As we discussed yesterday, there is a time for every season. We are now in Winter, and this is the time to prepare for Spring. When we are preparing to enter into a spring season, we must make certain that ground is prepared. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground. For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)
We see a similar command in Jeremiah: “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.” (Jer. 4:3) What does it mean for me and you to break up our fallow ground? The Hebrew noun nîr, “the tillable, untilled, or fallow ground.” It is land that could be productive, but for whatever reason has not been broken up, tilled, plowed, and prepared for planting. The prophets speaking the Word of the Lord are commanding the people to break up that land in their hearts — spiritually!
Unplowed ground won’t let a crop grow. It’s hard, preventing seeds from penetrating, germinating, and growing to maturity. If we don’t bother to prepare the soil and pull out the thorns, the seed of God’s Word will have little effect in our hearts. What’s been growing in your heart previously? Hatred, bitterness, lust, greed, fear, pride, hedonism? These must be rooted out so a new crop can be planted. Because if we continue to plant these seeds, that is what will grow. “They sow the wind, And reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no bud; It shall never produce meal. If it should produce, Aliens would swallow it up.” (Hos. 8:7)
Taking the “wind” to mean something worthless and foolish (Prov 11:29), we can surmise that Israel’s foolishness in the past would result in a veritable storm of consequence. Indeed, in the previous verses, Hosea decries Israel’s idolatry (vs 4-6). Their foolish pursuit of false gods would reap a severe judgment from the Lord. Also at work in the proverb is the principle of multiplication: a farmer may plant one kernel of corn, but he will reap much more than that—a whole ear. In the same way, Israel’s sin of idolatry would bring forth an amplified consequence that would sweep them all away. An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God.
Today, we can see the truth of Hosea’s proverb in many ways. Those who live in unrepentant sin can expect to suffer the consequences of their sin—consequences that both “fit the crime” and exhibit a stunning intensity. Also, this statement by Hosea is a clarion call to avoid idolatry. Anything that steals our trust in the Lord, lessens our devotion to Him, or controls us can be considered an idol and should be abolished from our lives.
In this season is an opportunity to break up the unfallow ground that is hard and unused. This is a time to “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” (Is. 55:6) To ask Him to show us what we must dislodge from our hearts, so that we can plant His Word in our hearts so that His righteousness will grow in our hearts and minds.
Maybe there’s a plot of land — a part of your life — that you’ve never got around to cultivating, planting, and harvesting. It’s there but it’s wasted. Perhaps you’ve put off plowing this particular piece of land because it’s too difficult or too painful. Perhaps you can’t envision the fruit and grain that can grow there so you’ve never bothered. But God is the great Vinedresser. If you’ll break up the additional fallow ground in your life, he will extend and enlarge your fruitfulness.
The first step to sow righteousness, is where we look for wisdom. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:16-18)