A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
In the 700’s BC., agriculture was an important part of daily life. Vegetables were not available for purchase at the local supermarket; everyone had to grow their own food to survive. Farming wasn’t delegated to only a handful of citizens; almost the entire populace of Israel grew crops. Therefore, the idea of sowing and reaping would have been a well-known and widely understood concept in Hosea’s day. So the LORD used an image that Israel was familiar with, He gave them an allegory and simile with which they could relate to and one which everyone would have understood—He told them that it was time for some spiritual farming.
“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. You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors.”
All farmers, gardeners, and workers of the ground know that before one can plant the soil must be prepared. After the long winter months, the ground becomes hard and in need of tilling. So what must one do to break up that hard ground? You get that tractor or rotor tiller in there and start breaking it up. If the ground has lain empty for only a few months, the work isn’t too hard. But what happens with a field that hasn’t been used in years? A field or plot of land that hasn’t been used to produce crops? The ground becomes extremely hard and baked. The topsoil probably has a nice patch of weeds and wild grasses growing in it that become matted and difficult to till under. This unproductive section is called fallow ground, and it takes extra work to break up and prepare for crops. But the labor is what’s needed to make that section useful and produce bearing once again.
Israel had large swaths of fallow ground within their hearts and God was telling them that it’s time to start breaking it up to become useful once again. Likewise, we also have areas of fallow ground in our hearts. While your acreage may not be as large as someone else’s, there are still areas that are not completely yielded to God and His work in your life and therefore, remains unproductive. So it’s time for us to heed the LORD’s admonition. It’s time to break up that fallow ground. It’s time for some spiritual farming.
Sowing and Reaping
Every farmer knows that whatever he plants, that will he reap. He would never expect to harvest wheat if he planted corn nor would he try to do such a foolish thing. That’s not how growing crops work! You only harvest what you planted. Grains of wheat grow to become stalks of wheat, and corn kernels bear ears of corn; they never grow up to become something else.
So if that’s how it works in the physical realm, why do we think things work differently in the spiritual life? Why do we sow one thing and then expect to reap something else? Or to put it in different terms, why do we live our lives one way and yet expect to receive the benefits of different choices?
Throughout the Bible, the illustration of sowing and reaping is used and just as it is in the physical realm, we reap what we sow in the spiritual life too. Israel had been sowing iniquity and were thus reaping their harvest of injustice. But God was charging them to start planting righteousness so that they could reap steadfast love; to walk in uprightness so that they could receive His blessings. In short, Israel needed to change their crops. After breaking up their fallow ground, it was time to plant something different.
But what about us? After we’ve broken up the fallow ground of our hearts and yielded them to God, do we need to start planting some different seeds? Are the things we’re sowing reaping the blessings of the Lord? Or do we need to change our spiritual crops?
So let us break up the fallow ground of our hearts by yielding it to the Lord and His plow of discipline and let us be careful to sow seeds of righteousness so that we may reap the blessing so God. And may we remember this warning from Paul’s letter to the Galatians and always keep in mind the simple truth that everyone reaps what they sow.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”