A Plowman for God
Hosea 10:10, 11, 12
“It is my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows. And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.”
I have often wondered what my particular “skill” or “calling” as a Pastor is. I have come to the conclusion that I am a Plowman for God.
God often uses gardening or farming language to describe His work with His people. Galatians 6:8 and 9 specifically tell God’s servants to not be “weary in well doing”. That is, in the work of sowing and reaping in His field.
1 Cor.3:6-9 says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: that every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. ACCORDING TO THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN UNTO ME…”
My grace is to be a plowman; to break up fallow ground, to break clods of hard soil (God’s people can be very hard), and to plow the dirt so that the seed can be planted. I had no idea how well prepared I am for this grace, this skill, this calling.
I do like to garden. I have had 2 gardens in the last 30 or so years. To locate where I would put the first one, I chose the only place on my land where literally nothing was growing. (smart move) Just tilling it was a chore. I literally had to use a sledge hammer to break some of the boulders that I dug up, so that I could pick them up and get them out. The soil was hard clay where it wasn’t rock. The first year there was not much fruit. I plowed, fertilized, and fought weeds and eventually that garden became a joy of productivity for canning and freezing.
You would think that I would learn from that experience. But I didn’t. My second garden, I again looked for where to put it. I chose a spot with sparse growth. It was very sandy with little nutritional value in the soil. I again labored and fertilized and watered. That garden is literally a jungle of productivity every year now.
When God wrote Hosea 10, he was describing the condition of the soil of His people. It was not about people that did not know God as Lord or Savior. Their ground had become very hard. And God sent Hosea to prepare them to be fruitful for God again. It takes tremendous patience to tend a rebellious garden. God’s people can become very hard; calloused toward others. It is not that they are not religious, or don’t know God’s word; it is that they have lost the humble trust and obedience to God’s command to love Him with all their heart, and to love their neighbor as themselves.
Hosea’s wife, a picture of these hard-hearted people, breaks Hosea’s heart (yet he remains faithful to her). God’s people break God’s heart and yet He remains faithful to them.
2 Timothy 2:13, “If we believe not (are unfaithful to God), yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny himself.”
God’s servant is not to quit when his field is hard, because God doesn’t quit.
I have been sent to a religious community. One national ministry that came here to minister said they had never been in a more spiritually cold region. (that is heart breaking). It is not that people here don’t know Bible, often the opposite is true, that they know a lot of Bible. They are also very religious or spiritual. Yet the ground is very hard.
I have tried to understand what makes ground hard; needing to be plowed and broken up with a hammer. Jeremiah 23:29 says, “Is not my word as a fire? Saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”
It seems to me that one of the most common causes is failure to use the ground; that is Christians who are not doers of the word. They may be moral, but don’t love their neighbor or their enemies. They do not put God first (love him above family, comfort, self, stuff, or country). They do not like change. Tradition, how it was always done mentality makes for hard ground.
Another big cause for hard ground is failure to forgive. I have heard Christians say, “I won’t talk to…” and it is in reference to another believer. An unforgiving heart is not only hard ground, it is very brittle and fragile ground. It is easily offended.
Matthew 13:5 talks about stony ground. That is ground that needs work. Most Christians that I know are ground that needs work; including me. The problem is that many are too proud to admit it.
Abused people can become hard ground. Unfortunately, controlling churches and power-hungry pastors and leaders are usually abusive. So many hard ground Christians have been abused by the church. My community seems to have more believers who do not go to church, than ones who do go to church. There is also a constant starting of new churches, by the same people that were part of the problem in the abusing church with the hope that they can get rid of the problems without dealing with their own hearts. They take the hard ground with them to the new start.
There is another kind of ground that is just ground that has never been used. This ground (the person who is unfruitful) was never discipled (fertilized and utilized). They have not been nourished; they were told what to believe, rather than taught to listen to God and to read his word. They often were told that to question what they were being taught was wrong. There was no noble searching of the scriptures to see if what they were being told was true. See Acts 17:11. Truly non-abusive churches encourage questions and searching. Some of this is also on the young Christian. They are responsible for themselves. They need to be in the word of God. Romans 10:17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
A lot of hard ground is simply the result of not listening to God.
Hard ground Christians are often given up by their leaders. They are passed by, but God did not pass by His people, Israel, in the days before the Babylonian captivity, or during it, or after it. He did not give up on them even when they refused to listen. He changed His methods with them according to their actions.
In Ezekiel 14:3, the hard ground people came to God, wanting to know what to do. They already knew what answer they wanted and when they didn’t get that answer they ignored what God said and did what they wanted to do anyways.
Ezekiel 14:1-4 “Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of the iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? (rhetorical question with a “no” for an answer). Therefore speak unto them and say unto them, thus saith the Lord God, Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart (what they want more than God),and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity (the things in their life that are broken by sin, both their sin and the sins of others) (these are excuses) before his face, and cometh to the prophet; the LORD will answer him according the multitude of his idols…”
God’s people, after all is said and done, have hard hearts because of idolatry and brokenness. They want what they want. They will stumble repeatedly over what they want.
They want today to be like the past. Ecclesiastes 7:10 “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”
- They don’t want methods, music to change.
- They don’t submit to political change.
- They want financial security and comfort more than they want God.
- They are respecters of persons. James 2:1
- This list of idols and wants is endless.
Yet God has called me to plow hard ground. It is what I do best. It takes patience; a willingness to wait and let God work. In cooking, some dishes have to simmer for a long time before they are ready. I am grateful that I know my calling.