“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12 ESV).
On Monday we were introduced to the world’s first garden. Planted by God, this garden was perfect.
There are generally two types of garden. They are either for food or for beauty. Either type of garden requires growth. In any garden we plant that growth takes time. When Adam and Eve were dropped into Eden they got to skip the waiting. They never needed to exercise patience. They never had to pull weeds. No fair, right?
Adam and Eve were given the responsibility of keeping Eden and protecting it.
The Hebrew word for garden, gan, implies a cultivated area that is protected by a wall or a hedge. Not only had God provided a ready-made, picture-perfect, garden, He also provided protection for it.
But then He turned it over to the first couple. At first things went well. They walked with God throughout the garden, enjoying perfect fellowship with Him. Then they allowed an intruder in. Instead of escorting the serpent out, they struck up a conversation and turned their backs on God.
Adam and Eve were escorted from paradise to a cursed soil. The ground would no longer make it easy. Weeds. Thorns. Thistles. Blood. Sweat. Tears.
They had to learn about working the soil, planting and weeding.
The parable of the Sower describes four types of soil where seeds are sown. Three of the four are in locations that really aren’t conducive to sustainable growth. But the Word is sown, nonetheless.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have experience as being all four types of soil. I was raised in the church, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have faith in Christ. My heart was fertile ground for the Gospel. As I reached the latter years of High School, and all throughout college, my faith deepened.
Months out of college I was hired as a youth pastor at a charismatic church in town. I was ecstatic! In addition to teaching the youth, I got in some preaching time and I was heavily involved with the college-and-career group. Life was good…for a little over a year.
Without going into the details, I was hurt badly by the senior pastor. I was devastated. For a while I fought the onslaught of bitterness and anger. In time, I was overcome. I went from good soil to “along the path.” I stayed there for a very long time.
In time I turned to rocky soil. I tried to regain my faith again and again, nothing took. I was lost between faith and bitter hopelessness.
Adam was fashioned from dirt. Dirt is our heritage, and dirt is our destiny. In between we choose what kind of soil we will be; and that choice makes all the difference in the world!
I decided that I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I can’t claim any of the credit, but my heart softened. God plucked my heart from the rocky soil and transplanted it in good ground.
I wish I could tell you that I live every moment of my life in the good soil, but there are times when, for one reason or another, I harden my heart. Fortunately, I am getting much better at recognizing my warning signs. I am getting better at surrender.
For years the soil of my heart produced nothing but weeds. Despite my deep desire to be fruitful, I was trying in my own strength to plant a garden outside of Eden. And to be honest, I didn’t know the first thing about planting a garden. I had never had to find faith before; I had always believed.
Over time God taught me. I learned that You can’t simply do things in whatever order you feel like, and whenever you feel like, if you want to reap a harvest. There exists a certain timeline for all crops that take advantage of the cycle of growth and maximize the availability of water and nutrients. We need to be intentional about setting and achieving worthy and godly goals. And, of course, we need to have faith that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).
And this brings us to our primary text for today, Hosea 10:12. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”
Fallow ground is ground that has once been plowed, but hasn’t been seeded. The ground is broken up to better absorb moisture. And moist soil is more conducive to growth. But if the soil is left uncultivated, it returns to its previous dry state.
Once the rains have come the fallow ground must be broken up, evenly distributing the moisture and breaking up the clumps. That prepares it for seed.
There is nothing that we could ever do to merit our salvation. There are things, however, that we can do to grow our faith and bear fruit.
One summer between my sophomore and junior years of college I worked on a farm. The things that had to be done to a field before we could even consider planting anything was ridiculous! It was a lot of difficult work. The hardest work was “picking rock.” After the fields had been plowed the boss followed behind me and the other farmhand on a front-end loader while we “harvested” the many large rocks that had surfaced since the last year and threw them in the bucket. That experience has served as a reminder many times in my life. Growth isn’t easy. It can be back-breaking work.
So how do we break up our fallow ground? How do we turn our soil into good ground? First, we find the rocks. We objectively identify the people, places, and things in our lives which distract us or keep us from wholehearted surrender to Jesus. It may even be useful to give a more mature christian permission to speak into our lives and point out those things.
Once identified, those things must be dealt with. Again, a fellow believer would definitely come in handy in providing objective observations. Pick one rock at a time, or no more than two. It can be difficult work wrenching it from the ground. It has likely been there a while and might need to be painfully pried out.
It is best to soften the ground first. This is accomplished by liberal application of the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). Search out everything the Word has to say about the particular rock your are working on. Eventually that rock will loosen enough that you can pluck it up and toss it in the bucket.
Growth is a natural process. We will always grow. But we have the ability to determine how we grow. Are we going to grow weeds or are we going to bear fruit. It is a daily—sometimes even moment-by-moment—decision that we must make deliberately, intentionally, and mindfully. By not doing so, we will usually default to weeds.
It is my sincere prayer that something I have written will assist you in your journey as a disciple. If you find anything useful, please like, comment and share!
Blessings on your weekend!
Image by Symeon Van Donkelaar from https://www.vandonkelaar.ca/dundasbreakingstone/.