“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 15. Grab a Spade!
Hos 10:12 “Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord.”
Bad habits? Casualness? Indifference to the plight of the church and the world? Complacency over the ways of the western world that are so destructive? Lacking knowledge of the Bible and ability to stand up for it? Self-concern that outweighs concern for the Lord, His honour, the needs of others that He wants to reach? These are the signs of a life that has gone fallow, hard, not seeded, turned to weed or grass, that is unfruitful.
Let’s say that again. ‘Fallow ground’ is under-used ground, ground that has been allowed to get hard, ground that’s no good for sowing seeds on. The words before this instruction include ‘sow righteousness’ i.e. let right attitudes, desires, goals be sown in your heart, but of course you can’t do that if your heart is set, contented, complacent, indifferent, apathetic, not open to anything new, not open to a word of direction from the Lord.
How do you ‘break up’ such ground? With honesty, conviction (from God) and repentance and commitment to be available to Him, so that watching and waiting isn’t just an academic exercise but one where the Lord can bring His plough to work before sowing new seed. Dare we risk it? What is possible with our lives?
This raises the question in me: am I making the most of my life in the Lord? Am I open to Him for Him to speak into me, guide me, inspire me, set me on fire, fill me afresh with fresh vision or do I just sit there in life, so to speak, like a piece of fallow, unproductive ground? How can I be productive? Face these negatives, I suppose, these words like complacent, indifferent, apathetic, and challenge them, asking the Lord to sweep them away in the torrent of a fresh outpouring of the river of His Spirit. As I watch and wait upon Him, dare I ask Him to release that river in me and on me to bring a new spiritual dynamic in and through me? We’ve used that word ‘visionary’ before. Dare I ask to become a visionary? Fallow ground is content with being what it is – stodgy, unproductive and unused, it doesn’t like the thought of being dug over, either by a plough or by a spade. To get rid of weeds you have to either dig a spade’s depth and turn the soil righty over so that the weeds go deep, are starved of water and light, and so rot, or you take a fork and tear it through the soil so the weeds and their roots come loose from the soil and can be separated out and removed. We need clean soil, loose soil, soil that can receive seeds at the right time of the year.
And that takes us back to seasons that we’ve considered before. In the Winter the soil is turned over so it is left open and the frost breaks it up even more and kills the weeds. In the Spring, you clean off the surviving weeds, harrow the topsoil and sow the seeds. It’s a time for planting. Summer is a time of watching and rejoicing in the obviously growing fruit or vegetables or flowers. Autumn is a time of cutting back the dying off plants that have done their job, produced fruit or veg or flowers and seeds for the next year. But everything about this description is about working the ground in order to bring forth beautiful flowers or vegetables etc. It is all about life and growth and fruitfulness. Fallow ground does none of those things. It just sits and does nothing.
But then, here is something interesting: fallow ground is important, it is necessary according to the Law. “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.” (Lev 25:3-5) That seventh year was a year of rest for both the farmer and the land and whatever the land produced on its own, was available to all. Now that’s interesting because although the ground was not being worked by man, it would still keep producing what has been planted before in previous years so self-seeded crops would grow, grapes would continue to grow and so on. So even if we go through a period of no work, there will be fruit in the life that has been productive previously. Such a ‘rest’ reminds us that God is the provider and we just help as we work the land. I can sow seeds but that’s as far as I can go. I didn’t design seeds to germinate and grow and bring forth fruit as they do.
So the concept of ‘fallow ground’ first raises awareness of what the ground is intended to be used for – fruitfulness. It raises awareness of what it means to be fallow, together with the challenge that something needs to be done to make it fruitful again. So coming right back to watching and waiting, this is not to be a time of just sitting and doing nothing – though that is important – but it is a time where the Spirit can reveal to us, things that we need to deal with in our lives, things that hinder us being fruitful: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (Jn 15:8) and “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. (Jn 15:16). This is not to cause guilt, but to help us make a healthy assessment of our watching and waiting. Rachel cried to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Gen 30:1) She wanted to be a producer, that was part of her role in the family setup and while it wasn’t happening she was in anguish. Do we need some similar anguish?