Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he comes and rain righteousness upon you. –Hosea 10:12
I’m no farmer, so I looked up the exact meaning of the word fallow in the dictionary after coming across this verse. It means land that is unseeded, unsown, idle or obsolete. It’s land that could be used to grow crops, but has been left alone to compact and harden. Fallow land will yield absolutely nothing come harvest time, except possibly some weeds.
Hosea is pleading with the people of Israel to get real about the sin in their lives and turn away from it. Throughout the book, he refers to them as an unfaithful harlot whose straying has wreaked havoc, causing all kinds of idolatry and chaos. This verse is an encouragement, a plea in the middle of an otherwise dreary chapter, to snap out of it and return to the God who really is on their side.
AW Tozer wrote a moving sermon entitled Miracles Follow The Plow in which he addresses two kinds of lives: the fallow and the plowed. The untouched ground is safe and fenced in, content with the fact that it once bore fruit. This kind of life has lost any sense of adventure though, and as Tozer says “has fenced himself in, and fenced out God and the miracle.”
The plowed up life, however… what a difference! Ground that has yielded itself to being dug up and disturbed is ready to receive seeds. This ground has “exchanged the safety of inaction for the hazards of God-inspired progress.” Miracles follow the plow.
One of the new buzz words of our day is hustle. It’s all over the place, from coffee mugs to exercise shirts. It implies we have got to get out there and work our way to our personal goals. I always feel it implies a lot of self-reliance. I found it humorous that Tozer addressed this concept in his sermon:
“The church has plenty of hustle as it is, but she is careful to confine her hustling within the fear-marked boundaries of complete safety. This is why she is fruitless; she is safe, but fallow.”
We are both blessed and cursed with the ability to live almost entirely virtual lives. The ease with which we can wall ourselves in is quite something. We no longer value the first-hand work of the plow in our lives, instead we are content to live off of the experiences of others and hope they toss us a piece of fruit once in awhile.
My friends, God desires each of us to be fruitful, but He needs room to work. He needs to plow up the stuff that we’d prefer to keep underground. All kinds of roots and rocks will be discovered and discarded. Can you think of a time when He asked you to allow Him to remove your little fear-marked boundaries? It’s an anxiety-inducing exercise to be sure. We like to do our hustling within our perimeters. I for one, get kind of squirmy when asked to venture out of them, but I’m learning that’s life at the door of the cross… it means you climb down off your self-made throne.
Think of the people you know who are playing it safe. The hearts that are too afraid of the chaos to allow their ground to be dug up. Their tranquility comes at a great price: they are barren and fruitless. Now think of someone you know or admire that lives life all in. Maybe it’s chaos at times, and maybe it’s not pretty, but stuff is growing! I admire people like that. They aren’t afraid of failure, they just refuse to be stagnant.
We can yield our ground or we can choose to leave it unplowed. It’s always our choice. Don’t ever think your ground is too hard or that you have become obsolete. We serve a God who is a master at bringing life out of the lifeless.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8