Breaking Up the Fallow Ground of Your Heart
Break up your fallow ground! Do not waste your seed among the thorns (Jeremiah 4:3).
Plow up the fallow ground of your hearts, for now, is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12).
What is Fallow Ground?
In my community, we have a youth center right by the main highway. Every spring they plant a vegetable garden and it's always exciting to see as we drive by how lush and well cared for it is. With the COVID crisis, this year it lies dormant and looks pitiful. Tall grass and weeds have taken over and you can barely tell it was a garden. It makes me so sad. One day, they will return, clear it, plant, and grow beautiful vegetables. They will tend it every year and keep it going.
A fallow field was once plowed and cultivated, but eventually, left to lie dormant to regenerate for a time. In the absence of cultivation, it is desolate and full of stones, weeds, and stumps.
In the above Scriptures by Jeremiah and Hosea, God calls Israel to break up their fallow ground. He was not talking about their dormant fields but their hearts. They had abandoned God and turned to idol worship. Hosea spoke of the thorns and the thistles growing on the altar (10:8). When the Christian falls away and turns to the ways of the world, their spiritual life has turned fallow and those thorns and thistles of sin take over.
God Gives Us a Choice
God was calling the Israelites to return to Him and get rid of their abominations and thorns of idolatry. Their hearts had long ago forsaken God Almighty for idols. Their pagan practices knew no bounds of evil. They were warned through the prophets if they did not forsake the idols and return to God, He would send Babylon to attack them and take them captive for seventy years.
However, if the Israelites did repent and return to Him, God promised they would be safe from the Babylonian captivity. God would call off the dogs, so to speak. He also assured them they would see and be blessed by God's truth, judgment, and righteousness. The nations would see and be blessed and glory in His name. He promised to rain righteousness upon them. Don't you love that image of righteous rain? Fallow ground is hard and dry. It needs moisture to make it fertile. God provides that for our hearts if we will follow Him.
Throughout the bible, God's people had a pattern of repentance and turning back to God for a time, then fall away again. God had a pattern also. He called out sin and bid His people to repent and return. He always issued a promise of mercy and blessing for obedience or judgment for disobedience. How wonderful it is that God gives us free choice. Forced compliance eliminates the beauty of mutual love and desire. Joshua encouraged the people of Israel to make a choice:
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of ]the River and in Egypt...And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
Note he says with sincerity and truth. We can't walk in sincerity and truth if we are following false idols or have divided hearts.
Searching and Plowing the Fields For Debris
To plow up the fallow ground of our hearts is a rigorous process and requires a humble and contrite heart. Paul told the Corinthians that godly sorrow leads to repentance and salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). In the first four beatitudes, Jesus declared the process of a sinner's repentance.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit (recognizing your spiritual bankruptcy).
- Blessed are those who mourn (grieving over our sinful state).
- Blessed are the meek (a gentle and humble heart).
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (yearning to be right with God and live a godly life).
The rest of the beatitudes reflect the change in our hearts.
Plowing up a fallow field is hard labor. The plow or hoe struggles and gets caught on deep roots of weeds and stumps.
In Psalm 139, David asks God to search his heart; he wants no stone unturned:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
He was willing to go through the struggle of searching because he was eager for the blessing of a clean heart.
What Are the Idols in Our Lives?
One might say, "I don't serve idols. I don't have statues and carvings that I worship."
An idol is anything that has our hearts. What takes up most of your thoughts, desires, activities, hopes and dreams? What comes before God or in place of Him? What or who do you love more? Here are a few examples:
- Idle Activity: Social media, searching YouTube, reading articles, television and movies, video games.
- Money and possessions.
- Personal pursuits: Hobbies, social times with friends and family, career, achievements.
- Immoral behavior: pornography, adultery, partying, drugs and alcohol, sleeping around, lying, stealing, and violence.
- Consuming thoughts: of impure things, bitterness, self-pity, hatred, revenge, greed, the desire for power, prestige, and honor, sinful plans, self-destruction, and fear.
- Ministry: doing without seeking God.
Some of these are not sinful, in and of themselves, but if we put them first they are idols. Idols can bring on great troubles for us, some we notice, others we don't. Hopefully, they will lead us to turn to God. Charles Spurgeon said, "Severe trouble in a true believer has the effect of loosening the roots of his soul earthward and tightening the anchor-hold of his heart heavenward."
Severe trouble in a true believer has the effect of loosening the roots of his soul earthward and tightening the anchor-hold of his heart heavenward."— Charles Spurgeon
The Deeper State of a Fallow Heart
God's plow goes still deeper underneath the surface. It will reveal the spiritual bankruptcy the first beatitude talks about. Sometimes we can't see the deeper problems. God's word should be our source. The writer of Hebrews gives us a graphic description of the power of the word of God:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
I think of a surgeons scalpel at this verse. God goes deeper and with more precision.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul tells us: All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
Plowing deeper will reveal the deepest manifestations of our poor spiritual condition:
- Your heart is lukewarm and indifferent to God and spiritual matters. You've left your first love.
- Prayer, bible study, church attendance, and fellowship with other believers have fallen by the wayside.
- You are no longer mindful of your witness or you don't care.
- The concern for others' spiritual condition is no longer on your radar.
- You don't recognize blessings and fail to give praise to God
- Your priorities are no longer God's order of priorities.
- To you, God is no longer greater than he that is in the world.
- You have more doubts and unbelief than faith.
- You no longer possess the joy of the Lord.
God's Promise of Restoration
When the heart has been plowed and cleared it will be fertile for sowing and reaping a good crop once again. Paul prayed for the Philippians: May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God (NLT).
He told the Galatians if they quit walking in flesh and began walking in the Spirit, they would bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Plowing the fallow ground is a process. Repentance and restoration is a process. God in His loving grace and mercy sent Christ to bear our sins on the cross and grant us forgiveness. God is patient and kind and ready to forgive and help every one of His children who is willing to repent and return to Him. In his famous psalm of repentance, David prayed: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."
God gave David what he sought. And He will do so for us.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:8-12).
© 2020 Lori Colbo