Break Up Your Fallow Ground!
By Raymond D. Sopp
Hosea 10:12 & 11:2: "Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW (hard -- unproductive) GROUND, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you. The more they (my Prophets) called them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols."
The book of Hosea equates God's relationship and love for His creation (mankind) to that which is experienced by a husband and wife. As a husband and wife are supposed to become as one, so also was mankind created to be as one with Him (God). He created mankind (first man then woman from man) in His own image. Nevertheless, God's beloved bride (mankind) leaped into the arms of another lover (Satan) as he successfully slandered God's love and motives toward His bride, and proceeded to allure her with the illusion of self-gratification -- the illusion that somehow loving self was more precious, and had greater value and reward than being loved by another, than being the beloved of God.
But God, still devoted and in love with His bride, devised a plan to restore her righteousness, or right standing with Him. John 17:20-21 & 23: "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me." Ephesians 5:28-32: "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."
Tragically, as with any drug, this illusion of self-gratification (self-love) was at best nothing more than a temporary fix which left its victims in an even worse condition, wanting and empty, as a flame which would burn for eternity as all efforts to find love, contentment, and peace give way to the gashing teeth of hopelessness. A self-perpetual hell! An eternal inescapable flame sustained by an inexhaustible supply of fuel -- the fuel of discontentment. As with any drug, it deceived and hardened the victim's hearts into thinking if a little self-gratification brought temporary peace, an abundance would bring eternal peace; yet in reality, it brought eternal wanting and emptiness -- eternal hell and death! However, God's faithful, undying, and passionate love for his bride (mankind) remained, and therefore, He was unwilling to leave His bride in such an infernal predicament. Relentlessly God cried out to her through His prophets, "Break up your fallow ground!" God desperately yearned to redeem His bride from such an infernal fate by replacing her adulterous heart (spirit) with His own faithful heart (spirit) through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus.
But would the bride listen to her first and faithful husband in the face of Satan's continuing slanderous lies about God's love and motives toward His beloved? And as if his slander of God was not enough deception, he followed it up with insincere and deceitful flattery of her (the bride's) own comeliness and beauty? Tragically, God's adulterous bride continued to harden her heart against her husband; and to Satan's delight, her lover was now herself and she delighted in self-gratification at the expense of anything, or anyone. She even began to fashion gods and idols in her own image, because they would justify and not divert her passion away from self-gratification. Hence, the god she created was either a harsh god who seeks from us unimaginable horrors as penance, or duty, all for his own ghoulish self-gratification; or a mindless, oblivious god who dutifully agrees with everything we ask for, and then marvels at the wisdom of our requests. Oh, that truly is a god in our own image, but it's NOT the God of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, the God of the Bible, nor is it the God I serve.
It was not God's unfaithfulness, nor the lack of His love, which brought this infernal fate upon His bride; it was the fallow, adulterous heart of His bride which accepted Satan's lies and left no earth for the truth to take root. Yet, driven by a love unknown in this world, God once again through His only begotten Son, pleaded with His bride, "Break up your fallow ground." Jesus, using a parable, did His best to make it as clear as anyone could, that if this infernal fate of hell and death descended upon us, we had only ourselves -- only our own hardheartedness -- to blame.
The following parable identified God's love and truth (His Word) as good seed, and the soil as our heart; making it crystal clear to all that if there was a failure unto hell and death, it was caused by the hard soil of our heart, NOT God's seed -- God's love -- God's truth -- God's word. Mark 4:14-15: "The sower sows the word. And these are the ones who are beside the road (the hard ground) where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them." I'm always amazed at the length people will go to avoid the truth and settle for a lie, hence, exposing the grotesque hardness of their heart. These people can look at the mind-numbing complexity of just one gene and call it an accident of chance, but then look at the simplicity of a light switch and say it had to be an act of creation. It took years and a supercomputer to map the mind-numbing complexity of just one gene. A complexity that is so great, it makes no difference at all how many billions of years you add to the mathematical equation, the probability of it happening by chance remains in the realm of the impossible. These same hardhearted people will trust mathematics to send a spacecraft to the edge of our universe, but to use it to prove the existence of God – NEVER! Instead, they spend all their time, and millions of dollars, looking for evidence that they came into existence from the evolution of a worm. Seeking to exchange God's glory for the glory of a worm -- if that is what this world calls wisdom, count me out!
In the same way, we also have those who say we cannot believe in something we cannot see. But these same people will sit on a jury and listen objectively to the evidence, and based entirely on that evidence, put someone in jail for the rest of his life, or even put him/her to death. They did not SEE the crime happen, did they? Yet, when it comes to their own eternal lives, they turn their backs on the overwhelming evidence of creation and say capriciously, "We must see to believe." You would think looking at even the possibility of an eternity in hell, they would love their own lives enough to objectively look at the evidence, would you not?
God loves the skeptic as long as they do not harden their hearts against the evidence. John 20:24-25 & 27-29: "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, ‘Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.' Then He (Jesus) said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.' Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'" God is willing to meet you wherever you are, if your heart is right.
But seeing to believe is not the real problem, is it? Luke 16:27-31: "And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him (Lazarus) to my father's house for I have five brother that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.'" There is enough historical evidence of Jesus' resurrection to convince even the worst skeptic; that is, if you're willing to seek it out. But if your heart is hard, Satan will come immediately with a lie, and the deliberation of the truth will flee from your thoughts. The lie being, you would lose your godlike status, but in reality all you would lose is the glory of your ancestor, the worm, and exchange it for the glory and image of God.
Mark 4:16-17: "And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away." Here we have a people who are still hardhearted, but love themselves enough to be allured by the parts of Christianity which are attractive. These are the people who flock to the churches who prepare for them the milk and cookies of God's Word and edit out the "offensive" parts; such as the words Jesus spoke, "Anyone who wishes to come after me MUST deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." These blind guides are indeed destined to end up in the same pit as their followers.
To show the alarming prevalence and lamentable extent of this shallowness within today's church, please allow me to once again go back to the marriage analogy which God so often used in His Word. Does not the fact that divorce is as high, or higher, within the church as it is within the world also show the shallowness within our hearts? Many are allured by someone's attractiveness, and/or someone's ability to fulfill a particular need, but when the heat of reality comes, their "love" evaporates into thin air. Hosea 6:3-4: "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth. What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early (in the heat of the day)." Does not God's prophet Hosea describe a people whose first love is themselves -- a people who will quickly discard anyone, including God, if he/she loses their perceived attractiveness, or benefit?
But you may ask, "What does divorce have to do with my Christian walk?" There's room for only one heart within the human body; if you are shallow in your relationships with mankind, you will also be shallow in your relationship with God. As soon as the heat comes, or God's Word steps on your toes, you will fall away, or at the very least find another church which will once again pamper and cuddle you, until a more attentive and attractive lover (church) comes along. Ask yourself, how many churches have you left, not because you prayed about it and God moved you on, nor because of doctrinal error, but just because of the heat produced by the preaching of God's Word, or some other perceived offence? Is that not evidence of a shallow, fallow heart? If so, then it's time to confess it as such, and break up your fallow ground.
Mark 4:18-19: "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." Here the trouble seems to be the lack of care and cultivation, and not so much the initial hardness of the soil, or heart. Nevertheless, the outcome is no less tragic as the heart (ground) seems to be ready to receive the seed (God's Word), yet the preoccupation with the things of this world prevents any fruit production. It's a picture of a heart (ground) that's left so uncultivated and so neglected that it allowed the thorns of this world to render the work of the seed (fruit production) ineffective. Matthew 7:20-23: "So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
I've seen so many Christians that are so preoccupied by the worries of this world, and the desire for other things that it sucked the life (God's life) right out of them. They're so focused on what they do not have, by default, they end up neglecting the one and only thing that truly matters – the things of God. They neglect the one thing which would give them abundant, eternal life to focus intensely on the temporal, which choked God right out of their heart. Habakkuk 3:17-18: "Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, YET I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." Can you tell me how the prophet Habakkuk could make such a statement? If not, I plead – no I beg you -- pull up the weeds, crucify your desire for this world, and cultivate the things of God before the implanted seed dies. Galatians 5:22-24: "But the FRUIT of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Galatians 6:8: "For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption (rot and decay), but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life." Can anyone tell me just one thing in this world which does not rot and decay? Why then are so many of our "Christian" leaders using the rotting and decaying things of this world to motivate Christians to give? Do not our fund raisers sound just like a worldly investment seminar on how to increase our worldly wealth? These "Christian" leaders are sowing to and building up our flesh instead of sowing and building up our born-again spirit which will lead to eternal life. Satan must love that! When we give to ministries, should it not be out of the fruit (love) of God's Holy Spirit? The same love which motivated God to GIVE that which was of most value to Him, His only Son to ransom our lives from hell and death? Do we still need to have our flesh motivated in order to give just mammon (money) toward the proclamation of the gospel to ransom other lives from hell and death? If so, then our hearts remain uncultivated and the weeds (thorns) will never allow the fruit of God's love to develop within our hearts. And if that's the case, keep your money, because you're only fooling yourselves; it does not impress God. 1 Corinthians 13:3: "And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have LOVE, it profits me NOTHING."
The Apostle Paul gave Timothy some excellent advice, advice which we all should take to heart. 1 Timothy 6:6-12: "But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man (woman) of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and the good confession you made in the presence of many witnesses."
Mark 4:20: "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it (hold it dear), and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." Why this commentary? Because, God wants all of us to know that if we do not believe in God, or have become separated from Him, the problem exists within the soil, i.e., our heart; and therefore, we will have no excuse before the judgment seat of God. God will meet you wherever you are, if you will just break up your fallow ground. God cannot begin the process for us, but once we break up the fallow ground, God Himself will bring it to completion. Mark 4:26-28: "And He (Jesus) was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows. How? He (the man) himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.'"
But how many times does God have to plead with us? What more can He do to show His love for us, but give His only Son as a ransom? How much evidence do you need to see before you believe that He is? As God pleads through His prophet Isaiah, "Can we not just reason together? I'm ready! Is your heart?" Isaiah 1:18: "‘Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.'"
2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." Nevertheless, there is an end to His patience, and He is coming again! Luke 21:25-28: "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" I beg you, BE READY! Before it's too late, BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND!
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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