“While men slept…” Satan’s strategies to thwart the Kingdom’s growth.
[These] parables alert us to the strategies Satan has been using to hinder the work of God in this seed-sowing age between the time of Christ’s first coming and His coming again. (J. M. Boice)
Satan’s strategies to thwart the Kingdom’s growth.
1. SOWER — In the first parable, the parable of the sower, Satan’s assault was from without — the “birds of the air” snatch away the Seed. More subtly, Satan uses “affliction and persecution” that arise because of the Word so that they fall away and, finally, the deceitfulness of wealth that chokes the Word.
2. TARES — In the second parable Satan’s activities were to surround the believer —he sowed his tares “among” the wheat. During the night, “while men slept” (v. 25), Satan crept into the field sown by Jesus and, into the only field that was producing a good crop, he sows an imitation crop! These tares, Jesus tells us, are “stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (v.41).
[Satan] could gain nothing by sowing another’s field with darnel, for it is not a saleable produce, and no profit can be made out of its growth. It is as worthless to the man who sows it as to the owner of the field. This sowing, then, was the result of pure malice… It was an act prompted by hatred for the owner. (G. C. Morgan)
It is important in our reading to begin to grasp the “accumulative effect” of these series of prophetic parables! They describe a construction, line upon line, of a counterfeit kingdom in the midst of the kingdom of heaven!
3. MUSTARD SEED In the third parable, the tare’s mingling and impact among the wheat is seen as the kingdom “grows” from a small mustard seed (an annual plant) into a large tree (perennial) with the “birds of the air” nesting in its branches.
All varieties of the mustard family, which are herbs, have thin, pulpy—not woody—stems and branches. It is nothing like a tree. This mustard plant did something abnormal by growing beyond its design parameters; it became larger than what God designed as normal. This plant ceased to be God’s church when it perverted its doctrines and objectives, moving beyond God’s intended limits. It became a counterfeit of the true church. (Martin G. Collins)
Furthermore, the birds of the air (which in the first parable were a type of satan) lodging in the branches “most probably refers to elements of corruption which take refuge in the very shadow of Christianity.” (Morgan)
4. LEAVEN In the fourth parable Satan’s activities was more subtle than ever — the tares grew beside the wheat but NOW the leaven grew inside the measures of meal.
Little is know of the properties of leaven as most baking is done with yeast. Leaven is “sourdough” that is left over from the original dough by allowing it to ferment and to rotten and therefore is consistently a symbol of corruption and evil in the Bible.
From a lump of leaven, which symbolizes corrupted Christianity, Satan, in the form of a woman, hides within “a large amount of flour” corrupt doctrine (Mtt. 16:12) and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1)
Please notice that the leaven is “hid in the meal by the woman”. In the previous parables we had a man, symbolizing Jesus. Here the woman must be a type of a false system/ false teachers who influence the whole batch of dough, “until it was all leavened.”(13:33)
Many times I ask myself, “What difference does it makes if we have these parables right or wrong…?” It seems like the more I study the area of prophetic texts and prophetic parables, I find more and more conflicting interpretations. Yet I am rock sure that it does make a difference to “get it right” and “handle accurately the Word” of God.
Here is a voice from another century that agrees:
Sad and solemn it is to see how lightly we think of error; for it is but another way of saying how lightly we value the truth. Yet by the word of truth are we begotten, and by the truth are we sanctified. (F. W. Grant; 1834-1902)