Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
In the midst of the warnings Hosea includes encouragement for the Israelites that there was hope for righteousness. And even more importantly it was achievable.
Many people today do not relate fully to this picture that Hosea is painting. Sowing is the day-to-day life decisions and reaping is the result of those decisions. Hosea is simply saying to make day-to-day life choices with the objective of being righteous which would lead to kindness.
The Israelites were consumed with the moment. They were making decisions based on what they believed would give them the greatest personal benefit. Righteousness focuses on what will results in God’s kingdom in which kindness to all people is integral.
Then Hosea expands this thought by talking about preparing the ground. This means simply to prepare the ground to receive the seed. This reminds us of Jeremiah 4:3,
Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.
And also, Matthew 13 with the parable of the sower where the ground is key to the growth of the plant. The reality is that the preparation of the soil is as important as the spreading of the seed.
What does this mean to this modern world which moves so fast that we barely have the time to think? We need to stop and think. Every decision and action of the life of God’s children is to grow righteousness which will result in kindness. It is a fairly easy test for us to see if we have achieved the challenge. When we leave the room what have been the results of my words and actions?
But growing righteousness in my life which results in kindness is not always easy. We just cannot will it into being. It takes thought. It takes thoughtful preparation. According to Hosea we have to break up the fallow ground.
As Christians we have received Christ but as humans there is a lot that is making our ground hard. We read scripture. We memorize scripture. We sing the songs. But the ground is hard. It is hardened by listening to human wisdom and questioning God’s wisdom. It is hardened by looking for other ways of fulfillment instead of no matter how temporary they may prove.
We cannot respond to the seeds of righteousness because our ground is hard.
Hosea says to break up the fallow ground. Examine what is making your ground hard, your heart like stone so that you just cannot receive the seed which will result in understanding righteousness. Confess those things which have made your ground hard. Implore God to give you the strength to break those things out of your life. Determine to live for righteousness not even knowing exactly what that will look like. And God will rain righteousness. It takes thought. It takes effort. It takes faith. It will result in kindness.
"Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, And they do not know the LORD. Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him, And Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them. They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them."
We often read the prophets and thank God for the reminder. The interesting thing about a reminder is that it serves very little purpose if it does in some way impact our behavior and choices. Israel was continually reminded by the prophets but all too often the words of the prophets did not result in change without a corresponding loss in their lives.
We have this view that God is willing to just stand by and watch us destroy the world around us. We accept the forgiveness of salvation without the corresponding change of heart resulting in a change of deeds. Hosea calls this the spirit of harlotry. Israel was married to their God and yet their “deeds did not allow them to return to their God.” They did not know their own God. And the frightening result was that God was no longer there for them.
"They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them."
We are the bride of Christ. Are we faithful? I have learned in life that when God feels far away it is not because He has changed. I have played the harlot. I have depended on the false Gods of this world for my comfort. I have sought the false wisdom of this world for my answers. I have determined that I will take care of the short term needs of this life and let God take care of the eternal. And God feels far away.
These words do not give us three steps to spirituality. These words cause us to pause and ask ourselves if God is really “all I need” as we sing in our songs. These words cause us to reflect if our “deeds will not allow” us to return to God. And He feels far away.
The wonderful truth is that in the midst of these words of warning and reality that we read in Hosea, we find words of comfort and hope. God is there. God is still our God. God is still in control. God simply wants us to repent from playing the harlot and trust in Him and nothing else. He says in 6:6
"For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
The simple question that I ask myself is, “What are my deeds that will not allow me to return to my God?”
1 Kings 7:13,14
"Now King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill for doing any work in bronze. So he came to King Solomon and performed all his work."
This may not seem like a verse that inspires us to great things for God. In fact, as we read about the work of Hiram in the context of this passage we wonder about the usefulness of his labor in the big picture of life. He was a man that made beautiful things out of bronze. He was called upon by Solomon to use his abilities in the house of the Lord.
What I find interesting in this passage is that his abilities are described by “wisdom and understanding.” We see this concept repeated throughout the Old Testament. It says in Exodus 28:3,
"You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me."
What we see in these people is that they had skills which were not necessarily seen as connected with the religious activity of the temple. But those skills were from God and the wisdom in how to use the skills were from God. They exercised their occupations based on the wisdom of God. So, when they were called upon to serve in the temple those skills were a benefit to the religious practices of the temple.
Hiram was ready to serve with his skills before Solomon ever called upon him because he used his skills wisely in everyday life. We see throughout the Old Testament God calling upon the Israelites to walk in His ways, every day in every activity.
Sometimes I hear people say that they are not ready to serve in the church. I don’t believe that it is because they are not spiritually prepared to serve in the church. It is because they have not realized that God’s wisdom to serve is not just connected with a location. It is in every decision every use of every skill in the careers that he has given us.
We need to remember what Solomon said in his dedication at the opening of the temple.
1 Kings 8:27
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!"
God is not contained in a building, a group, a day, or an activity. There are two questions that we can ask ourselves moment by moment. Am I working filled with wisdom and understanding? When I serve God in the ministry of our spiritual community will I work in the same way that I do in my career?