Jeremiah 4:3 says, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.”
Most farmers are familiar with fallow ground, but for those of us who are not farmers, let me give you the definition. It is a field that has lain idle, so the crust needs to be broken up before it can receive seed again. The ground that was once plowed, fertile and ready for harvesting, but was left untended and became hard and dry. In other words, it is uncultivated and left to whatever nature does with it. It has become useless.
But God wasn’t just talking to them about their fields. He was talking about their hearts. Through years of neglect and disobedience to God’s Word, their hearts had become hard. Just like the hard crust on the ground of a fallow field. Seeds can’t grow in it because they cannot penetrate the hard shell.
Once we willfully disobey God’s Word and resist the conviction of His Spirit, it becomes easier and easier to do it the next time, and so our hearts harden a little at a time. These men had come to the place where they couldn’t receive God’s Word or sense His Spirit. But God was telling them it wasn’t too late. They could soften their hearts through repentance and surrendering themselves to God.
In Matthew 13, Jesus taught the parable of the sower, the seed and the soil. He said, “And some [seeds] fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up and choked them.” He explained the parable like this: “And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the Word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the Word, and it yields no fruit.” Why did God say not to sow among thorns? Because it is useless.
We hear these teachings from Jesus and think of all the people who hear the Word and remain unmoved. But what about us? The Seed is the Word, the Sower is God. They remain the same. They are perfect. It is the soil of our hearts that varies and determines the yield.
When is the last time we tested the condition of our soil? The test might be painful, but we can reap rewards if we are willing to change. What God does or does not do in us depends on the condition of the soil in our field. If we don’t continue to cultivate our hearts, we will become useless. We may attend church and be active there, but if our hearts are hard and crusted over, the Word of God won’t be alive in us. Just because we are moving, it doesn’t mean we are making progress. And whatever we accomplish without the Holy Spirit has no life. So we need to hear AND follow the Word of God.
When we hear a message, do we automatically think that it applies to somebody else? Do we say, “That was a good word. THEY really needed to hear it.”? If God confronts me with a message, regardless of how it comes, it is for me! And He requires a response. I am responsible for what I hear. If I don’t respond, I have in essence told Him “no”. When we hear the Word of God we need to make a practice of stopping and asking ourselves, “Am I walking this out in my life every day?”
Let’s be honest. When we have been saved for a long time, we have read the Bible so much and heard so many sermons and teachings, that we feel like there is nothing more to learn. But God wants us to come deeper into His presence and deeper into a knowledge of Him. When we get settled in a spiritual rut, we become hardened against the Word of God and will resist it without even realizing it. The fact is, we may have already heard most of what the preacher is preaching, but has it changed us? If we are not consistently growing in the Word and the Spirit of God, we are consistently becoming fallow.
When we hear the Word of God, what do we do with it? What has God spoken to you about today or yesterday? Did you hear Him? Did you receive it into your heart personally and begin to apply it to every part of your life? Have you allowed the Word to bear fruit? Or did you tell Him “no”? I don’t think we maliciously say “no”, but we are so busy that we lose what we have heard almost immediately. We just don’t stop long enough to let it sink in. We don’t take time to meditate on the Word of God. We are up and running to the next thing on our agenda and forget what God spoke to us because we are entangled with the cares of this life, the worries and distractions of this world.
When we become settled in our past experience rather than moving from glory to glory, our hearts have become fallow ground. If we have become unresponsive to God’s Word, if it no longer convicts us, if we no longer open our hearts to the examination of the Word, we might want to check the integrity of our soil. It is so hard to come face to face with the truth sometimes. But if we are lacking, we need to be aware of it so we can change. We know so much of what the Bible says, that we feel like we are doing it all. But often the application of it is missing.
If we realize our hearts are fallow, we can change the condition of our soil. How do we do it? Clearly, God told the people YOU break it up and stop sowing among the thorns. You are wasting your time by putting the Word in hardened ground. It just sits on top and never sinks in that way. First prepare your heart. Surrender it to Jesus, withholding nothing. Repent and prepare loose, rich soil for the Word to grow in. Don’t get caught up following the ways of the world, letting nature do whatever it wants with your heart. Instead, seek God – first and foremost, above all! We have to be open to God’s voice, ready to hear Him and ready to change. He doesn’t do that for us. God doesn’t repent for us. He says YOU break it up! Then live deliberately in obedience to the Word of God. When we show Him a receptive, broken heart we will begin to see the seeds He sows springing up. As we openly look into the Word, we will find areas that need to be cultivated, but it is totally up to us to obey. So we are to read the Bible, then change our lives to live by what it says. It’s that simple. But it can be overwhelming when we realize what it demands.
A.W. Tozer wrote concerning obedience, “Just do the next thing you know you should do to carry out the will of the Lord. If there is sin in your life, quit it instantly. Put away lying, gossiping, dishonesty, or whatever your sin may be. Forsake worldly pleasures,…Get right with any person you may have wronged. Forgive everyone who may have wronged you. Begin to use your money to help the poor and advance the cause of Christ. Take up the Cross and live sacrificially. Pray, attend the Lord’s services. Witness for Christ, not only when it is convenient but when you know you should. Study the Bible to learn the will of God and then do His will as you understand it. Start now by doing the next thing, and then go on from there.”
We grow day by day. God will not put on us more than we can handle at one time. If He gave me a list of everything I need to change, I would be overwhelmed. I am thankful He allows us to grow from glory to glory. Not all at once. But if we keep trying to sow seeds of God’s Word without letting the soil of our hearts be prepared to receive it, it will do us no good. If we are open to obey the Word no matter the consequences, the Word will do His work.
We don’t see things as God sees. That’s why we need to ask Him to show us. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean and innocent in his own eyes [and he may see nothing wrong with his actions], But the Lord weighs and examines the motives and intents [of the heart and knows the truth]. He knows the condition of the soil. He knows when it needs attention. So we need to ask God to show us, then follow what He says. We don’t need to be obsessively introspective. That isn’t healthy. But we do need to be open for the Holy Spirit to speak to us.
We can have a fruitful life. It begins with a plowed heart – broken – fully surrendered to God. Are we prepared to open our hearts to God as He calls us deeper and deeper into His presence and farther away from the world? It requires us to trust that He is perfect in all His ways for us. And it requires us to surrender every moment into His hands.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10
That sounds like a negative ministry, but you can’t have one without the other. There is a time to reap a harvest, but it only happens after the soil is broken up and cultivated to receive the seed. The plow may hurt, but the results will be worth it all. Then the rain and the sun are sent to work with the soil to bring forth much fruit. If we want to see His Spirit rain on the work of our hands and see spiritual fruit within us and through us, we need to keep the condition of our soil in good shape. When our hearts are soft, the seeds of God’s Word can take root in us and keep our souls alive and healthy.
Hosea 10:12 says, “Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.”
Now is the time!
Are you ready for change?
Are you ready for complete surrender?
Will you take the challenge to break up the fallow ground and receive God’s Word?