Heaven's Advice on Farming

If you’ve read the Bible much at all, you’ve noticed that there are many images taken from what we might call the “country” way of life. That was familiar imagery to most people in Israel. Farming was the occupation of many. Those who didn’t farm likely lived near those who did.
God used farming terms to give needed advice in Jeremiah 4:3: “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.'” That’s it; only eleven words in the New King James Version. But how needed is the advice in our time!
“Fallow ground” is land that has not yet been tilled. Thus God advised his people to plow up portions of their land that had been neglected. His warning against planting among the thorns made sense, for that would result in additional labor with fewer results. Farmers today would look at this simple statement and agree that it continues to be good advice.
But farming was not God’s point. He was addressing sinful people who had forgotten the covenant they made with him. To break up one’s fallow ground would mean to give attention to areas of life that have formerly been ignored ? righteousness, justice, mercy, etc. On the other hand, attempts to bring forth good out of wicked practices (thorns) will only result in futility. God was trying to turn his people’s attention to things that would truly produce good.
Another statement found later in the chapter throws additional light on the point: “They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22). Why did they not know how to do good? Because that part of their lives had been left untilled. With evil they were more familiar; they had spent years sowing among the thorns.
Do these words apply to my life? As I consider the plot of life God has allotted me, must I confess that I’ve neglected large tracts which could have produced much good? Has most of my energy been spent among the thorns?
Let’s not forget how Jesus used these figures of speech: “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
This is God’s field we’re tending. One day we’ll give an account of how we’ve used his resources. It only makes sense that we should heed his advice on how to produce the fruit he desires from us.

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Tim Hall

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