The Work of The Plow
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 upon you.
God’s way of teaching His children is beautiful. Confronted with the problem of describing heavenly and spiritual things to an earthly and carnal humanity, our loving Heavenly Father is not unmindful of what it takes to bring home truth to not only our minds, but our hearts as well. In Romans 1:20 the apostle Paul explains that, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” In giving the instruction to “break up” our “fallow ground” the Lord has the amazing purpose to teach us of some of the invisible things of the nature of heaven and how it relates to our hearts.
HOW GOD VIEWS THE FIELD OF OUR HEART
As the agriculture season begins here at Red River, we have begun to work up our fields in preparation for a liberal planting. It is so exciting to imagine the treasures that will, by God’s grace, come from our fields this year! However, that treasure cannot come without a breaking up of the ground that has been lying untouched by the plow for many years, if ever. Is it possible that God views the fields of the hearts of humanity, with so much potential for growth and fruit-bearing, the same way we view our farm, believing that with enough diligent work to prepare the soil for the seed, a rich harvest may be gathered in?
DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN ROCKS OF OUR HEARTS
With various implements of agriculture we work up our fields over two feet deep in order to prepare the ground for planting.
As the result of the process, what was before hidden from our eyes by grass and layers of soil now is unearthed. Rocks, in all shapes and sizes are brought to sight, some of them of such large size that it is hard to imagine that they hid so close to the surface!
Yet, beyond the stones that can be readily seen are a larger number, disguised as dirt clods, that will only be revealed when a heavy rain from heaven is showered upon the open field. In Ecclesiastes 12:14, Solomon bids us to keep the Lord’s commandments because “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing”. Those “secret things” are like the rocks in our lives.
Not always clearly seen by us or others, they are there nonetheless and will be brought into account on the final Day of Judgment. However, before the time of judgment is executed, an ever-patient and loving God gives us an opportunity to voluntarily plow up those rocks and surrender them to Him.
THE SOIL OF OUR HEARTS
Beyond the items that must be completely removed from the field, just as sin must be entirely removed from our lives, there is another aspect of this process that deserves our attention. The soil is necessary for the growth of the plant and therefore cannot be removed as the rocks, but it must be worked in order to be made productive.
In its natural state it is hard and nearly impenetrable to a tender root trying to break through and establish the plant. In the same way, the apostle Paul asserts that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” 1 Corinthians 2:14. It can truly be said of our hearts in their pre-worked state as God said of Leviathan’s heart, “His heart is as hard as stone, even as hard as the lower millstone” Job 41:24.
What then must be done? That hard, fallow ground must be broken up! The plow must be set to work, and not merely in a surface effort. As Christians, we cannot have an experience that merely scratches the shell of our hearts. Christ wants the whole heart to be soft and mellow, prepared for every heavenly seed that He desires to plant there.
That seed producing fruit to God’s glory, is the purpose of all the preparatory work, the hope of which makes the painful experience of having the heart broken up entirely worth the effort. “For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope” (1 Corinthians 9:10).
MAINTAINING HEALTHY SOIL
But how often should this work be done? Will the soil stay loose forever once worked? Several times while participating in door-to-door literature evangelism, I have met individuals that made great efforts to find out precisely when I was saved, assuring me that once I was, I could never lose that salvation no matter what I did. You may have heard of the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”, but since the physical world reflects the spiritual and agriculture is a lesson book of salvation, could we for the purposes of this article rename this belief “once plowed, always plowed”?
To anyone who knows the nature of soil and its hardening tendency over time, the silliness of such a belief can immediately be seen. The fact is, that unless the soil is continually worked, it will always tend back toward its natural state. That is why the Christian cannot sit back after an initial experience with the Master Gardener and fold his hands saying, “I am plowed! My soil is soft and ever will be!” Knowingly, Ellen White in her book Christ’s Object Lessons stated, “The soil will not produce its riches when worked by impulse. It needs thoughtful, daily attention. It must be plowed often and deep, with a view to keeping out the weeds that take nourishment from the good seed planted. Thus those who plow and sow prepare for the harvest. None need stand in the field amid the sad wreck of their hopes” (88).
CULTIVATING THE HEART
Even after a plant is growing, cultivation with a hoe or another farm tool, a form of plowing, can be done to further help the development of the plant. Someone may ask, “If I cultivate around my plant, won’t I disturb its roots?” The answer is yes, but only the shallow ones.
Just as many plants benefit from the pruning of their branches, pruning off the shallow roots of a plant is also beneficial to their life and growth. When drought comes, their remaining roots are deep where the soil remains relatively moist. When wind comes, they are far more stable. When heat comes, they are at a depth where the temperature of the soil remains more constant.
Unwelcome weeds, as the author above stated, are also kept from stealing the nourishment of the plant. So with the plowing up of our shallow roots, where we are barely clinging to Christ, we are led to be more grounded in Him, protecting us more thoroughly from all of life’s trials and difficulties. We also find more ready assimilation of the nutrition of the Word of God, which we are so dependent upon for our life and existence.
ALLOWING OUR HEARTS TO RECEIVE THE DEEPER WORK
Returning to the nature of the ground, beyond the farmer, the Lord in His mercy has provided some laborers in nature that seek to curb the hardening process. The roots of hardy grasses and trees, the billions and trillions of earthworms, ants, and other microorganisms do a good work in their sphere.
In the same way, God has given gifts to man to keep his heart softer than what it otherwise might be—family, employment, and much more. However, unless we have an individual experience with the master Farmer and He takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh through the gospel plow, we will never produce the fruits of the Spirit.
But if we allow Him to often work our hearts and minds, “He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food” will “supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness”( 2 Corinthians 9:10).
Friend, do you want a deeper work done in your heart? Do you want your rocks removed, big and small, and a life where God’s promises can flourish and bear their fruit? Because of what Christ has done for us on the Cross, all of that is possible.
He bore the weight of every stone that could ever be removed from us, upon His shoulders. He felt the pressure of the deepest and the heaviest plow upon His back, that we may not be counted as cursed ground. He felt every thorn upon the weeds growing in our garden. That is wonderful love.
With this love in mind, by all means, “sow for yourselves righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord” (Hosea 10:12).
By Robert Philips