The key to Understanding the Parable of the Mustard Tree

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19 NLT)

The key that we will use to unlock understanding of this parable is:

The Bible is One Book

This means we must ask this question:

Is there something which was recorded in another part of the Bible that can help us understand this parable?

When we examine the Book of Daniel we see a similar parable. This parable was revealed through a dream God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Here is the first part of the dream:

“‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree. (Daniel 4:10-12 NLT)

Here is Daniel’s interpretation:

That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth. (Daniel 4:22 NLT)

Nebuchadnezzar saw birds nesting in the branches of that tree. Daniel said that meant that Nebuchadnezzar’s rule reached “to the ends of the earth”. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar’s power and authority had spread so far throughout the entire world that everyone in the world had to live under his power and authority.

Jesus referred to birds making nests in the branches of the mustard tree. When we use Daniel’s interpretation to interpret Jesus’ parable we discover that:

The Kingdom of God will become so great and spread so far that it will rule the entire earth and every living person will have to live under its authority.

This interpretation is confirmed by several scriptures:

For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'” (Romans 14:11 NLT)

By Myself I have sworn; truth has gone out from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow before Me, every tongue will confess allegiance. (Isaiah 45:23 NLT)

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NLT)

The Kingdom of Babylon had become so powerful that all nations and tongues had to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar and serve him. Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God will become so great that all nations and tongues will have to bow down and serve God. When we view the Bible as One Book we start to see connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Prayer Point:

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

 

Biblical Understanding Key #1: The Bible is One Book

The first key to understanding the Bible is accepting that the Bible is one Book. The Bible is one Book divided into two main sections:

  1. The Old Testament
  2. The New Testament

Many people hear the word ‘new’ and automatically reject the ‘old’. However, Jesus never rejected the Old Testament. The Apostles never rejected the Old Testament. In fact, the writings of the Old Testament were the only writings they used. Jesus referred to the writings of the Old Testament when He preached and taught:

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:40 NLT)

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ (Matthew 19:4 NLT)

Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. (Luke 17:32-33 NLT)

The Apostles referred to the writings of the Old Testament when they preached and taught:

These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: (Acts 2:15-16 NLT)

And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. (2 Peter 2:5 NLT)

Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin.  As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. (Romans 3:9-11 NLT)

The Old Testament contains information which can help us understand the New Testament. The New Testament contains information which can help us understand the Old Testament. When we sit down to study any Book of the Bible we must keep in mind that the Bible is one Book. It is one Book inspired by One God. I will discuss this in more detail in the next post God willing.

For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT)

Day 30: The Secret to Living an Overcoming Life

The secret to living an overcoming life is found throughout the entire Bible. Enoch learned this secret. Noah learned this secret. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob learned this secret. David learned this secret. All of the great men and women of the Bible learnt to do this one thing:

FOLLOW GOD

  • After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. (Genesis 5:22 NLT)
  • This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. (Genesis 6:9 NLT)
  • When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1 NIV)
  • But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 3:22 NLT)

Jesus knew this secret and He practiced it on earth:

So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (John 5:19 NLT)

The first instruction Jesus gave when He called His disciples was:

FOLLOW ME

The disciples of Jesus Christ walked in close fellowship with Jesus. They followed Jesus and:

They received the power and authority to do what Jesus did. (Matthew 10:1)

They received a commission to teach what Jesus taught. (Matthew 28:19-20)

They received the same Spirit that Jesus had. (John 20:22)

The disciples of Jesus Christ had these experiences because they followed Jesus wholeheartedly. They wanted to go where Jesus went. They wanted to do what Jesus did. They wanted to be Who Jesus is. Following Jesus allowed the disciples to overcome sin, doubt, weakness and fear. Following Jesus allowed them to endure persecution, imprisonment, and other bad experiences. Following Jesus will allow us to do the same in every area of our lives. When we follow Jesus we will receive the power and authority to live an overcoming life.

The Overcoming Life is within the reach of every believer in Jesus Christ. The Overcoming Life is within the reach of every person who hears the good news about Jesus Christ. God has revealed the secret to us:

FOLLOW HIM

Day 29: God’s Grace is an Inexhaustible Resource

We cannot live on this earth without the necessary resources. We need water to drink and wash. We need land to plant fruits and vegetables and to build houses. We need sunlight for warmth and vitamin D. We need money to buy or obtain the benefit of other resources. There are resources which can be found in nature and are easily replaced by nature.  These resources are renewable. This means that there is an inexhaustible supply of these resources. Our Heavenly Father, in His divine wisdom provided these inexhaustible resources for us so life on earth can be sustained. Do you know that He has also provided inexhaustible resources for believers in Jesus Christ?

Christianity is a new life. It is a new way of living. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus that “unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NLT). The Apostle Paul revealed to the Church at Corinth that:

…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

In the same way God has provided natural resources to sustain our life on earth, God has provided spiritual resources to sustain our life in Christ. One of these spiritual resources is grace. It is through the grace of God that we receive this new life in Christ and it is through the grace of God that we receive the strength and motivation to live this new life in Christ. One man who knows the power of God’s grace is the Apostle Paul. Before he was the Apostle Paul this is what he did:

  1. Paul (also known as Saul) “agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” (Acts 8:1 NLT)
  2. Paul uttered “threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers” (Acts 9:1 NLT)
  3. Paul “blasphemed the name of Christ” and “persecuted his people” (1 Timothy 1:13 NLT)

Paul did those evil things but one day he had an extraordinary experience with the grace of God. He met Jesus and received a new life. Paul knew he did not deserve to be called an Apostle but this did not prevent him from living a fruitful life in Christ. Paul overcame the knowledge of his past sins through grace (God’s inexhaustible resource):

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 KJV)

Sometimes we carry guilt from our past sins. Sometimes we remember our past sins and start to believe we are not good enough to work for God in a particular capacity. In these moments we must remember God’s inexhaustible resource. The grace of God allowed us to receive forgiveness for our past sins. The grace of God allows us to work for God. The grace of God allows us to live for God. There is only one thing left for us to do:

Live in God’s Grace

Day 27: Earth’s Mightiest Hero is Alive

The Avengers (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) are referred to as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. These heroes are not mighty only because they have superior strength, skills and power. They are mighty because of the great battles they have won and the great challenges they have overcame. The Bible is also filled with mighty heroes.

Moses delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt:

Moses was a man “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was MIGHTY in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22 KJV)

With MIGHTY power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:12 NLT)

Samson delivered the children of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines:

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his MIGHT; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. (Judges 16:30 KJV)

Jesus delivered the children of Israel from sickness, disease and demonic oppression:

And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and MIGHT, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2 NLT)

And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet MIGHTY in deed and word before God and all the people: (Luke 24:19 KJV)

All of these mighty heroes died and were buried. However, one of them defeated death. Jesus was crucified and was buried but God raised Him from the dead:

…and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.  (Ephesians 1:20-22 NLT)

Jesus Christ is Earth’s Mightiest Hero and He is alive and well. There is no man, no leader, no angel, no power or authority which is greater than Jesus. In times of trouble it is comforting to know that there is someone with great authority and power that can help us. Jesus is our Mighty Hero. He delivered us from sin. He is able to deliver us from evil and help us in temptation. With the help of Jesus Christ, (Earth’s Mightiest Hero) we can overcome every obstacle:

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18 NLT)

Day 23: You Can Rest on God’s Promise-pedic!

Sleep is a necessary part of life. Sleep gives our physical bodies the opportunity to rest. Medical professionals recommend that human beings need a specific amount of hours of sleep every night to function at their best. This is true but the quality of that rest is much more important. We can sleep for the recommended amount of hours and still wake up tired, cranky and frustrated. What we sleep on is just as important as how long we sleep.

There are many mattress companies which promise us the best sleep possible. There are mattresses which offer the best back support. There are mattresses which contour to the shape of our body. All of these are good but they cannot promise us the rest we really need. They cannot promise us that everything will be alright in the morning. They cannot promise us that all of our sorrows will be turned to joy. They cannot promise us that we will be victorious in life. There is only one mattress that can do that:

God’s Promise-pedic

This mattress is supplied, tried and verified by God Himself. Many people in the Bible slept on this mattress during their lives on earth. Jacob slept on this mattress. While Jacob was on his way to his uncle Laban’s house, he stopped somewhere to sleep. Jacob slept on the ground and used a rock as his pillow. While he was sleeping he had an interesting dream:

…he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the LORD… (Genesis 28:12-13 NLT)

The LORD God told Jacob:

…The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.

 I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15 NLT)

When Jacob received that dream he was homeless. He was alone. He had no soft bed to sleep on but God gave him a Promise-pedic. God’s Promise-pedic is a mattress full of God’s promises. God gave Jacob promises that he could rest on for the remainder of his life.

  • God promised to give him the ground he was lying on.
  • God promised to give him many descendents
  • God promised to bless the families of the earth through him and his descendents
  • God promised to be with him
  • God promised to protect him
  • God promised to bring him back to that land
  • God promised to never leave him

You may be alone, in debt, distressed and frustrated with life but you can still have a good night’s rest on God’s Promise-pedic.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

Day 22: God Always Finishes His “Good” Work! (Part 2)

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

I want to encourage all who work for the Lord in any capacity. I want to encourage those who are spending energy, money and time to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ is spread within their community, their nation and the world. The Bible reminds us that serving the Lord is “good work”, but sometimes that work can overwhelm us and feel more like a burden than a pleasure. However, there are three things we must remember as servants of the Lord:

  1. God started that “good work”
  2. God will continue that “good work”
  3. God will complete that “good work”

The Church at Philippi was always eager to support the Apostle Paul financially. While the Apostle Paul travelled from country to country, the Philippians would send supplies to him whenever they could:

As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. (Philippians 4:15-16 NLT)

The Philippians were not financially rich but God started a “good work” within them. The Apostle Paul reminded them that the same God that started that “good work” will continue it until it is completed. Some serve the Lord through giving financial support. Some serve the Lord through public ministry. Some serve the Lord through private ministry. Some pray for others. Some encourage others. Some bear the burdens of others. Whatever you do to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ is “good work”.

You may not be financially rich but God started that “good work” in you. You may not be physically strong but God started that “good work” in you. You may have made mistakes while working for God but God started that “good work” in you. God will continue that “good work” in you and He will complete it.

That “good work” that God has started in your life is like a puzzle with many pieces. Every step you take for God, every minute you spend with God, every cent you give to God, everything you do for God are just pieces of the puzzle. God will ensure that all of those pieces come together perfectly to produce a beautiful picture. Don’t give up but be encouraged:

God Always Finishes His “Good” Work

Day 21: God Always Finishes His Work! (Part 1)

There are many projects which human beings have started which were not finished. These projects were not finished for these main reasons:

  • The person who started it died
  • The person who started it did not have enough resources to finish it
  • The person who started it changed their mind and decided to stop working on it
  • The work was hindered or destroyed

God is not limited by any of the above reasons. God can not die:

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. (Isaiah 40:28 NLT)

God has unlimited resources and power:

“O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you! (Jeremiah 32:17 NLT)

God does not change His mind:

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? (Numbers 23:19 NLT)

God’s work can never be hindered or destroyed:

 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5:38-39 NLT)

Before the world began, God started a great project:

The Plan of Salvation

God wanted to redeem His creation from sin. God ensured that every part of His plan was carried out. He called Abram (Abraham). He gave Abraham and his wife a son (Isaac) in their old age. He blessed Isaac’s son, Jacob with twelve sons. These twelve sons became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve tribes became a nation. God preserved the nation of Israel from destruction. God used a virgin, named Mary to give birth to His “only begotten Son” Jesus. This Jesus, who was without sin and found to be without fault before Pontius Pilate, was condemned to be crucified on a cross (the worst punishment a criminal could receive). Before Jesus died on the cross, He said these words:

It is finished! (John 19:30 NLT)

The redemption of mankind from sin was finished. It took a long time but God finished His work:

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (Galatians 4:4-5 NLT)

Has God promised to do something in your life? Are you waiting on God to work on your behalf? Don’t give up. Keep praying and trusting in God. At the right time you will see that promised fulfilled. At the right time you will see that situation turned around. In those moments when you feel like giving up, remember:

God Always Finishes His Work!