Break Up the Fallow Ground

Coming off COVID, I have felt like we have fallow ground, being in been in suspended animation for 2 years. No travel, draconian restrictions, lock downs, Netflix binges, intense loneliness,  life has been anything but normal.  

 

Many feel we have lost 2 years, but if it wasn’t a set back, but a set up for a come back.   

 

So many have asked me, OK, now what? You may have come to this church, or come back to this church after COVID, and you are sitting there thinking, ok God, now what? You’re not happy to sit, not happy to go through the religious motions, not happy to just exist, you want to serve Jesus.  

 

And as we came out of the world of COVID and war replaced the pandemic narrative, I felt like God drew my attention to Hosea. 

 

Hosea 10:12-13 (ESV) 

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; 

break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, 

that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 

You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 

 

SOW WHAT? 

 

I really sensed that, certainly BC, we were mostly fairly comfortable, confident and almost cocky with life. If you look at the last several years, we as a nation have been pretty cocky and fulfilled verse 13.  We have sowed iniquity, look at what we have legalised gay marriage, transgenderism, late term abortion and euthanasia. Having sown this tiff, is t any wonder we have reaped injustice. 

 

All this passed with barely a whimper from the church and Christians, and so we truly have sowed iniquity and reaped injustice. We have trusted in the way of man and in a multitude of politicians, activists and lawyers. 

 

Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV) 

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 

 

We have not sown righteousness, we have as a nation sown evil, and yes, even us believers have bought into this to some degree. One of the unexpected blessings of the misery of a pandemic was that we had the chance to stop and readjust. We had the chance to not dawdle on in the same dull stupor as Christians the way we had for so long.  

 

Most churches suffered and went backwards during the pandemic, but mercifully, we at Ignite have moved forward and have taken ground. This was not any person’s skill of energy, this was totally God’s mercy and blessing upon us. 

 

But let’s be honest, many have had a fallow time spiritually over the last 2 years. It’s been hard, but we need to remember that a field left fallow is actually storing up nutrients and will become even more productive in the future, and I believe  it’s time to break up the fallow ground! 

 

We are here in Nambour praying for a harvest of souls. But before we can reap, we have to sow, and sow the right things, the right seed. But even before we can consider sowing, we must prepare the soil, or we labour in vain. 

 

At home I have. a clay slope and the only thing it grew was weeds. So I dug some nice deep holes and filled the holes with rich soil, and planted pumpkin. These went nuts, and now we eat roast pumpkin, mashed pumpkin and pumpkin soup. All because the soil was prepared well. Had I thrown seed on the clay, nothing would have grown.  That’s the challenge for us coming out of COVID: to prepare the soil then plant it right.  

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS FALLOW GROUND? 

 

Hosea 10:12 (ESV) 

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 

 

This passage echoes another prophetic word 

 

Jeremiah 4:3 (ESV) 

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: 

“Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 

 

Fallow ground is the Hebrew noun NIYR. It is land that could be productive, but for whatever reason has been left and hence crusted over. It needs to be broken up, tilled, plowed, and prepared for planting. The prophets, speaking the Word of the Lord, are commanding the people to break up that land — spiritually! God’s not saying we should chase new land or give up, but start to plow the land that you have. We have had 2 years of restrictions, mandates, lockdowns and overall fallowness, and I believe it’s time to start preparing for sowing… We have to begin by breaking up the land. 

 

Fallow ground is unused and hence unusable, unless we prepare it. So what are the characteristics of fallow ground? 

 

  1. HARDNESS 

 

Fallow ground is hard, it is crusted over.  It may have been fertile once, but when it is left a hard surface is baked by the sun onto it, and this crust won’t let a crop grow. It’s like a concrete path, preventing seeds from penetrating, germinating, and growing to maturity. 

 

Mark 4:3-4 (ESV) 

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 

 

Honestly, after 2 years of pandemic upheaval of life, some of us have hardened our heart towards everything and become cynical, even the things of God, and the ground of our heart needs to be plowed up before the Word of God can sink it’s roots deep into us. You can try and do it yourself by hand, but it’s far better to use a plow, and that plow is God. It takes energy to pull the plow, to guide the plow, to keep the furrows straight so the field can be plowed efficiently.  

 

Where is the hardness in your heart? Where is the unbelief that is lurking in your soul? If you’ve been hurt in a relationship or by your father or mother, you may have sealed off an area of your life because it’s just too painful. But you need to let God break up those old resentments and heal those old hurts. Undealt with hurts cause a hardness of the heart.  

 

Sometimes we’ve been hardened by unbelief. You prayed that a someone you loved wouldn’t die and they did. You’ve been out of work or have chronic illness that has taken its toll on your faith. You’ve come to the conclusion that God doesn’t answer prayer — at least for you. That hardness of unbelief must be faced squarely and broken up if God is to plant something new and fruitful in your heart.  

 

Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 

 

So how do we break this hardness. It starts by a decision that you want your hard heart softened.  Heartfelt repentance and confession is one way of plowing deep. When is the last time you were literally on your knees broken before the Lord? 

 

  1. THORNS AND WEEDS 

 

Another thing you will encounter on a fallow field is thorns and weeds. It’s not correct to say nothing grows on a fallow field, but nothing worthwhile does. Weeds and thorns always manage to grow. 

 

Thorns and weeds must be poisoned or pulled up, gathered and then burned. You can’t just plow them in, because they will germinated instead of the seed if they hit good soil. 

 

What kinds of thorns make the fields of our hearts unproductive? We are given a hint in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus’ uses thorns in a field to describe the human heart.  

 

Matthew 13:22 (ESV) 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 

 

Luke 8:14 (ESV) 

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 

 

The Greek for choke is SYMP-NIGO, which means to suffocate, crowd out, press around. That’s what happens, the good crop is suffocated but these bad habits and sins. Even if God’s Word sprouts in your life, thorns and weeds like riches and pleasures choke the Word. Each has a devastating effect on the crop that God wants to grow in you and me. We must root them out instead of molly-coddling them! 

 

Depending on your particular plot of land, those thorns may represent sexual temptations and lust, self-indulgence, pride, anger, selfishness, a love of entertainment and recreation, addictions, greed, and other thorns. In fallowness, these sins can crowd you out and stop the crop from growing. So what thorns and weeds do you have to confess today? 

 

  1. STUMPS 

 

When clearing a fallow field you will often encounter stumps, some hidden beneath the surface. Stumps must be rooted out and removed or you will not be able to plow a straight line, and compromise your sowing.   

 

Have you ever tried to remove a stump? It’s really hard work. I’ve seen people try burning them, blowing them up, chopping them, chainsawing them. Attaching ropes to tractors and trying to pull them out.  They are really hard to remove, because their roots go deep.  We removed some stumps a last year and got a stump grinder in to munch them up. 

 

Hebrews 12:15 (ESV) 

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 

 

What’s been growing in your heart that’s sunk it’s roots down deep and is hard to remove? Hatred, bitterness, lust, greed, hedonism? These deep sins must be rooted out so a new crop can be planted. Grain doesn’t flourish under the shade of trees, or in soil mangled with old roots. These stumps must be removed so the new crop can grow effectively. 

 

  1. LARGE ROCKS 

 

Often when clearing a fallow field you will come upon some large, immovable rocks. If you’re serious about putting this field into production, it will require considerable digging, leverage, and horsepower to move the rocks from the field. Yes, it’s hard work, but you’ll be glad later that you took the time to do it right.  

 

I remember travelling on the Philippines and encountering large rocks that had been part of a landslide across a road. They had a little tractor, but it couldn’t move them, so I spent 9 hours of awesome fun watching these guys blow the huge boulders into smaller pieces using dynamite. No shoes, no hard hats, everybody smoking, and loads of big bangs. Loved it! 

 

Amos 6:12 (ESV) 

Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow there with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood— 

 

As you plow your heart, you may discover some big rocks that need to be removed? Do you have injustice, or unrighteousness as rocks in your life? They’re big, they’re lodged, and you can’t budge them by yourself? Why don’t you talk with someone, preferably a mature Christian, about the problem? They will have had some experience moving rocks in their own life — every field has them. Instead of being judgmental, the folk we have here at Ignite are more likely to be sympathetic, and you’ll probably find they’ll be a lot of help. 

 

FALLOW GROUND BECOMES MORE PRODUCTIVE THAN BEFORE 

 

The great news is that fallow ground, when it is broken up and prepared properly, when thorns and briars and weeds are removed, and  when rocks and stumps are destroyed. When the hard, crusty surface is broken up, the end result is that the ground is even more productive than ever before.   

 

That’s the encouragement for us today. We have come off 2 years of waiting. 2 years of draconian COVID restrictions, 2 years of heavy handed, government control. Many have been fearful, many have been discouraged, many have been lonely. Many also have drifted away from God’s plan for their lives! Many have floated out of fellowship, isolated and dislocated from other believers.  

 

Listen, whether here or somewhere else, I urge you to connect with other Christians. Ignite is about real people, real community and a real God. Don’t be a lone wolf Christian, connect with the church.  

 

But after 2 years of fallow, I believe this is your moment. This  is when your country needs you. This is when we make the last 2 years count for good, and for God. I want to speak this prophetically to you, this could be the most important, most inspiring, most productive phase of your life in Christ.  

 

All it takes is a heart that truly desires to serve the Lord, and a willingness to be broken before God. Trust me, He can take the broken pieces of your life and build something beautiful and incredible. And being here at Ignite, even part of our online community, this is perfect place for you to plug in and blossom into the fruitfulness of life God has planned for you.  

 

BROKENNESS… LET HIM PUT YOU BACK TOGETHER 

 

Hosea 10:12-13 (ESV) 

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 

 

Some of us are hardened towards the Lord, and this is our time to break up the hard, crusty, weedy, thorny surface of our spiritual lives, ready for God to implant new, fresh, fruitful ministries in our lives. I want to be broken before God today, and I am asking you to join me.  David wrote, 

 

Psalms 51:16-17 (ESV) 

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

 

Some of us are broken and have been for a long time. Perhaps your brokenness is where God wants you right now, so He can make you into something beautiful. 

 

KIINTSUGI is a Japanese art. It takes the broken pieces of a bowl or plate, and puts them back together with gold. What a great illustration of what God is about to do right now, right here. He wants to take the broken pieces of your life, whether you are breaking the fallow ground or whether you’ve been broken for a while, and He wants to put the pieces back together with the Gold of His Holy Spirit. He can make you far more valuable today if you would place the pieces of your broken life in His hands.  

 

Today I want to do something different. I want to invite you to break up this fallow ground, to respond to Christ in brokenness, to come to the front an kneel before Him and say, “Lord, take my broken life and make me into something beautiful for You.” 

 

 

HOW HAS YOUR LIFE BECOME FALLOW OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? 

 

WHAT ARE THE AREAS OF HARDNESS, THE THORNS, THE STUMPS AND THE ROCKS? CAN YOU GIVE THEM TO GOD NOW? 

 

HOW CAN YOU KNOW GOD WILL MAKE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OF YOUR LIFE? 

Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay

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