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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 31 August 2017

“BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND”

By Jim Jordal

“ Sow to yourselves in righteousness, Reap according to kindness. Break up your fallow ground; For it is time to seek the Lord, Until he comes and rains righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness. You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, For you trusted in your way, in the multitude of your mighty men. Therefore a battle roar will arise among your people, And all your fortresses will be destroyed…”                                        Hosea 10:12-14a WEB

 Hosea prophesied for about 60 years during part of the Assyrian captivity of Israel. Being a contemporary of both Isaiah and Amos, his writing aimed at exploring God’s relationship with his people, taking the form of casting Israel as an adulterous wife who was repudiated for her faithlessness, but later to be forgiven and restored back to God, her husband.

Hosea spends the better part of eight chapters presenting Jehovah’s response to Israel’s apostasy. The verses above are a small part of that response, but carry great weight in helping us understand how this episode is being played out today, regarding our nation’s continued refusal to accept God’s word for what causes our national angst and what he demands from us as recipients of his grace.

Hosea likens our spiritual need to crop land that has lain unplowed for too long, thus having lost its fertility, pliability, and ability to sustain profitable agriculture. He urges us to “break up your fallow ground,” beginning with our veneer and protective devices that alienate us from God and others. After this resistance is penetrated, God can then go to work on our “subsoil,” or the old root systems, habits, and spiritual formalities that act to separate us from God and from ourselves, condemning us to struggle under our own power using limited human means.

Now sunlight, air, and rain prepare the formerly unfruitful soil to receive the nutrients of God’s word deep into the roots where it can do the most good. Going through religious rituals and ceremonies doesn’t do much to open our spiritual soil to creative disturbance by the Holy Spirit; it takes yielding to and acting upon God’s word to break up our inner resistance to change and growth.

What can we expect from people who have even partially succeeded in breaking up their fallow ground? First, they will give evidence of life, not death. Change will appear in their daily lives, interests and activities. They will move from the “it’s none of your business” phase to new ability to share their lives with others.

Best of all, we may now see new behaviors and acts of faith that far exceed normal human expectations. Knowing people who celebrate change and growth in life is like having a renewable feast---they give out what we don’t usually expect. They fulfil the promise of Jesus when he said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).

Can this renewal of personal spiritual life also transfer to the religious institutions they choose for worship? The going gets tougher right here, folks! You can expect struggle and resistance because that’s human nature. We like to be comfortable, untroubled by disaster in foreign lands or threat of change in our locality. We want predictable religion that will neither stir us nor move us from dead center.

But that’s not the change God requires. Carefully prepared soil will only produce needed food if protected against weeds and nurtured with water and fertilizer. The abundant life promised above needs a church surrounding in which the full counsel of God is preached and modeled. Abundant life seldom follows cheap grace and the feel-good gospel.

If we won’t follow God voluntarily, he is not above creating needed change involuntarily. The history of God’s people is a continual pageant of following human nature into national sin, God’s anger and punishment for this national sin, a turning to God in the midst of suffering, God’s merciful deliverance, a period of national prosperity and happiness, then back again to apostasy.

If we don’t like this situation, perhaps some direct obedience to God’s word would be in order.