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. (Hosea 10:12, emphasis added)
Not being a person with an agricultural background I was not familiar with the terms Tozer used when discussing plowing fallowed ground. How is soil broken up? What is fallow ground? What is a plow as compared to a harrow? How do the writers of the Bible implement these word pictures?
The Hebrew word for break up is used twice in the Old Testament. It is used once in our lead-in passage from Hosea 10:12 and once in Jeremiah 4:3. This word in the Hebrew is a verb meaning to break up something. It is used in an agricultural sense of plowing untilled ground, but in context it is used of Israel’s repentance and returning to God. Jeremiah 4:3-4 is as follows:
Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Israel is called to repentance in Jeremiah 3:6 – 4:4 and Jeremiah ends this call with the picture of using plowed ground to plant new seed. The old fallowed field is full of weeds and nothing is growing there that produces fruit. It was time to start from scratch with a new, untilled field in which God can plow the land, cultivate it, and plant new seed. This passage confirms Tozer was correct in stating that the plow is used after repentance so that God can start a new crop in your life.
The Hebrew definition of fallow ground is a noun signifying fallow, untilled ground. It indicates farming land, property owned that lies unplowed.
He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding. (Proverbs 12:11)
Much food is in the ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste. (Proverbs 13:23)
Fallow ground is a waste of God’s good gifts and His provision. God provides food from crops which need cultivation and work due to the curse of the fall of man (Genesis 3:19). The ground should be broken and upset by the plow in order for the process of crop production to occur. This process does not work on unproductive, fallow ground. In the passages of Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12 fallow ground is used to paint a picture of the hardened, untilled attitudes of the people of Judah and Israel which needed to be repented of, plowed over, and replanted with the good seed of God’s loving provision.
Plow in the Hebrew is a verb meaning to plow, or to engrave. It refers to plowing and tilling the soil with animals and various cruel instruments to upset the soil so seed can be planted and take root. In Scripture you can plow for evil or plow for good. The crops produced follow the plow in either case. Revolutionaries chose to plow for the Kingdom.
But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Jesus points out in this passage plowing is a focused task and uses the illustration of plowing as work. Fitness for the Revolutionary is determined on the focus of the worker and what he is plowing toward. The eye kept on the Lord allows us to follow the plow to produce a crop consistent with the battle for the Kingdom. The Plow is concerned with both the work of God and our work done in submission to the Great Commission and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Tozer used the word harrow. A harrow is an agricultural implement consisting of many spikes, tines or discs dragged across the soil for breaking up and smoothing out soil. The plow, in contrast, is used for deeper tillage. Harrowing is done after the plowing to provide a finer finish to a field before adding seed. Both the plow and the harrow are needed in the life of the Revolutionary. The heart is to be torn open and rough edges smoothed over by the hand of the Lord, by use of the plow and the harrow.
Till is a Hebrew verb meaning to work, to serve. This labor may be focused on things, other people, or God. When it is used in reference to things, this idea is usually expressed: to till the ground; to work in a garden; or to dress a vineyard. We look once again to Proverbs 12:11, “He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread.” Tilling is work which reaps a benefit in relation to the work done. This is a great comfort as we look at the Revolution. God is willing to work our fallow ground and produce a fruitful crop with our lives for the Kingdom. He does the plowing. He does the harrowing. He is the One who tills and brings in the harvest. All we have to do is submit to the work of the Holy Spirit and fulfill the Great Commission in making disciples and teaching the Word of Christ.