We talk this time of year of having “spring fever”—happier moods, readiness to get outside and do some yard-work, and even feeling motivated to do a little housecleaning. I’ve been getting the ground ready for my vegetable garden.
The first year Saundra and I had a yard and started talking about maybe planting a garden, I learned that by “garden” we meant two very different things. I was thinking of a breaking up a little corner of the yard for a couple of tomato plants, some cucumbers, and jalapeno and green chile. She was thinking of something more Pinterest-worthy: hanging gardens, walkways and vine-covered trellises, maybe even a little fish pond with a waterfall. She always has a greater vision for what can be.
Now in terms of spiritual life, I wonder if it doesn’t go something like this with God. While we see a little corner of our life that could use some sprucing up. He sees what can be: a garden of godliness.
Today we’re going to look at a verse of Scripture that uses springtime garden-imagery to address the spiritual life.
Sowing and Reaping
Sowing and Reaping
Hosea 10:12. This verse has made a great impact on my life. It is tucked away in a book that is difficult to read. Hosea is a prophet of God’s people during a time of great unfaithfulness. Hosea brings God’s case before his unfaithful people—because of God’s great love for Israel—and warns them of the punishment to come unless they repent and return to God. Within the book, there are several places where we catch a glimpse of God’s vision of that garden-that-could-be. This in one of those glimpses.
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 is a metaphor for repentance and revival. There are some words that may need defining. Sowing=planting seed. Reaping=harvesting a crop. Straightforward wisdom: Choose to live now in a way that will make for a good harvest later. The next verse reveals that the people were doing just the opposite; rather than sowing righteousness they were “[plowing] iniquity” (similar to the idiom ‘sowing wild oats’) and “[reaping] injustice.”
No one looks over their fence and says, “Well, I don’t know why a garden popped up in that guy’s yard but not in mine.” We know very well why—because we didn’t plant one!
In farming and in life, there are more factors than planting alone, but don’t you think that at least some of our spiritual poverty can be traced back to our own choosing: Did I sow righteousness or not?
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love. The word translated “steadfast love” is one we’ve talked about recently: hesed. It’s not your garden-variety word for love. It’s a word that we need multiple English words to describe it: love, kindness, loyalty, faithfulness, mercy, goodness. It’s like a whole garden itself! And to me, putting all those words together sounds a little like the fruit of the Spirit, doesn’t it?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The fruit of the Spirit is a garden of godliness! It’s interesting that both writers, Hosea and Paul, wrote about reaping such Spirit-fruit, and they both wrote about sowing righteousness. Paul called it “[sowing] to the Spirit,” and described it simple as “doing good” (Gal. 6:8-9).
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. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
The choice to do right and good is like planting a seed. Just wait and watch what God does!
“Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD.” Fallow is not a word we use much. Basically, it refers to unplowed or unused ground. On the farm, there’s a time and purpose for it. But we’re not farming. We’re talking about the in the ground of the soul and God’s garden-vision for it.
Are there places in the ground of your soul that you’ve let grow fallow? Areas where you know God wants to see growth, but you’re giving attention to other things? Break up that ground. Cultivate. It’s time. It’s the time to seek the Lord.
Farmers pay more attention than most to time. Not so much the time clock, break time, lunch time, or quitting time. But discerning when it’s time to fertilize, to plow, to plant, to irrigate, to apply treatment, and to harvest. Farmers are especially tuned into the cycle of seasons and to the weather—that’s how they tell time. (Story of my uncle watching the news on mute but the weather on max volume).
Listening to my dad carry on one of his last one-sided converstations with his dad: looked out the window and said something like: “Well, on the farm I guess it’d be about time to…
It’s time to cultivate—to break up that unplowed, hard, cracked, and weedy ground of your soul.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
hardened habit of sin / dry cracked spirituality / living in that desert of isolation / bitter weeds of resentment / inactive discipleship
seeking the Lord is not about feel-good experiences but about daring to follow where he leads, doing what he does, saying what he says
Now for may favorite part: “It is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”
Rain. We don’t have to define that word. Rain is the stuff that comes from heaven that brightens and enlivens the world. And there’s nothing like it! Nothing like the smell of rain and the sound of it outside your window at night. There’s nothing like a morning after a rain. It is a weather event full of promise.
As a metaphor, it communicates that:
Righteousness is not stuffy religion. It’s refreshing goodness coming down to our dust.
Gospel: God sends what it takes to grow a garden.
We don’t make ourselves righteous. Yes, our choices certainly matter to God; but there is no righteousness without God’s lavish rain of grace in our lives.
Paul writes about God making an appeal through him, as God did through prophets like Hosea.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God-sent rain, in a word: Jesus. Sent from heaven to our dusty streets. A man without sin willing to take our sin upon himself “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). That’s God’s garden-vision for you, and today is the time to seek the LORD.