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THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." Mat. 13:31-32.

We have been asked to give our views on this parable. In addition to being referred to by Matthew, it is also referred to by Mark (4:30) and Luke (13:18). This parable undoubtedly has to do with the house or church of God. We think it was spoken of in type by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel in the following language: "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts: .and in this place will I give peace,. saith the Lord of hosts." Haggai 2:3-9. The prophet Zechariah also had a view of this when he was shown "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by, it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof." Zech. 4:2-3. When he asked what these things meant, he was told, "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerrubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth." Zech. 4:6-10. Zerubbabel is said to have been the head of the tribe of Judah at the time of the return from the Babylonish captivity, who God, by his spirit, raised up to build the house of the Lord which was in Jerusalem. As such he typifies Christ, who left the climes of eternal glory and came down into these low grounds of sorrow to set up his kingdom among the children of men and to deliver them who were under the bondage of sin and death, and make them lively or living stones in his building. When Jesus came into the world and began to establish his church he chose only twelve disciples, and one of them, Judas Iscariot., was a devil or had a devil in him. This was indeed a small beginning, particularly when we consider how unpopular it was among the peoples of the world. Even his own race, the Jews, were against him and did not receive him as a nation, but we are told that us many as "received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." We are not left in the dark to surmise or guess as to how or why they believed on him, for we are distinctly told that it was not by being born of blood, "nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" There can be no question about this matter for God first tells us in his holy word how it is not, and then he tells us how it is. In his preaching to his disciples, Jesus said unto them, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." If indeed the kingdom of God is ours, we should be willing for others to have this world and all that pertains to it. While the original group chosen by Jesus was small and despised, and the most of them were to be killed because of the doctrine they would preach, nevertheless the truth, though crushed at times to the ground, would rise again and be increased a thousand fold. Solomon had uttered a wise proverb when he said, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth," and this was to be made known more and more as time passed. How very true that was as applied to the church in her early history. The more the disciples were persecuted and scattered the more the truth was spread, for wherever they went, instead of keeping silent they cried aloud almost from the housetop, proclaiming the truth as it is in Jesus. He, forseeing and foreknowing the hardships and discouragements they would encounter, nevertheless knowing that he would be with them and prosper them, for had he not promised to be with them all the way, even to the end of the world, encouraged them with this parable. He never chose the line of least resistance, but invariably assumed the most difficult roles by doing those things which were impossible with men; therefore he took the mustard seed, which is said to be the smallest of all seeds, to typify the beginning of his kingdom or church here in the world, but we are fold that when it is grown, it is the greatest among the herbs, and if it is the greatest there can be none as great or that can compare with it, and the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches. God sets up his kingdom in the hearts of his people, and he breaks in pieces all other kingdoms. He puts his laws in their minds, and writes them in their hearts and, therefore, he becomes their God and they are his people ,and neither will they bow down to or worship any other gods but the true God. The government of .the church is upon the shoulders of her glorious Head, and he has established ordinances which are to be observed in older that she may be kept aloof from all others, for she is the fairest among women and there is none like her, and to her he is as the apple tree of the trees of the wood, or the fruitful tree, the one that bore the kind of fruit that was necessary for her salvation. Yea, he is the chiefest among ten thousand, the altogether lovely one to her, so much so that she desires no other, in heaven or in earth. She is also established "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a plane for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." Some of these mansions are love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, longsuffering, forbearance, wisdom, peace, faith, hope and many others could be named, and then there is God's foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification, power, purpose, preservation, and many other reason why God's poor and afflicted people, when they are brought into his kingdom, can lodge there and partake of that rest which remaineth for them that love him. What an hiding place from the storm, and refuge from the tempest there is to those who abide under the shadow of the Almighty! There is nothing in this sin-cursed world that can be likened unto it.

Before concluding our remarks we would like to call special attention to the verse immediately following our text; which reads as follows: "Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavend." Not long ago we were called to task by a very able minister for having, on a previous occasion, said that leaven as it is used here was not a type of sin. He takes the position that leaven is invariably used as a type of sin, but we will ask our readers to examine this simile, which Jesus used immediately following the parable of the mustard seed, and he used it to bear out the same idea or lesson, which was to show how the kingdom of God, though it has a small beginning will develop and grow until everything else is brought in subjection and Jesus is crowned Lord of all. Isaiah was prophesying of this kingdom when he said, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." As the meal would be unable to resist the workings of the leaven until the whole was leavened, so none can resist the will of our God, and Paul said he was "confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.?' The word that goes forth out of the mouth of the Lord does not return unto him void, but it accomplishes that which lie pleases and it prospers in the thing whereto he sends it. Even old Nebuchadnezzar had to confess that "he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" Jesus would often repeat his parables, using different illustrations, by way of emphasizing the lesson he was teaching, and we are persuaded that his words in the thirty-third verse of this thirteenth chapter of Matthew convey, in substance, the very same meaning as those in the two previous verses. We cannot disassociate these two parables and make them mean the opposite to each other.

In conclusion, let us say that what applies to the church collectively applies also in large measure to the individual, since the church is composed of individuals, and by way of trying to encourage those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious and who feel that he has given them the tiniest bit of evidence to hope that he has begun a good work in them, we would urge them to nourish that hope, and we are persuaded in God's own time and way there will be a growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore, despise not the day of small things, but trust him for his grace and "hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."

R.L.D.
Signs of the Times
Volume 113, No.2
February 1945