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Emblems of the Word (4):

by Rev. David Blunt

An emblem is an object which symbolises something distinct from itself and yet is very suggestive of that thing. An association exists between the emblem and the reality which puts certain ideas into our minds. We use signs, badges and motifs to this purpose today. In the Bible God employs familiar objects to represent His inspired word to men: each emblem shows us vital truths concerning the word of God which make it so precious to have and so necessary to use. In this series we look at some of these emblems.

First published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue 24, October-December 2001.


A SEED is a structure by which living things, especially plants, reproduce. In His wisdom God ordained that each species would multiply and spread, not by a repeated act of special creation but from within itself. The original organisms would form seed from which new individuals would arise; these in turn would form their own seed, producing yet further individuals, and so on. We see this provision when the first life appears on the third day of creation. "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so" (Gen. 1:11).

The idea of seed is very important in the Bible. Most significantly it concerns the Lord Jesus Christ. The first revelation of Him to a fallen world is as the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). For our redemption He would take to Himself a human nature. He would be "made of a woman" – of her very substance (Gal. 4:4). The world waited "till the seed should come" (Gal. 3:19) and the Lord's people now wait eagerly until He comes again.

Believers too are described as 'seed'. Whether they are Jews or Gentiles they are "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). Abraham was the archetype of a sinner justified by faith, so "they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7).

Seed is also a metaphor for the Word of God. This association is one which is scattered throughout Scripture. God's word is "precious seed" (Psa. 126:6). There are certainly three great features of a seed which teach us something wonderful about the Word.


How little a seed appears in the palm of our hand! It might easily be dropped or blown away in the wind. Yet what potential there is in a seed. Of the tiny mustard seed Jesus said that it 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" (Matt. 13:32).

The Bible perhaps resembles a seed in its size. It is not a large book after all: some editions might easily fit in the pocket. Have we ever thought that the Bible is just one small volume against the millions of volumes which have been written by mere men? "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecc. 12:12) said wise Solomon. If this was true in his day, how much more in ours! Books of every shape, size and subject pour off the printing presses, most of them destined for oblivion. Some individual authors have written many more words than are contained in the pages of the Bible. Their works may be popular for a time. Yet no book has been so copied and circulated as the Bible, such that it has spread over the whole earth. And no book has had such a healthful and blessed influence over so great a period of time.

The Bible certainly resembles a seed in its development. It had a small beginning in an obscure nation. It was not written all at once but grew slowly. Nearly forty men contributed to it over sixteen hundred years. Yet despite their varied backgrounds, circumstances and characters they wrote, under the inspiration of God, on one consistent theme. The Lord Jesus Christ, in His glorious Person and redemptive work, is the sum and substance of Holy Scripture. "In the volume of the book it is written of me" (Psa. 40:7). The Bible commences with Genesis, the book of beginnings. The germ of every doctrine is there. We have the beginning of creation, providence and redemption. We discover the origin of life and death, of sin and grace. Especially we find the Saviour of our souls. We see His humanity in the Seed of the Woman and His divinity in the Angel of the Lord. We see His of fices of prophet, priest and king prefigured in Abraham and Melchizedek. We see His sacrfice for sin portrayed in the offering of Isaac. All these things are developed in the books of the Old Testament until the full flower of truth is seen in the New Testament. It has been well said that in the Old Testament Christ is infolded, in the New He is unfolded; in the Old Testament Christ is latent, in the New He is patent.


A seed seems to be a poor, lifeless thing but hidden within it there is great strength. For many the Bible is a dead book, belonging to another age. They think that its soul departed long ago. But there are those who have lifted a Bible from a shelf or a pew, with its dry and dusty covers, turned over its pages – and found that its spirit has miraculously returned! Its contents have been blessed to their souls. As Christ is "the word of life (1 John 1:1) so the Scriptures are also called "the word of life" (Phil. 2:16). God has so invested Himself in His Word that it appears to have the attributes of the divine personality. If God searches us and knows us then so does His word: it is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). If God knows the future then so does the Bible: "The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham" (Gal.3:8). As Luther said: "The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me."

The power of life seen in a seed is not given to it by the earth in which it lies. So with the word of God in the heart of a sinner. It is God who gives life to the spiritually dead. Some teach that man is able to produce the acts of conversion by himself but Scripture says that these things are the work of God's grace (Eph.2:10; Phil. 2:13). They only appear because of the new life God has given to the soul in regeneration. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth" (Jam. 1:18). If faith, repentance, love and obedience do not grow out of this root they will soon wither and die.

A seed may live and grow in the most inhospitable conditions. Thomas Watson called the Scriptures the "breeder and feeder of grace" and because of the power of grace a believer may persevere and prosper in union and communion with Christ even in the wilderness of this world. Joseph's soul thrived in Egypt, Daniel's in Babylon, Paul's in Rome. There are many Christians today who battle against hardships, persecutions and perhaps even the threat of death. Yet with the word of God in their hearts they are able to "sing the Lord's song in a strange land" (Psa. 137:4).

The Bible itself has faced the devil's onslaughts since he first entered the garden of Eden and queried the word of God. The evil one has sought to crush the life out of the precious seed by the open infidelity of higher criticism and the subtlety of lower criticism. The first attacks the inspiration of the Scriptures and the second the preservation of the Scriptures. But their life is supernatural and invincible. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35).


What gives success to a seed? We have all had the experience of planting what we thought was perfectly good seed, only to have it fail to germinate. We took great care to prepare the soil, fertilise it and water it. In the end it seems to be a matter of sovereignty. "Thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that" (Ecc. 11:6). So it is with the preaching of the gospel. One sermon is used, another is not. One man is blessed, another is not. God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7).

Several of our Lord's parables describe the development of God's kingdom by the figure of the sowing of seed. After sowing his field a farmer gets on with other things, for the result is now out of his hands. It is wonderful when something is glimpsed above the ground! The seed has come to life. It is quite beyond our understanding. Life begins before the blade appears but until then it is hidden under the earth and cannot be detected. There has been a struggle as the growing shoot pushes its way through the packed soil, past stones and above the earth. Conversion to Christ is not an easy thing, for our minds are blind, our natures are wicked, our wills are enslaved, and the devil puts many obstacles in the way of our coming to the Saviour. But nothing will prevent the word sown in our hearts from coming to life, if it please the Lord.

A growing plant is nourished from the soil and remains healthy. It withstands the attack of every storm, disease and pest. AChristian needs to feed his soul by regularly hearing the preaching of the gospel, by prayer and by fellowship with other believers. Only in this way will he be kept from spiritual danger and prosper under every trial and affliction. His life will bear the appropriate fruit of holiness and good works to the glory of God. And his new life cannot perish, for the word of God is rooted in his heart in regeneration. This is an 'incorruptible seed' (1 Pet. 1:23).

Like the One who is its grand Subject, the Bible is "despised and rejected of men." But it is invaluable to us all the same, the source of our strength and health of soul. Joseph Alleine wrote of how the Bible is good for the saint and sinner alike: "O ye saints, how you should love the Word, for by this you have been converted...Tie it about your neck, write it upon your hand, lay it in your bosom. When you go let it lead you, when you sleep let it keep you, when you wake let it talk with you. You that are unconverted, read the Word with diligence; flock to where it is powerfully preached. Pray for the coming of the Spirit in the Word. Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees." May our hearts prove to be good soil for God's good seed.