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the reference is to "faith like unto a grain of mustard seed." It would appear that this was
a proverbial saying. When, to-day, we speak of a very nominal rent, we sometimes say,
"it is a mere pepper-corn," and in like manner the mustard seed was used to denote any
thing very small. Let us then fix the first point first. The smallness of the seed must be
remembered when considering the interpretation of the parable. The next thing that we
must do is to see whether the Lord alluded to any O.T. prophecies, parables, or
statements, for if He did the consideration of such passages must help greatly in the
elucidation of the parable:--
"There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit
thereof shall shake like Lebanon" (Psa. 72: 16).
"Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image. . . .
and become a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2: 34, 35).
These two passages have reference to the smallness of the kingdom in its beginnings,
and the greatness of the kingdom at its close. The first refers to Israel in the Millennium,
the second to the kingdom in relation to the Gentiles and satanic monarchies, which
commence with Nebuchadnezzar and end with antichrist:--
"I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.
The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight
thereof to the end of all the earth. The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof
much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls
of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed by it" (Dan. 4: 10-12).
Daniel interprets the tree thus, "It is thou, O king," referring to Nebuchadnezzar.
There is close parallel here to the statement of the Lord, "The birds of the air come and
lodge in the branches thereof." Ezek. 31: 2-18 contains somewhat references to
"Behold the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon. . . . all the fowls of heaven made
their nests in his boughs. . . . "
The expression, "the fowls of the air," in the parable, would be better translated "the
fowls of the heaven"; this establishes more closely the connection between the parable of
the Mustard Tree and Daniel 4: and Ezekiel 21: "The fowls of the heaven" are
mentioned in Matt. 6: 26; 8: 20; 13: 32; Mark 4: 4, 32; Luke 8: 5; 9: 58; and
In the parable of the Sower as recorded by Matthew and Mark, we simply read "the
fowls" came and devoured the seed. In Luke 8: 5, however, we read, "the fowls of the
heavens devoured it." This helps us to see that those who devoured the seed which fell
on the wayside are those who found a lodging place in the branches of the tree. Now the
interpretation of the Sower is given by the Lord, and He declares that the action of the
fowls is to illustrate the work of satan; consequently we are driven to the conclusion that
whatever aspect of the kingdom may be represented by the Mustard Tree, we must find
place therein for satan and his agents. It will be of service if we now compare the three
records of this parable as given by Matthew, Mark and Luke:--