Session #096 Hide & Seed
Scripture Matthew 13:31-33
Summary The Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven in Matthew 13:31-33 seem to refer to the size of the kingdom of God. But do they? In this teaching, we will see that these parables are about the extent and the effect of the kingdom of God. Henson offers practical points for the believer to apply these principles of smallness and hiddenness for kingdom impact and influence.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:31 – 33)
We live in a world where bigger is better, and Israel expected no less from the Messiah as they looked out for a majestic entrance that supplanted the Romans with the kingdom of God. However, Jesus comes into the scene and surprises everyone with these two parables on the mysteries of the kingdom. We try to look for the kingdom but we cannot find it, because contrary to popular belief, the things of the kingdom will start small like the mustard seed, and hidden like leaven. The kingdom runs counter to the instant gratification ways of the world – it does not come immediately, but enters amongst us, small and hidden and not yet fully, but it will grow gradually. If we subscribe to the world’s thinking, we disqualify ourselves, thinking that we need to be big and prominent to serve. But as we understand from these parables, it is not about how big we are, but who we reach (the extent) and how we reveal the realities of the kingdom (the effect). Sometimes it is not about what you do for the kingdom, but what the kingdom does to you and then finally through you.
Both of these parables carry similar principles, but Jesus uses different elements to convey them.
The Mustard Seed Represents the Extent of the Kingdom
There are three things the mustard seed illustrates. Firstly, the mustard seed is the least of all the seeds, smaller than most. Jesus is telling us that the things of the kingdom have small starts. Secondly, the mustard seed is a common plant, known for its rapid growth. Once planted, it just springs up. Finally, the growth is disproportionate as from the smallest seed, it grows to become a shrub 10 to 12 feet tall, but Jesus calls it a tree as a hyperbolic expression to catch attention that something so small becomes something so huge. Furthermore, trees are used in the Old Testament to describe kingdoms, such as King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree in Daniel 4 that foretold Babylon’s destruction and restoration, and the “majestic cedar” representing Israel when the Lord “brings down the high tree (other kingdoms) and exalts the low tree (Israel)” in Ezekiel 17.
The small seed is going to spread forth, and the extent of the kingdom will be far-reaching. God’s kingdom was not meant to stay in one location, but to reach the ends of the earth, to be all-encompassing. The command to be fruitful and multiply given in the Garden of Eden and again to Noah is not about the numbers, but to move out. The land is promised to Israel but is given for them to bless others. In the same way, we are given something in our Assembly Area to bring out into our Area of Operation. For Jesus, His band in Israel spread out to the ends of the earth by the first century, including the Gentiles as well as the other nations.
“On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort; in the shadow of its branches they will dwell.” (Ezekiel 17:23) When the kingdom expands into a tree, the birds find rest and blessing in it. It is possible that these birds may represent negative elements since the birds in the Parable of the Sower represent the evil one and the Parable of the Wheat and Tares reminds us that good and evil grow side by side. The most important thing to understand is that the kingdom continues to reach out nevertheless
The Leaven Represents the Effect of the Kingdom
Just like the mustard seed, leaven (or yeast) is also very small, and the amount of leaven used is disproportionate to the size of the dough. Finally, the leaven is invisible within the dough, but just because it cannot be seen, does not mean it is not doing what it’s supposed to do. Once the leaven is hidden within, its impact starts to work from the inside out, communicating how the kingdom’s effect is pervasive and impacts every aspect of life. This shows how the kingdom’s comprehensive influence has spread far and wide, with many nations being influenced by Judeo-Christian principles, shaping what is known as common law. The kingdom starts from an inward conviction and change, so as much as we understand the laws to be external from us, the kingdom is not about modifying outside behaviour but a transformation from the inside out. Sometimes we may see that outwardly things look fine, but inwardly are things we still need to address. The kingdom’s effectiveness is not about how many programmes the church runs or the number of members, but about kingdom people living out kingdom principles that serve the King.
Just as the birds could be a negative element, leaven is also used to represent the influence of undesirable things. When the Israelites were being brought out of Israel, they were told to bake unleavened bread as a symbol of leaving behind their sin. In 1 Corinthians 5:6 – 7, Paul warns the church that with just a bit of sexual immorality, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”, and he calls the church to “purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump”. Paul is not calling down condemnation, but he is highlighting that although we love the person who is bringing the leaven in, we cannot treat the sin lightly and it must be dealt with. Jesus also charged the disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15), to not be influenced by the Pharisees’ legalism and religiosity, nor Herod’s compromising and manipulating to gain prosperity and power. Once the influence starts to take root, we have to throw the whole thing away.
The warning is that both wheat and tares will look right and sound right until it is too late, and the doctrine spreads all the way. We have to be careful, for the same principles of growth govern both good and evil, so we have to be discerning.
God Works Through Small People in Small Ways
In the historical context, mustard seeds were associated with men’s agricultural tasks while women did the baking with leaven. Jesus is showing that the kingdom extends to all who are listening to the teaching, regardless of man or woman and that he uses the smallest things to do so. When God chose Israel, Deuteronomy 7:7 tells us that Israel was chosen despite being “the least of all peoples”. Gideon in the book of Judges was from the weakest clan of Manasseh (Judges 6:15). 1 Samuel 9:21 tells us that King Saul was a Benjamite, “of the smallest of the tribes of Israel”, and despite the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) later coming from this kingly tribe, he counts it all as rubbish and calls himself the least of the apostles. God chooses the small, the weak and the foolish for His kingdom. Even Jesus is described in Isaiah 53:2 that he has “no form or comeliness”, just ordinary. Today, If we are feeling small and inadequate, we are God’s perfect kingdom candidate.
We have a great big God, but He has a very small voice for us to listen to. Bigger does not always mean better, revelations don’t have to come with a boom, for God’s kingdom Operating System works on a small level. If we are looking for God in the spectacular, we will miss him in the simple and the silent. It may be a small voice, but when it speaks to us, it is a loud awakening that gets His kingdom into us, through us and out of us. It is the small shifts and alignments that put us into position for our kingdom assignment. He can even use just a small arrow to point us to respond. The kingdom way takes small steps. If God gives us a small assignment, be thankful that all it requires is a small step of obedience. While it may seem insignificant, that little act of obedience in a response to faith opens the door. God is waiting for us to take that step that will open things up. One small step of obedience opens up the door for kingdom impact. If God calls us to visit a couple in hospital, to sow into a ministry, take that step, and never underestimate it. If the kingdom starts small, the kingdom assignments will also start small and hidden. If we are faithful in the little things, we will be faithful over much. So many people are missing kingdom assignments because we think we need to do big things for God, but God is calling us to small steps to test if the effect and the extent of the kingdom are working from the inside out first. If it is working in and through us, God will have assignments lined up for us.
The Kingdom Starts of Hidden
The hiddenness of the kingdom begins in the heart. The seed needs to be hidden in good soil, just as the leaven is hidden in the dough. We should not be trying to dig out the seed, but to let the kingdom grow. We need to hide the word in our heart, meditate and pray upon it, fast behind closed doors in times of solitude. The principle is that we cannot see that the kingdom is working at first, but we have to trust that the Word of the kingdom is working in us. Our problem is that we are trusting methods instead, trying to take shortcuts to growth, but we need to let the kingdom take time to permeate every part of our life instead of short-changing its work.
Secondly, we need to embrace the seasons of hiddenness and preparation. In order to align ourselves, sometimes we need to pull away. We should not crave the bigness and popularity, but instead, let God change us before we even think about changing the world. Once the effect and extent of the kingdom work in us, then we are aligned with the King and understand our place. We need to stay hidden until the time for the kingdom to be revealed comes, whether in you or through you. John the Baptist received the word of God in the desert, but today we try to find the word at conferences and seminars. Why not we go to the desert for a while to get the word?
We need to be willing to embrace a season of hiddenness, for that is where God prepares His people with the Word. John the Baptist was prepared to receive the Word, the Word became flesh in the form of Jesus, and at the right time Jesus met John in the desert and John could easily identify Him for his heart was already prepared. Jesus was hidden for a time and season before He made an appearance. These seasons of hiddenness are for God to teach us the lesson of insignificance. The Bible heroes like Joseph, Moses, David, and Paul all had times in the wilderness. We all need seasons of hiddenness, for in that season, we will struggle with identity and significance, and we will learn about reliance, trust and submission. If we learn how to make the best of that season, we will come out with the power of the kingdom.
For stay at home mothers, many of them lose their identity and significance when they start to stay at home, and this is a time of hiddenness. They might compare with others of their cohort, they might get accused of not being involved in the ministry, but in the years of hiddenness, they can be a blessing as they share their story of being pregnant, breastfeeding, and to be a blessing to others in the same circumstances. The effect and the extent of the kingdom need to come out of this season of hiddenness and preparation so that the time to declare will be right.
We Need to Become the Kingdom Leaven of Influence
We need to become the leaven of the kingdom. While we are careful of bad influence, we need to be the kingdom influence which starts from our own personal transformation, being filled with the Holy Spirit. We can leave the kingdom leaven out as the influence starts from inside. It is not about how much we know of the Bible, but whether we impact others with the effect of the Bible in our society. Are we permeating society with kingdom influence?
We need to hide all these in our heart while being careful of bad leaven. Are we an influencer, or are we being influenced? Let us be the leaven of the kingdom. The problem is that when we are more influenced than we are influencing, we become like the world and end up only talking Christian and not living kingdom.
The parable of the mustard seed and the leaven is not about the ultimate size of the kingdom. It will be big whether we are in it or not. It is about the extent and effect of the kingdom. The kingdom is not always apparent or obvious, and it is not easily measured by the world’s indicators. When the King comes back, we have the promise that the kingdom will be fully manifested. The world is about the big and prominent, and sometimes the church also chases after reputation and numbers, but we are reminded by what Jesus says to the church of Sardis in Revelation 3:1 “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” We may look at a church website and think that the church is alive and happening because of the number of services, but in reality, it is dead. The church of Laodicea was called lukewarm – not that it is backsliding, but that it is ineffective. We do it for the sake of doing. Just because the church has many members does not mean that it is reaching people for the kingdom.
Smallness, obscurity and hiddenness – these are the themes of Archippus, only mentioned twice, and Almost Anonymous. As much as we like to count certain things, it’s not about numbers. Many of the churches that Archippus Awakening is invited to are small, and it shows that God uses small things and small people, and we do every small thing as well as we can. We can feel inadequate many times, and we often think that getting connected to big churches will open doors, but God is telling us that His name is big enough. We need to be satisfied with whatever assignment comes along. Pastor Henson’s article, “Our Adequacy is Entirely Found in Him”, was posted in February 2015 sharing about his own feelings of inadequacy, and yet the very next month, Kingdom101 was started even in the midst of all these uncertainties. It was not about the numbers of people who came, but the extent and effect of the message The KPI of Archippus are whether we are awakened, moving on alignment, moving on assignment. As we do our part, God will do His kingdom part, in his kingdom way, in His kingdom timing. Not everyone will get it, but for those who do, more will be given in abundance.
May we be happy to play hide and seed with the Lord, to allow that seed to be planted, and for us to become that leaven, and whether we are hidden or become more prominent, may Jesus’ kingdom receive all praise and glory.