Plow up the Ground
The last date in the log book showed that for thirteen years the vessel moved undiscovered among the icebergs.
Some of us have walked around much longer than thirteen years with cold, barren and frozen hearts! We don’t want anyone else to know it, though this is how we really feel inside.
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
“For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” Jeremiah 4:3-4
Because God said this more than once, it adds greater importance to the thought. No matter where you look, fallow ground exists. It is found throughout the world and probably in your own back yard. I know there is much fallow ground on my own property.
There are two kinds of fallow ground. One type deals with the soil of the earth. The other type is a figurative picture of the “soil” of the heart. Each soil is important.
The hard and barren soil of the earth…
Home owners that plant gardens, as well as farmers that plant crops, are no strangers to the fallow ground of the earth’s soil.
I once tried to prepare a garden in the back yard after the soil was neglected for about two years. Some of the weeds were as tall as I was. Out came the idiot stick that I used to at least see the landscape. (Older folks know what an idiot stick is!) By the time both my hands were blistered and I was so tired I almost couldn’t find my way to the back door, I decided it was time to borrow a roto tiller. It was like tying a worn out rag doll to the bumper of a car and dragging it along a bumpy dirt road. Whew!
When the ground lies fallow, it remains unproductive, idle and unprepared. The ground may become hard and compacted and nearly impenetrable, even with a shovel. A breaking up of the ground must take place before the ground becomes fruitful again.
If your garden was overrun with weeds, how would you get rid of them? Simply chopping of their tops means they come back again and again.
In other words, breaking up the ground doesn’t happen from the surface down. It comes from digging deep below the surface and bringing those that were below the surface up to the air and light. Such work cannot be done with just a rake, a spade or a claw. Not even a shovel can do the best job, though it gets close. Using a plow or a tiller, something that goes deep beneath the fallow ground and stirs it up, brings the best results. Even using these great tools, however, doesn’t finish the job.
Once the soil is broken up, the real work begins. The roots you don’t want, along with the rocks, pests, and any hard lumps of soil must also be removed. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
This is really hard work, but until the fallow ground is properly broken up and all of the unwanted things have been removed, that ground remains hard, barren, useless and impenetrable.
“You just talked me out of planting a garden!”
The fallow ground of the earthly soil has a limited appeal doesn’t it? We sometimes pay proper attention to the soil, but do we give any attention to the soul?
The hard and barren soil of the heart….
We live in a time of fallow ground in America. That’s because the soil in the hearts of its families is also fallow. Our hearts are fallow and it saddens God.
This reaches farther than we think. Fallow ground may curse a nation, a church, or an individual that was fruitful but now lies neglected and finds himself barren and producing nothing.
Let’s face it, there were areas in our lives that were once happy and filled with fruit. Now, things just aren’t like they used to be!
“I remember…My life as a Christian used to be so much closer to God in some areas than it is now.”
Is that how you feel? The spiritual ground of the heart is fallow and it needs breaking up. Is this a matter of the hardening of the soil or a hardening of the soul?
God’s command to break up our spiritually fallow ground is a matter of the heart!
The verses we just looked at in Jeremiah clearly point to the fact that the command to break up our spiritual fallow ground is an issue of the heart!
Characteristics found in fallow soil also live in the soil of the heart. These traits are also found in every town, every congregation and they thrive in the heart of each individual. Even Christians that once enjoyed godly affections and habits, that were once fruitful for the Lord may awake one day to barren lives. What happened to the joy and the fruit?
Within the heart of each man, Christian or not, there is fallow ground that needs breaking up. I’m writing about things deep beneath the surface that other people cannot see. This is the secret ground that yearns for the plow of God’s Word to break it up. It needs breaking just as our hearts need breaking. The hidden weeds and hard clods of spiritual soul need to see the light of day for a self examination. It seems this Christian life produces nothing. The spiritual soil of the heart has been so hard. Only God knows how to break it up.
Is this what God refers to when He talks about a hardened heart?
It seems the cause of fallow ground in the heart is sheer neglect. There is no thought, purpose or plan the keep the ground of the heart spiritually plowed up. This is what causes the soil to get fallow as well. The longer either one lays neglected, the longer it takes to break it up.
What’s down there? The things beneath the soil of the heart are often ugly and nobody wants to look at them! This is just a brief list of those things lurking just beneath the surface. In fact, these things may be so close to the surface that they “pop up” from time to time, even in the Christian life.
The deceitfulness of sin Hebrews 13:13
Roots of bitterness and gall Deuteronomy 32:32
Roots of foolishness Proverbs 28:26
The roots of a vexed soul like Lot 2 Peter 2:6-8
The roots of ungodly words or deeds Jude 15
The roots of self righteousness Luke 18:9
The roots found in Galatians 5:19-21. These include adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, sedition, heresy, envy, murder, drunkenness, reveling.
How much worse can it get? Is my prayer life planted in fallow ground? How about my devotional life? Speech?
How hard is the ground in the soil of my heart right now? God, help me see the hard spots and the roots that need removal!
No matter what’s there, what roots or what impurities, let’s apply the plow of God’s Word and allow it to search us and expose these things to us. Do we dare ask God to do that today? Have you already seen something?
Breaking up this fallow ground requires w o r k. Labor is involved in both the soil of the earth and the soil of the heart. Only God can provide us the strength for this labor. There may be a sacrifice of time we would rather spend somewhere else.The work is not finished once and for all in this area. Constant watchfulness is required or the weeds will grow back. Unless we destroy the weeds, they’ll come back again and again. Kill the roots.
Don’t plan on doing this tomorrow! Something must be done now. I mean, there’s plenty of time, isn’t there? A good gardener doesn’t put off until tomorrow what he can do today.
Some well meaning folks decide to just pile up more soil on the top. That process helps but it doesn’t break up the ground as it needs to be.
“Let’s hire someone else to do it.”
While you can do that with earthly soil, that isn’t how God wants the fallow soil of the heart broken up. God wants to help us do it. Though it may take hard work, and time and blisters are we up to it?
Breaking up the soil is easier with some water. In our case, the water of the Word can’t be ignored. Let’s use it.
The time to prayer about this is now. The time to ask for God’s guidance and the leadership of the Holy Spirit about this matter is now. Enough time has been spent doing other things. Now it is time for the Lord to break up the soil one part at a time. One word describes this action well: r e t u r n.
Yes, it’s true. God’s Word cuts into my heart. And it cuts deeply. It stirs me up and I find the hard and neglected soil dealt with through God’s mercy and grace. Amen?
We are God’s husbandry. How long has it been since the ground of your heart was tilled or plowed? Don’t go another day without letting God do this for you!