Not that long ago, the men’s Bible study I am blessed to attend spent several months going through the Gospel of Mark. One morning we looked in depth at the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-25). Our leader astutely pointed out the words of Yeshua: “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13 NASB) His conclusion, with which I agree, is that this parable is the key to understanding all of Yeshua’s parables, and thus everything He taught. Yet for all our analysis of this parable over the centuries, it seems that we may have missed something very important. What we have been missing dawned on me as we discussed Mark 4 on that day, and as we parted company I asked, “What if this parable is about the restoration of the entire Kingdom of Israel?”
We were not able to investigate that question at that time, but I have pondered it ever since. The applicability of the Parable of the Sower to the Lost Tribes of Israel comes into focus when we consider the prophecy of Hosea. We learn in Hosea’s first chapter that he speaks to the House of Israel, the Northern Kingdom which became the Lost Tribes. Because of their unfaithfulness to YHVH, He judged them by removing them from His Presence and scattering them into the nations. Yet He promised to bring them back to the Land as His people once again, as He said through Hosea:
“It will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the LORD. “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, and the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel [“God sows”]. I will sow her [Israel] for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hosea 2:21-23 NASB, emphasis added)
Ephraim [Israel] is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself. Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:11-12 NASB)
There is much to investigate regarding this connection of the restoration of Israel with the Parable of the Sower. My friend Ken Rank of United2Restore has made a good start by looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in this process. His article is reproduced here from a recent post on Facebook.
The Purpose of the Holy Spirit
March 7, 2015
What exactly was the purpose of the Holy Spirit when it was given on that Shavuot day (Pentecost), 2000 years ago? Was it to guide and teach us? I believe so, since the God we serve has ways that are not our ways and to understand Him we need His guidance. Was the Spirit given to comfort us? To that I also have no doubt; I am not sure how we could deal with the effects of sin (i.e. the death and decay of ourselves and loved ones) without His comforting hand upon us. How about as a promissory note, was the Holy Spirit a down-payment toward something even greater to come? Again, yes, Paul wrote about this in 2 Cor. 1:22 and 5:5 where the Spirit is plainly called a down-payment. What is then promised will come in the form of the completed work of writing the Torah (Law) on our mind and hearts by God and the perfecting of these deteriorating bodies we now live in. There are even other works the Holy Spirit does like convicting us of sin, empowering us in whatever calling God has ordained for us, as well as helping us to transform into more godly men and women, and more.
There is another work the Holy Spirit is doing that I have not heard mentioned and quite frankly I can’t say it is directly stated in the Scriptures. Yet, I do believe this work is true, I believe this work began 2000 years ago, and I also believe it is being done by the Spirit today. The work I speak of is the work of building a house. Starting in Exodus 35 and going on for the next few chapters, we see the preparation for and then the building of the Tabernacle. In Exodus 35:30 we see a man named Betsal’el singled out as something of an architect and/or craftsman and who was called to work on the building of the Tabernacle. An interesting thing happens to this man to complete this task: God fills him with His Holy Spirit.
There is then precedent of God filling a man with His Holy Spirit to do a work like building a house of God as seen in Exodus. At this point you might be wondering what all of this has to do with the Upper Room or with our work today. Well, we too are building a house, or perhaps better stated, rebuilding a house!
Around 2900 years ago, after the death of king Solomon, Israel divided into two separate kingdoms. The Southern Kingdom became known as Judea and the Northern Kingdom became known as Israel. We have one nation that was once one family; it divided into two Kingdoms, and is referred throughout Scripture as two people, two houses, and even two sticks. A couple of hundred years after the division, Israel, the Northern Kingdom, composed of 9 full tribes plus half of Levi, was taken captive into Assyria as punishment for their stubborn heart and idolatrous ways. This event was first prophesied in Deut. 30:1-6 which includes the promise to one day be called back out of the nations where God scattered them, and when this happens, they would be given a circumcised heart so that they might properly show their love for God as well as live in a manner that pleases Him. So, from the Assyrian captivity, Israel was then scattered (as a farmer sows a field) as prophesied out into the nations. This would be, brothers and sisters, how God would begin to bring about the promise made to Abraham that he would be a father to many nations (Gen. 17:4-5). Moreover, it would also provide the means for the blessing over Ephraim to come to fruition (Gen. 48:19 – he would become a “multitude of nations”).
I personally believe that either we are descendants of these very people, or if we are not, we are at the very least, like the foreigners who attached themselves to Israel coming out of Egypt who were to be treated as native born and ultimately assimilated into the tribes they traveled with. Why do I say this? The Northern Kingdom, Israel, having been scattered into the nations and promised to be returned by God, have been referred to as “The Lost Tribes” virtually since the event took place. They are also called the Lost Sheep and when Yeshua comes he says something rather unique:
Matthew 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
I can’t emphasize enough that there is a clear differentiation of people being referred to in regards to the new covenant. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 (and repeated in Hebrews 8:8-11) we see the covenant made (or renewed) with only the House of Judah (the Jews) AND the House of Israel, those lost in the nations. Yeshua said he came only to call the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel, not Judah. That is not to say that Judah does not need his work in reversing the curse of sin and death applied to them, they certainly do as proven by the fact that they still decay and die like everyone else. However, Judah, the “older brother” in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), didn’t leave the land of the Father. He wasn’t perfect, but he was not the one out in the nations giving no thought to God’s commandments or for that matter, to God at all. It was the Lost Sheep, the ones scattered into the nations as punishment, Israel in the nations; that gave no thought to God and His ways. This is why Yeshua says this:
Mark 2:17 When Yeshua heard it, he said unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
He wasn’t coming to call the righteous, the ones that were at least trying to walk according to divine command, he came to call those living outside of divine command. That is how 1 John 3:4 defines what sin is.
1 John 3:4 every one practicing sin also practices lawlessness because sin is lawlessness.
So Judah, the older brother, who does need Messiah’s redemptive work applied to him, was not the target as much as those who lived without Torah (without the Law). Ephraim, the kingly tribe of the Northern Kingdom and a word used poetically throughout Scripture to describe Israel in the nations, was who Yeshua was coming to call. Again, “I have not been sent BUT to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” We are those sheep, we have heard his voice and have come in faith and he said, “My sheep hear my voice.”(John 10:27)
So what is another function of the Holy Spirit? 2000 years ago, God sent His Spirit into the hearts of those He called out of the nations to begin a work that would take some time, the work of rebuilding the House of Israel. Just like Betsal’el in Exodus 35 who was filled with the Spirit of God to build the Tabernacle of God, so too has God filled the followers of Yeshua with His Spirit to build a House, the House of Israel, in whom God dwells. When the work is complete, when the time of Israel in the nations is complete (see Rom. 11:25 and Luke 21:24), then the focus will shift from building one house, to the reunification of both Houses. And that is a process, brethren; I very much believe we see beginning to happen today.