Root of Jesse
is a metaphor found
in Isaiah 11:10:
“In that day the Root of Jesse
will stand as a banner for the peoples;
the nations will rally to him,
and his resting place will be glorious.”
The term root of Jesse
figuratively stands for the
The “root” of a family is its progenitor. Jesse was King David’s father.
We know from the genealogical records (Matthew 1:1–17 and Luke 3:23–38) that Jesus was descended from the line of Jesse and his son David. In Isaiah 11:10, the Hebrew word used for “root” (sheresh) implies a root that remains alive and sends up a shoot or branch;
thus, the root of Jesse was a root
from which more descendants could come.
When Isaiah began to prophesy, there was a current hope among the people that a glorious earthly king—the Messiah—would assume the throne of David. Through the prophet Samuel, God had promised David that his offspring would establish an eternal kingdom: “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. . . .
Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me;
your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12–16).
The messianic title “Son of David” traces back to this prophecy.
Isaiah’s use of root of Jesse expresses the promise of a messianic king who would be born of David’s family line and focuses Judah’s expectation of survival on a sparse, leaderless remnant. The prophet uses a similar metaphor—“a shoot from the stump of Jesse”—in Isaiah 11:1 to describe their future hope.
This “stump” signifies the remnant of Jesse’s family that would barely survive. God’s judgment was coming on Judah, and the nation would be left with nothing but a seemingly lifeless “stump,” but there would be life yet. God promised to retain a remnant to carry on His work and the bloodline of King David. What seemed to be a dead, decaying stump would bring forth new life in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Quoting from the Septuagint, the apostle Paul referred to Isaiah’s prophecy in Romans 15:8–13.
Paul specifically acknowledged
Jesus Christ as the root of Jesse
“And again, Isaiah says, ‘
The Root of Jesse will spring up, one
who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope’”
And in the
book of Revelation, Jesus states,
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you
for the churches
I am the Root and the Offspring
and the bright
Isaiah’s use of the phrase root of Jesse calls into
focus the humanity of Jesus.
would possess human ancestry.
It also underscores Christ’s humble origins.
As a shepherd from Bethlehem, Jesse occupied a relatively
humble station in life.
King Saul often used the phrase the son of Jesse to refer to David in a derogatory manner (1 Samuel 20:27, 30–31; 22:7–8). The Jesse Tree is an Advent custom that originates from Isaiah’s prophecy of the root of Jesse. Instead of perishing, Jesse’s family grew into a branch that bore fruit in the form of Messiah: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).
During Advent, some use a Jesse Tree to represent the genealogy of
The Jesse Tree tradition dates back to the Middle Ages.
Tapestries and stained-glass windows depicting a tree with Jesse at the roots and Jesus at the top branch were prevalent in the earliest displays. As pictorial representations, they allowed unschooled people to learn the stories in Scripture
from the time of creation until the birth of Jesus Christ.
Today, families often use a Jesse Tree in place of an Advent calendar to teach their children about the Bible and the story of salvation at Christmastime. Each day of Advent, symbolic ornaments are placed on the tree, an act followed by a short devotional to explore and reinforce the biblical significance of each ornament.
Several variations of Jesse Tree themes exist, including
ancestors in the bloodline of Jesus, the promises of God, and important Bible stories.
While little is known from Scripture about the man Jesse, throughout the Old and New Testaments, he is associated with the
and mentioned as an ancestor of
In the book of Acts, Paul makes it clear once again that
the “root of Jesse,”
God’s promise to David,
is indeed the
Messiah and Savior,
“After removing Saul, he made David their king.
God testified concerning him:
‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.’
From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus,
as he promised”
Put God first,
and by trusting in Him,
your life will stay on track.
We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives.
He must come first, just as He declares in the first of
His Ten Commandments:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
When we put God first, all other things
fall into their
proper place or drop out of our lives.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him,
for he who comes to God must believe that He is,
and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”
OUR SEEKING OF GOD MUST BE DILIGENT
What does this mean?
It means that we must give ourselves
to the quest for God
priority and a passion
that we don’t invest in any other pursuit
God must be
first in our hearts
We must be ready to sacrifice anything else — indeed all else --
in order to see His face.
Our hearts must be purged of any conflicting interest or competing desire.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
In our longing for God we must be
and in our seeking of God we must be passionately committed.
He deserves no less than our all.
God’s making of the world is such that we
find it necessary to seek and search for Him,
but in truth
“He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). His hiddenness in this present broken world is not meant to hinder us from finding Him, but to entice us to seek Him more fervently.
As He whets our appetite for Himself, God is
weaning us away from our sinful, self-sufficient rebellion.
He is teaching us to love Him. With convicting evidences of His power and loving tokens of His goodness, He is drawing us toward His eternal presence. “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love” (Hosea 11:4). It is God’s good pleasure to be found by all who long for Him in honest, obedient love.
God is not neutral with regard to the inclination of our hearts. He desires that we find Him. He yearns for those who delight in Him.
"Draw near to God
He will draw near to you”
Yet there is a danger:
we must not deceive ourselves
that we are
if in fact
it is only certain blessings
God that we seek
Resisting the tendency to focus on ourselves, we
must learn to seek Him, simply and contentedly.
When we diligently do so, our
reward will be God Himself
and He will fill our deepest longings
according to the design
of His own love
Having sought God earnestly,
we will be enriched by the joy of a heart that
“Where there is faith, where there is need, there is the
ready to clasp the hands that stretch out seeking for him into the darkness behind the ivory and the gold” (H. G. Wells).
In Isaiah 41:1–12,
we find a quick summary of
God’s redemption plan
exiled remnant of Israel,
a plan that is further developed in later chapters.
With words of comfort and assurance,
God promises to bring His chosen “offspring of Abraham”
back to their homeland:
“I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold
you with my righteous right hand”
Motivated by an enduring love for His people,
God encourages Israel to trust Him for the future.
Despite their past rebellion, Israel was not abandoned by the Lord.
Throughout every twist and turn of Israel’s long history--
from slavery in Egypt,
wandering in the desert, conquering in Canaan,
to captivity in Babylon--
God wanted His people to understand that
He had always been and was still “with you.”
He was still “your God” who “will strengthen you and help you.”
God’s promise, “I will strengthen you,” is packed with more meaning than meets the eye. In the original Hebrew, the verb translated “to strengthen” entails making someone stronger and stronger; it means
“to grow and develop; to prevail;
to have or show courage; to seize, grasp,
keep hold of.” God was aware of
His people’s weaknesses;
He used everything in their personal experience and
journey of faith
to develop strength and courage in them.
The Lord was with them; He had seized hold of them and
would never let them go.
Scripture pictures God’s strengthening presence as a strong, piloting hand: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”
(Psalm 139:8–10; see also Psalm 63:8; 73:23).
God’s “right hand”
His power and strength
The Lord’s presence with us, along with our trust in Him, brings strength: “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will
find new strength.
They will soar high
wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29–31, NLT). Because of his close relationship with the Lord, the psalmist Asaph could say,
“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but
God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever”
(Psalm 73:26, NLT).
That same awe-inspiring
power God demonstrated throughout
Israel’s history is still available to us today
through a relationship with Jesus Christ
If we are born
Jesus is our source of strength to
overcome the trials of this life
(John 16:33; 1 John 5:4).
Through Him, we are “more than conquerors”
When we are weak,
He is strong in us
(2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
The apostle Paul testified that it was
that enabled him to
preach the gospel:
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:17–18; see also 1 Timothy 1:12). Paul trusted God—who stood at his side—to give him strength and deliver him safely through every hostile experience until he reached his heavenly home.
As God used Israel’s personal experiences of
hardship and adversity to strengthen them,
He uses our suffering today.
Peter wrote, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, NLT). James also taught that our suffering produces character and strength (James 1:3–4).
Some days, believers may feel like Israel did in captivity: abandoned, rejected, disheartened, alone, and afraid. If you need God’s strength today, remember His comforting assurance: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Timothy had incredible advantages.
He was taught
Word of God
by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5), and
he was discipled by
and served with Paul in ministry for years.
Timothy knew the Word of God
and was well-equipped.
Even still, Paul tells Timothy that he needed to
be diligent in the
study of the Word
rightly dividing the
Word of truth.
continuing diligence in the Word,
not be able to stand firm,
and he would not be able to
maintain sound teaching.
Paul warned Timothy to
pay attention to
himself and to his teaching
(1 Timothy 4:16).
Because all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, it is exactly what we need in order to be equipped for every good work God intends for us
(2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Paul encourages Timothy to be
diligent to present himself as a
workman approved by God
who would not need to be ashamed
because he was rightly
dividing or accurately handling
Word of truth
(2 Timothy 2:15).
First, Paul’s instruction makes it clear that the study of the Bible is work. It takes effort. It takes diligence.
We need to be committed to doing that work if we desire to be equipped for what God intends us to do in life.
Second, Paul helps us to focus on the idea that
this work in the Word
is not about
the approval of other people.
Rather, it is God who is assessing how we handle His Word, and so we are studying His Word for Him. Also, we understand that, if we are diligent, we will not need to be ashamed because we will have been faithful with the remarkable stewardship of His Word. Sometimes we may take for granted that we have His completed Word—the Bible. We may be unaware of how many people suffered and died to provide us the freedom and opportunity to own our own Bibles and read them in our own language. How sad would it be if we took this—one of the very greatest of freedoms—and were not diligent to make the most of it?
Paul’s final comment in 2 Timothy 2:15 is helpful because it tells us what success looks like in the study of the Word: to be “rightly dividing” the Word of truth (NKJV). The Greek word translated as “rightly dividing” is orthotomounta--ortho means “right or proper,” and tomounta means “to cut.” Literally, success in handling the Word is to cut it properly or correctly. This is farming imagery, as a farmer who is plowing a field would seek to cut straight furrows in order to plant rows of seed. When plowing, a farmer would look at a point on the other side of the field and focus on that point to ensure the line cut in the dirt was straight. This is what the good student of the Word is doing, as well: remaining focused on the goal or outcome and being diligent to handle the Word of God properly. To rightly divide the Word of truth is to “cut it straight.”
Ultimately, in studying the Word, we are trying to understand what the Author has said and not allow our own opinions or views to cloud the meaning of what He has written. When we are diligent to “cut straight”—to rightly divide the Word of truth—we can understand what He has communicated in His Word and be well-equipped for what He would have us to do and how He would have us to think.
To be double-tongued means to say one thing at one time to someone and quite another thing another time to someone else. To have a double tongue can also mean hypocritically saying one thing and doing another. The idea of having a double tongue is related to the idioms speaking out of both sides of the mouth and speaking with a forked tongue. If Jane asks, “How do you like my dress?” and June answers, “It’s lovely on you!” then turns to a third party and whispers, “She looks like a moose in that hideous rag!” then June is being double-tongued. Rather than speak privately to Jane about issues in the relationship, the double-tongued will say what’s expected in the moment, but speak differently when the person is out of earshot.
A double-tongued person is untrustworthy because he or she will say whatever necessary to get a desired response, with no concern about whether or not it is true or whether he or she has the means to follow through. In 1 Timothy 3:8, Paul mentions being double-tongued as something that should not be characteristic of a church leader: “Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain” (ESV). The NIV renders the words translated “not double-tongued” positively as “sincere.” Being double-tongued is a sign that someone lacks integrity, and integrity is of utmost importance for godly leaders (Titus 1:6–9).
People pleasers have the greatest difficulty with having a double tongue because they have such a strong desire to say whatever someone wants to hear in the moment. Bringing a smile to someone’s face, getting a hug or handshake, or receiving a word of gratitude is a sufficient enough reward for the double-tongued to continue their insincerity. They may intend, at the time, to follow through on their words but have not taken into account what that will require. Once people pleasers have received their reward, their motivation to follow through fizzles and they move on to other avenues of self-validation. Ananias and Sapphira exhibited a double tongue in their people-pleasing announcement that they had sold their land and donated all the money to the church (Acts 5:1–11).
Schemers are also double-tongued. These devious people are not concerned with making someone else feel good; they care only about their selfish goals. Schemers are always plotting ways to get what they want, regardless of the cost to others. They will promise the moon if it furthers their plans. Schemers are often pathological liars and can fool even the most cautious with their smooth, convincing words. First Peter 3:10 warns against this type of double-tongued speech: “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” Judas Iscariot is an example of a double-tongued schemer. Even after plotting with Jewish leaders to betray Jesus, he continued as a false disciple, joining with them even at the Passover meal (Luke 22:4–6, 21).
Gossips are often double-tongued because they pretend friendship to someone’s face but speak evil behind his back. Gossips usually embellish the story along the way to gain a bigger reaction from the hearer. They also pretend friendship with a person but reveal their true feelings to others. John wrote about such a person, Diotrephes, who was disrupting the church with his slanderous gossip (3 John 1:9–10).
It’s possible to be double-tongued toward God as well. We may offer prayers that sound spiritually admirable but that do not express the reality of our hearts. Jesus condemned people who try to sound spiritual when praying but are filled with pride and deceit (Luke 18:10–14).
Having a double tongue is just another way to be a liar. God strongly condemns all kinds of lying and warns that liars will be harshly judged (Revelation 21:8). People who are habitually double-tongued should keep in mind the words of Proverbs 21:23: “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”
Mary the mother of Jesus was described by God as “highly favored” (Luke 1:28). The phrase highly favoredcomes from a single Greek word, which essentially means “much grace.” Mary received God’s grace.
Grace is “unmerited favor”; that is, grace is a blessing we receive despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mary needed grace from God and a Savior, just as the rest of us do. Mary herself understood this fact, as she declared in Luke 1:47, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
The virgin Mary, by God’s grace, recognized that she needed the Savior. The Bible never says that Mary was anyone but an ordinary human whom God chose to use in an extraordinary way. Yes, Mary was a righteous woman and favored (graced) by God (Luke 1:27–28). At the same time, Mary was a sinful human being who needed Jesus Christ as her Savior, just like everyone else (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 John 1:8).
The virgin Mary did not have an “immaculate conception.” The Bible doesn’t suggest Mary’s birth was anything but a normal human birth. Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (Luke 1:34–38), but she was not a virgin permanently. The idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is unbiblical. Matthew 1:25, speaking of Joseph, declares, “But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.” The word until clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary did have normal sexual relations after Jesus was born. Mary remained a virgin until the Savior’s birth, but later Joseph and Mary had several children together. Jesus had four half-brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). Jesus also had half-sisters, although they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:55–56). God blessed and graced Mary by giving her several children, which in that culture was accepted as the clearest indication of God’s blessing on a woman.
One time when Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd proclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Luke 11:27). There was never a better opportunity for Jesus to declare that Mary was indeed worthy of praise and adoration. What was Jesus’ response? “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). To Jesus, obedience to God’s Word was more important than being the woman who gave birth to the Savior.
Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus or anyone else direct any praise, glory, or adoration toward Mary. Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, praised Mary in Luke 1:42–44, but her praise is based on the blessing of giving birth to the Messiah. It was not based on any inherent glory in Mary. In fact, after this Mary spoke a song of praise to the Lord, extoling His mindfulness to those of humble state and His mercy and faithfulness (Luke 1:46–55).
Many believe that Mary was one of Luke’s sources for the writing of his Gospel (see Luke 1:1–4). Luke records the angel Gabriel visiting Mary and telling her that she would give birth to a son who would be the Savior. Mary was unsure how this could be since she was a virgin. When Gabriel told her that the child would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, Mary answered, "I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May your word to me be fulfilled. Then the angel left her" (Luke 1:38). Mary responded with belief and a willingness to submit to God’s plan. We, too, should have such faith in God and trustingly follow Him.
In describing the events of Jesus’ birth and the response of those who heard the shepherds’ message about Jesus, Luke writes, "But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple, Simeon recognized that Jesus was the Savior and gave God praise. Joseph and Mary marveled at what Simeon had said. Simeon also told Mary, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34–35).
Another time at the temple, when Jesus was twelve, Mary was upset that Jesus had remained behind when His parents had left for Nazareth. They were distressed in looking for Him. When they found Him, still in the temple, He said He must be in His Father’s house (Luke 2:49). Jesus returned to Nazareth with His earthly parents and submitted to them. We are told, again, that Mary "treasured up all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). Raising Jesus must have been a perplexing endeavor yet also filled with precious moments, perhaps memories that became more poignant as Mary came to more fully understand who Jesus is. We, too, can treasure in our hearts the knowledge of God and the memories of His activity in our lives.
It was Mary who requested Jesus’ intervention at the wedding of Cana, where He performed His first miracle and turned water into wine. Even though Jesus seemingly rebuffed her at first, Mary instructed the servants to do what He told them. She had faith in Him (John 2:1–11).
Later in Jesus’ public ministry, His family grew concerned. Mark 3:20–21 records, "The crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, 'He is out of his mind.'" When His family arrived, Jesus proclaimed that it is those who do the will of God who are His family. Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him prior to the crucifixion, but at least two of them did afterward—James and Jude (Judas), the authors of the New Testament books bearing their names.
Mary did seem to believe in Jesus throughout His life. She was present at the cross when Jesus died (John 19:25), no doubt feeling the “sword” that Simeon had prophesied would pierce her soul. It was there at the cross that Jesus asked John to serve as Mary’s son, and John took Mary into his home (John 19:26–27). Mary was also with the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14). However, Mary is never mentioned again after Acts chapter 1.
The apostles did not give Mary a prominent role. Mary’s death is not recorded in the Bible. Nothing is said about Mary ascending to heaven or having an exalted role there. As the earthly mother of Jesus, Mary should be respected, but she is not worthy of our worship or adoration.
The Bible nowhere indicates that Mary can hear our prayers or that she can mediate for us with God. Jesus is our only advocate and mediator in heaven (1 Timothy 2:5). If offered worship, adoration, or prayers, Mary would say the same as the angels: “Worship God!” (see Revelation 19:10; 22:9.) Mary herself sets the example for us, directing her worship, adoration, and praise to God alone: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is His name” (Luke 1:46–49).
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.  When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
The first thing we notice about this parable is its similarity to the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:2-9. In some ways, this parable expands on Jesus’ teaching of how the “good soil” (a receptive heart) receives the “seed” (the Word of God).
In the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus tells of a man who scatters seed on the ground and then allows nature to take its course. As the man who sowed the seed goes about his business day by day, the seed begins to have an effect. First, the seed sprouts; then it produces a stalk and leaves, then a head of grain, and, finally, fully developed kernels in the head. Jesus emphasizes that all of this happens without the man’s help. The man who scattered the seed cannot even fully understand how it happens—it is simply the work of nature. “All by itself the soil produces” (verse 28).
The parable ends with a harvest. As soon as the grain is ripe, the sickle is employed, and the seed is harvested. This happens at just the right time.
Jesus did not explain this parable, as He did some others. Instead, He left it to us to understand its meaning. Taking the seed to be the Word of God, as in Mark 4:14, we can interpret the growth of the plants as the working of God’s Word in individual hearts. The fact that the crop grows without the farmer’s intervention means that God can accomplish His purposes even when we are absent or unaware of what He’s doing. The goal is the ripened grain. At the proper time, the Word will bring forth its fruit, and the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2) will be glorified.
The truth of this parable is well illustrated in the growth of the early church: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Just like a farmer cannot force a crop to grow, an evangelist cannot force spiritual life or growth on others.
To summarize the point of the Parable of the Growing Seed: “The way God uses His Word in the heart of an individual is mysterious and completely independent of human effort.” May we be faithful in “sowing the seed,” praying for a harvest, and leaving the results to the Lord!
Promoters of the false “prosperity gospel” and Word of Faith movement often like to talk about “seeding,” “seed faith offerings,” and “hundred-fold returns.” A seed faith offering is money given in faith that God will multiply it and return it to the giver. The more money you give—and the more faith you have—the more money you get in return. Prosperity preachers often solicit gifts to their ministries by promising such in-kind returns: “Send me $10 and trust God to give you back $1,000.” They give their appeals for money a spiritual gloss with statements such as “God wants to bless you with a miracle” and “Jesus is bigger than your debt.” And they will misuse verses such as Mark 4:8, “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” It’s good to remember the “seed” in this verse is the Word of God (Mark 4:14), not money.
The late Oral Roberts was highly influential in spreading the concept of seed faith offerings, and he taught people to expect a miracle when they sow a “seed” from their “need.” He wrote, “To realize your potential, to overcome life’s problems, to see your life become fruitful, multiply and provide abundance (i.e., health, prosperity, spiritual renewal, in the family or oneself), you should decide to follow the divine law of the sower and the harvest. Sow the seed of His promise in the ground of your need” (from “Principles of the Seed”). In the July 1980 edition of Abundant Life, Roberts wrote, “Solve your money needs with money seeds” (page 4).
Richard Roberts, Oral’s son, says on his website, “Give God something to work with. No matter how little you think you have, sow it in joy and faith, knowing in your heart that you are sowing seed so you may reap miracles. Then start expecting all kinds of miracles!” In May 2016, Roberts’ newsletter appealed for monetary gifts with this statement: “Sow a special $100 seed. . . . If you will plant this seed out of your need and go into a holy agreement with me, then TOGETHER you and I will EXPECT A MIGHTY MIRACLE FROM GOD” (from his website, emphasis in the original).
According to Oral Roberts, the way to take advantage of the law of sowing and reaping is three-fold: 1) look to God as your source, 2) give first so that it may be given to you, and 3) expect a miracle. As a “proof text” for the second step, seed-faith teachers like to use Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The misuse of this verse starts with its application to material gain—Jesus was speaking of forgiveness in Luke 6:37, not money. Also, there’s a difference between “Give, and” and “Give so that.” Seed-faith teachers advocate a selfish motive for giving—give so that you can get—and they state as much. The Bible teaches that we give for the sake of benefiting others and to glorify the Lord, not in order to enrich ourselves.
Teachers of seed faith offering also like Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, this verse says nothing about getting money or making seed faith offerings.
Another passage misused by seed-faith preachers is Mark 10:29–30, “Truly I tell you . . . no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields.” Seed-faith teachers latch on to the promise of a “hundred times as much,” but they only apply it to “homes” and “fields”—that is, material wealth. They ignore the rest of the list. Are we to suppose that Jesus promised His followers a hundred literal mothers or that we should expect a hundred times more blood relatives than we have now? Or was Jesus speaking of an increased spiritual family? Since the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters are spiritual, then perhaps the homes and fields are spiritual, as well.
The promoters of the doctrine of seed faith offerings ignore several important details in Scripture. Consider, for example, 2 Corinthians 9:10–12, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” This passage says God supplies the seed for sowing; that is, He supplies the resources for us to generously give away. And, when we give, God will supply more resources so the giving continues. Note, however, the reaping is not monetary gain but “the harvest of your righteousness.” Also, it is thanksgivings to God that overflow, not our bank accounts. The seed sown in this passage does not result in miracles or in personal wealth.
The promoters of seed faith offerings also ignore the fact that the apostles were not wealthy men. The apostles certainly gave to others: “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Based on the doctrine of seed faith offerings, Paul should have been a rich man. Yet, “to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:10–11). The apostles were materially poor, yet they were spiritually blessed by the Lord.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but we must not assume that His favor will be shown in financial returns. Nor should we appropriate promises given to Old Testament Israel for ourselves. Our motive for giving should not be to get money in return. Our goal should be godliness with contentment (see 1 Timothy 6:6–10). We should pray, “Lord, help me learn to be content with what I have, even if I am hungry or in need” (see Philippians 4:11–13).
The seed faith teaching amounts to little more than a get-rich-quick scheme that preys upon the desperate and hurting among God’s people. Peter warned the church about such chicanery: “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:3, KJV).
Most of the Bible was originally written to those living in an agrarian society, people familiar with working the land, managing livestock, and raising crops. Many of Jesus’ parables involve the farming life. Not surprisingly, then, the Bible contains many references to sowing and reaping, and here are some of the principles we learn:
Sowing and reaping is a law of the natural world. On the third day of creation, God commanded the earth to bring forth living plants “bearing seed” and fruit “with seed in it” (Genesis 1:12). These plants were then given to man for food (verse 29). Ever since the beginning, man has understood the process of sowing and reaping and has applied it to his benefit.
God uses the law of sowing and reaping to bestow His blessing. God’s blessing comes generally to the whole world as He sends sun and rain to the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). In some cases His blessing comes more specially to those of His choosing, such as Isaac. Genesis 26:12 says that Isaac sowed a crop and received a hundredfold in one season because the Lord targeted him for blessing.
Israel’s gratefulness for God’s yearly blessing was expressed in the Feast of Firstfruits, when the first of the harvest was brought to the Lord as an offering (Exodus 23:19a; Leviticus 23:10).
God warned Israel that, if they forsook Him and pursued idols, the law of sowing and reaping would be suspended and their crops would fail (Leviticus 26:16b). This happened to disobedient Judah on a couple occasions (Jeremiah 12:13; Micah 6:15).
Sowing and reaping is also a law of the spiritual world. It is more than just an agricultural principle. It is an axiom of life that we reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” There are natural consequences to our actions. The world operates under the law of cause and effect. There is no way around it: every time we choose an action, we also choose the consequences of that action.
Sowing and reaping implies a wait. Nothing good grows overnight. The farmer must be patient in order to see the fruit of his labors. When the Bible likens the ministry to planting, watering and reaping (1 Corinthians 3:6), it suggests a length of time. God will bring forth fruit to His glory in His time. Until then, we faithfully labor in His field (Matthew 9:38), knowing that “at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9; see also Psalm 126:5).
We reap in kind to what we sow. Those who plant apple seeds should expect to harvest apples. Those who sow anger should expect to receive what anger naturally produces. Galatians 6:8 says, “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Living a life of carnality and sin and expecting to inherit heaven is akin to planting cockle burrs and waiting for roses.
This principle works both positively and negatively. “The one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18b), but “whoever sows injustice reaps calamity” (Proverbs 22:8a).
We reap proportionately to what we sow. The rule is, the more seed planted, the more fruit harvested. The Bible applies this law to our giving. Those who show generosity will be blessed more than those who don’t. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). This principle is not concerned with the amount of the gift but with the spirit in which it is given. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and even the widow’s mites are noticed by our Lord (Luke 21:2-3).
We reap more than what we sow. In other words, the law of sowing and reaping is related to the law of multiplication. Jesus spoke of seed that brought forth “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:8). One grain of wheat produces a whole head of grain. In the same way, one little fib can produce an out-of-control frenzy of falsehoods, fallacies, and fictions. Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). Positively, one kind deed can result in a blessing to last a lifetime.
Sowing and reaping is used as a metaphor for death and resurrection. When Paul discusses the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, he uses the analogy of planting a seed to illustrate physical death. “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42b-44a). A seed may “die” when it falls to the ground, but that is not the end of its life (John 12:24).
Found throughout Scripture, the idea of sowing and reaping is an important principle imparting wisdom for both this world and the next.
The question “who are the seed of Abraham?” can be answered several ways, and it is important to make some distinctions. There is the Seed of Abraham (Seed being singular); there is the seed of Abraham physically (descendants of Abraham according to the flesh); and there is the seed of Abraham spiritually(those who, like Abraham, have faith in God).
The (singular) Seed of Abraham is Christ, as Galatians 3:16, quoting Genesis 12:7, says, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” The passage goes on to explain that an inheritance was promised to Abraham’s Seed (Christ) apart from the Law. Later, the Mosaic Law was introduced, but it did not annul the promises made to Abraham or to Abraham’s Seed (Christ).
Just as Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness (Genesis 15:6), so are all today who believe in God’s Son justified apart from the Law. In this way, Abraham is the “father” of all who believe (Romans 4:11–17). “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Of course, the seed of Abraham can also refer to the Hebrew people who descended from Abraham through Isaac. Still more broadly, the seed of Abraham could include Arabs, who trace their lineage through Ishmael. This is the physical seed of Abraham. The spiritual seed of Abraham (believers in Jesus Christ) is comprised of people of all nationalities and ethnicities.
The Jewish religious leaders of the first century took pride in that they were Abraham’s seed. They saw their physical connection to Abraham as a guarantee of God’s favor. This attitude kept them from seeing their need for repentance of the heart—and brought condemnation from John the Baptist, who warned them to repent.
Anticipating their fallback argument that they were the
seed of Abraham,
“Do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’
I tell you that out of
these stones God
can raise up children for Abraham”
Jesus dealt with the same issue later.
In speaking to the unbelieving Jews,
Jesus emphasized their need
to receive His words as truth
and obey His commands
They replied, “We be Abraham’s seed” (John 8:33, KJV). Jesus then rebukes them for plotting ways to murder Him; their stubborn response was again, “Abraham is our father” (verse 39a). At this, Jesus makes a distinction between the physical seed of Abraham and the true, spiritual seed of Abraham: “If you were Abraham’s children . . . then you would do what Abraham did” (verse 39b). The conversation heats up as the Jews for a third time reference their connection to Abraham: “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” they ask Jesus (verse 53). Jesus provokes them further: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (verse 56). The Jews’ are incredulous that Jesus would claim to be a contemporary of Abraham, and that’s when Jesus brings the exchange to a climax with a claim to full deity: “Very truly I tell you, . . . before Abraham was born, I am!” (verse 58). In a fury, the Jews attempted to stone Jesus (verse 59), again proving that being the physical seed of Abraham is not enough—they had to be born again (John 3:3).
Paul sums up the difference between
the seeds of
Abraham in Romans 2:28–29:
“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly,
nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly;
and circumcision is circumcision
of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.
Such a person’s praise is not from other people,
but from God.”
The enmity spoken of in Genesis 3:15 is ultimately between
Satan and Christ
Satan “bruised the heel” of the Savior when
Jesus was crucified—Jesus
suffered in His flesh
But the story does not end there.
On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave.
In so doing, He crushed the power of Satan, sin, and death--
He crushed the serpent’s head.
Jesus is the Seed of the woman who has won the victory over the
tempter and enemy of mankind.
And, to His eternal praise,
He grants victory to everyone who believes in Him
“To the one who is victorious,
I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,
just as I was victorious
and sat down with my Father on his throne”