Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) explains, “The days are passing over us so rapidly, and we shall be at the end before we are well aware. ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep; . . . the night is far past, the day is at hand.’ May not the time past suffice us to have been barren and unfruitful; and shall we not make the best of the time which remains?”[i]
Hosea 10:12-13 reads, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men.”
Dr. Gregory R. Frizzell comments, “No words can express the urgent nature of our present need for massive revival and spiritual awakening. America is indeed poised on the very brink of catastrophic judgement. While there is reason for great hope of a coming revival, it is by no means ‘guaranteed.’ In fact, without a profound return to humility and holiness, no amount of strategy or promotion can save our land.”[ii]
There are three movements related to the revival of God’s people in our passage.
I. There is an examination of our spiritual condition.
Is the ground of your heart fallow or fruitful? God through the prophet describes his hearers as “. . . fallow ground. . .” (Hosea 10:12a). Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) explains, “The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Such a field, as it lies year after year, becomes a familiar landmark to the crow and the blue jay. Had it intelligence, it might take a lot of satisfaction in its reputation: it has stability; nature has adopted it; it can be counted upon to remain always the same, while the fields around it change from brown to green and back to brown again. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment.
But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility; never does it feel the motions of mounting life, nor see the wonders of bursting seed, nor the beauty of ripening grain. Fruit it can never know, because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow.”[iii] Hosea addresses those marked by false hearts and falsehoods. Hosea 10:13 reads, “You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men.” Hosea 8:11 reads, “Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 reads, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” 1 Samuel 16:7 reads, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” May we pray with the psalmist David in Psalm 26:2 “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.” May we further pray with him in the words recorded in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Is the ground of your heart fallow or fruitful?
II. There is an exhortation for our second conversion.
If the ground of your heart is fallow, it needs to be converted to be fruitful. Hosea 10:12a reads, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground. . . .” Chronologically, “Break up your fallow ground” / “Sow for yourselves righteousness” / “Reap in mercy.” In a similar fashion Jeremiah writes, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns’” (Jeremiah 4:3).
Hebrews 3:13 reads, “but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Remember Jacob bar Isaac and his second conversion. Rev. Robert Tuck (1836-1911) author of many books to include Biblical Things Not Generally Known, writes, “Jacob’s second conversion. The wrestling represents the highest point in the spiritual history of Jacob. It was the time in which Jacob learned the mystery and the joy of trusting wholly, committing himself entirely to the Divine love and lead. The wrestling at Jabbok is the close of a scene of which each part requires careful attention. Anxious and scheming as he came within sight of Canaan, he had the vision of the guarding angels to recall him from his schemings to trust. He had hitherto only seen his helpless company and the approaching peril, and like the prophet’s servant in later times, God opened his eyes to see, closer than any danger, the two angel-bands of watchers. Recalled thus to the thought of God’s nearness, Jacob feels that he must blend prudent schemes with prayer, and the prayer he offers is full of humility, thankfulness, and pleading, that makes it in many ways a model of prayer. But it is easily overestimated. It is the prayer of one who is still rough too self-conscious, of one who has not yet quite given up his guileful ways: there is still something of Jacob’s old mistake of ‘making terms with God.’ He is evidently learning his great life-lesson, but the prayer shows that he has not fully learned it yet. It was a kind of drama of his life which was acted through that night. It was a gracious way of shewing Jacob what had been the mistake of his whole career. He had always been wrestling. Now in his heart he was even wrestling with God. But He will find that a very different thing. If it does seem that a man’s wrestling brings mastery, it is only because God does not put forth His strength in the conflict. When He does and simply touches Jacob, the confident wrestler, is prostrate and utterly helpless; he can wrestle no more, he can only cling, he can only say, ‘Give me the blessing’; he gives up at last all self-efforts to win the blessing.”[iv] God changed Jacob’s name to Israel!
Remember Simon bar Jonah and his second conversion. This conversion is a little like the one Jesus mentioned to Simon Peter, Luke 22:31-32 reads, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’” (Emphasis mine) The phrase “when you have returned to Me” could be translated “when thou art converted”. God changed Simon’s name to Peter!
Dr. Joel Hawes (1789-1867) writes, “The late Dr. [Adoniram] Judson [1788-1850], of the Burmah Baptist Mission, after he had been years in his field of labour, earnestly engaged in his work, and no doubt as a true Christian man, experienced a change in his religious feelings and views which, in all its essential elements, may properly be regarded as a second conversion, and which gave a new impulse and a new power, as well as a greatly increased spirituality, and joy, and hope, to the whole of his subsequent life. The late Judge Reeve, of Litchfield, furnishes another remarkable example illustrating the point now under consideration. For many years after he professed religion he was saris fled to keep up the usual routine of religious observances, but with little of the life and enjoyment of a clear, indwelling spirit of piety. Then he passed through a great and most decided change in his Christian experience and character, in which he felt as if old things had indeed passed away, and all things had become new to him. From that time till the close of his life he enjoyed great nearness to God and peace of mind, and his path became like that of the sun, shining more and more unto the perfect day.”[v]
Proverbs 13:23a reads, “Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor. . .” This speaks of opportunity to plow and plant a small plot of land. Some translate “fallow ground” as “tillage” in Proverbs 13:23a.
If the ground of your heart is fallow, it needs to be converted to be fruitful.
Part Two Coming Soon!
[i]F. B. Meyer, Our Daily Homily “Isaiah to Malachi” (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1955), 193.
[ii]Gregory R. Frizzell, Returning to Holiness: A Personal and Churchwide Journey to Revival: A Biblical Guide to Daily Cleansing and Churchwide Solemn Assemblies (Memphis, TN: The Master Design, 2000), xvi.
[iii]A. W. Tozer, “Miracles Follow the Plow” Sermon Notes (Hosea 10:12). Accessed: 11/08/15 http://www.theprayerlife.com/tozerfallow.htm .
[iv]The Biblical Illustrator– Hosea, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Homily by Robert Tuck, “Bethel and Peniel” (Hosea 12:3-4). Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
[v]The Biblical Illustrator – Luke, ed. Joseph S. Exell., Homily by Joel Hawes, “Second Conversion” (Luke 22:31) Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.