) him and torn him to pieces.
Bullying to Snatch the Seed
This word gives a mind picture of how the Evil One snatches the seed of the Word of God from the heart. This is the snatching of the seed by the roar of evil. The roar comes before the devouring as I Peter 5:8 illustrates. The Evil One is the great robber and uses intimidation and force to cause people to surrender the most valuable seed ever sown in their heart. Then the heart has no defense against being torn to pieces by the enemy and no remedy to the afflictions of his kingdom because the seed of the Word of God has been violently seized from the heart. The robber intimidates, threatens, terrorizes, bullies, and frightens, all for the purpose of seizing hold of valuables that he has no right to.
At the root of this snatching is always fear. Fear prepares the soil of the heart to be receptive to the lies of the enemy. It conditions the soil of the heart to reject the seed of the Word of God. Fear is like sand in the machinery of life. It is a great poison to the heart and is always extremely deadly. Fear is the great enemy of the Word of God taking root and growing in the heart.
The Evil One uses fear in a thousand different shades as a weapon of intimidation to allow him to seize the valuable seed of God’s Word before it begins to settle into the soil of the heart. Fear of commitment, fear of ridicule, fear of being an outcast, fear of losing our love with the world, fear of sacrifice, fear of losing friends, fear of consequences, fear of rejection, fear of being labeled intolerant, a fanatic or a weirdo, fear of being different, fear of change, and fear of coming out of the darkness into the light are just a few of the fears that can consume the heart causing it to reject God’s Word.
Fear is always rooted in a lack of understanding of the true nature of God and His Word. Only God can deliver a heart from fear. God’s Word living in the heart is only true remedy for fear. Fear imprisons the heart and keeps it in bondage. It brings the disease of unbelief into the heart. Fear blinds the eyes, deadens the ears and hardens the heart against God Almighty and the truth of His matchless Word.
The Enemy does not want to see the kingdom of God rise in the heart like the sunshine of a new day. He wants to keep the heart in darkness and spiritual blindness, plagued with the hopelessness of a wasted life that is devoid of the power, healing and deliverance of the Word of God. He wants evil to grow in our hearts, not the Word of God. And evil feeds off of fear. The great cry of the heart must be “Fear not! For my God is with me and He is greater than any fear that has ever occupied the heart.”
The Hated Seed: The Word of the Kingdom
The second truth to consider in Matthew’s account of this first soil of the heart is that the seed is referred to as “the word of the kingdom.” There is no word that Satan hates more than the word of God’s kingdom. His reaction to this particular seed is more forceful, as seen in the usage of the word harpazo, because it proclaims utter defeat and destruction to his every purpose and scheme.
Genesis 3:15, the first prophecy about Christ in the Bible, states the seed of woman (Jesus Christ), will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. In the battle of the seeds, God wins with a crushing victory. The Rock of Jesus Christ will utterly smash every remnant of the Evil One and His kingdom from the face of the earth. The devil is referred to as the prince of this world and he has spread his kingdom into every town, city and country around the globe. But his kingdom is doomed and will come to an end and he is painfully aware of this truth. This is why He hates anything to do with the proclamation of Christ’s kingdom.
The “word of the kingdom” is the great witness that Lucifer’s rebellion against God with all his subsequent schemes as the god of this age were all in vain. A failure of immense proportions. It was foolishness unmatched in human history. Jesus Christ dismantled the kingdom of darkness and one day Christ will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords over the entire earth, and His kingdom shall never end. The word of the kingdom is a judicial proclamation of the death sentence on Satan’s kingdom and the crushing of his kingdom into oblivion. The word “crush” in the Hebrew means: “to break or smite in pieces and to greatly injure or wound.” E. W. Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, states:
When it is said (v.15), “He shall crush thy head”, it means something more than a skull of bone, and brain and hair. It means all Satan’s plans and plots, policy and purposes, will one day be finally crushed and ended, never more to mar or to hinder the purposes of God.[iv]
Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon on The Serpent’s Sentence, says:
THE PERPETUAL DEGRADATION put upon the serpent- “And dust shalt thou eat all the days of your life.” Satan is now to live a defeated life, for such is the force of expression. It signifies that they are utterly defeated. So Satan, all his life, exists as a conquered and chained enemy-his power is broken and he knows it. He is defeated as to the whole of his great scheme and he is to be defeated in the details of it all the days of his life….Forever, dust shall be the serpent’s meat, for what he gains always disappoints him. He thought he had obtained great advantage when he won the woman to-disobedience-but he made a rod for his own back since her Seed has become his Eternal Antagonist….If Satan ever knows pleasure at all, it is of the foulest and most unsatisfactory kind-dust is his meat. There is nothing satisfying in the pleasures of rebellion. He remains a disappointed, restless being. His whole cause, for which he has labored these thousands of years with horrible perseverance-his whole cause, I say-will dissolve into dust and will be blown away as smoke! …Everything that sin can bring you is just so much dust….This is the misery of that great spirit who is called the Prince of Darkness, that he must eat dust all his days.[v]
Ezekiel foretells of the final complete destruction of the devil in the future and this is a glorious part of “the word of the kingdom” when God’s kingdom is established forever and forever, and not a trace of the devil or his angels or his kingdom will be found anywhere upon the earth.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground. I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. (Ezekiel 28:17-19, ESV)
But you will be brought down to Sheol into the deepest regions of the Pit. Those who see you will stare at you; they will look closely at you; “Is this the man who caused the earth to tremble, who shook kingdoms, who turned the world into a wilderness, who trampled its cities and would not release the prisoners to return home?” All of the kings of the nations lie in splendor, each in his own tomb. But you are thrown out without a grave, like a worthless branch, covered by those slain with the sword and dumped into a rocky pit like a trampled corpse. You will not join them in burial, because you destroyed your land and slaughtered your own people. The offspring of evildoers will never be remembered. (Isaiah 14:15-20, HCSB)
The god of this world, the Devil, who ruined Adam and Eve in the Garden, who contaminated God’s creation with sin, who turned the world into a wasteland of evil and trampled its cities, who made people prisoners in the bondage of his snare, who uses and destroys his followers, and who spreads fear throughout every age, will one day become like a worthless branch and a trampled corpse, as he is destroyed and reduced to ashes. This is the future of the serpent. He will never enchant, deceive, destroy and oppose God again. This is the ultimate humiliation awaiting the great enemy of God. This is the future of evil.
Do you see why the Devil hates the “word of the kingdom?” Do you see why the “word of the kingdom” causes shock waves to reverberate throughout the kingdom of darkness? The Devil marshals his entire kingdom to snatch and rob this seed of the word of the kingdom from every heart where it is sown. The word of the kingdom declares the truth in Colossians 1:13 that God has delivered us from the exercised power of the kingdom of darkness and given us citizenship in His kingdom by the work of His dear Son. Our citizenship, our life and our very existence no longer rests in the Devil’s kingdom. We have been set free and are now sons and daughters of the living God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and rightful citizens of the kingdom of God.
Oh how we need the word of the kingdom sown into our hearts where it can grow and flourish! Oh how the kingdom of God must rise up like a mighty, flourishing tree and set its root deep in the soil of our hearts. We must prepare the soil of our hearts for the way of the Lord and the glory of His kingdom. Jesus is sowing the word of his kingdom into our hearts. Will it take root, grow and produce fruit or be stolen away by the enemy?
The word of the kingdom is vital to our spiritual health. It is the great medicine for the heart to operate at its optimum level for it gives hope, courage and joy. The word of the kingdom gives us stamina and endurance in the midst of life’s most trying circumstances and problems.
Psalm 145:12-13 says God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and that God wants to make known to everyone its glorious splendor and majesty. God wants the word of the kingdom to thrive in every heart. Daniel 2:44 says that God’s kingdom will never be destroyed, and it will break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms. No earthly or spiritual kingdom can overcome the kingdom of God.
There is only one rightful King that should be sitting on the throne of our hearts. When we allow other kings to rule our hearts, their kingdoms will ultimately be shattered into pieces and broken on the Rock, Jesus Christ. Their kingdoms are short-lived and will crumble into nothingness. God’s kingdom can never be shaken, overthrown and destroyed. God’s kingdom will rule for all eternity. The word of the kingdom must live in the heart of every Christian if we are to serve God and fulfill our divine calling upon the earth.
[i] Charles Spurgeon, Satan’s Punctuality, Power and Purpose, Sermon 1478A, Written at Mentone.
[ii] Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume 1, Mark, Galatians Romans Ephesians and Colossians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1961), 26.
[iv] E.W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishing, 1990), Appendix 19, 25.
[v] Charles Spurgeon, The Serpent’s Sentence, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on September 21, 1890.
Excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life by Tim Rowe. Available on Amazon, Kindle, IBooks and Barnes and Noble