“Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground. For it is time to seek the Lord, ‘til he comes and rains righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies because you have trusted in your own way.”
Summertime and having a job that requires a long drive out into the countryside is delightful. Granted, when the price of gasoline skyrockets or the roads are slick with ice or the night is dark and deer are darting from forest to field, it’s not so pleasant. Still the beauty is breathtaking, whether it is an early morning mist-softened watercolor or tuffets of golden marsh mallows blazing forth from the shadows of mossy trees, or the precise patterns of emerald green corn next to kelly green soybeans and newly shorn oatfields sporting blond crewcuts.
The landscape is ever changing as well. The fir trees that, but ten years ago were mere nubbins, now almost completely shield a house from view. Here a new barn is rising; there a new house sprouts. And where one year corn waved, its lofty tassels, now soybeans hug the curving earth. I especially love the spring when the brown fields give way to carpets of tender green and meadows are golden with dandelions and rocket. The change seems to take forever, yet paradoxically occurs in an instant.
Last spring, one large field was different. It had been green the previous year, although seemingly uncultivated. That year as verdant green spread over the rolling hills, it stubbornly remained brown. At first I didn’t really notice it, but as spring turned to high summer, its failure to get with the program became obvious and I began to look more closely. The brown color came not from bare earth, but from the vegetation itself – dead vegetation. The edges of this field of death were as sharply defined as if drawn with a ruler. The first crop of hay was cut, then the second; the corn passed knee-high. Still the blighted field retained its grim color and mocked the blooming meadows that surrounded it.
My curiosity was aroused and I slowed as I paused to inspect it more closely. This precisely defined zone of death was not a natural phenomenon; someone had poisoned it. Yet as time went by the tenacity and persistence of life itself began to overcome the killing power of the herbicide. Isolated clumps of corn began to spot the field, rising above the dead vegetation. Grasses too, began to return among the skeletons of thistle and goatsbeard. Then suddenly the field was brown again, but this time it was the brown of carefully tilled and harrowed earth. It was no longer a field of death but of latent life awaiting the sowing of winter wheat. The fallow ground had been broken up. Soon the field will live and be fruitful again.
I felt a kinship with that field. All around me, fellow believers praised God and worshiped with joy. Like the greening fields of spring, the Spirit of Christ filled them and overflowed in exuberant life. My soul, however, was parched, covered with the brittle vegetation of dry duty and miscarried prayers. I might be a blood-bought child of the King, but a long trouble-filled drought had drained me. I was dead inside. The funny thing is, though, I wouldn’t stay dead. Here and there self-effort brought forth small clumps of wild corn. The trouble with wild corn is that no one knows what its fruit, what its seed will be like. It could be a throwback to some marginally productive ancestor generations past. It can’t be allowed to tassel and contaminate the surrounding healthy fields. When the time is right the entire field, old dead growth and living wild corn is all plowed under. The tilled field rests quietly, patiently waiting the sowing of new seed and a new season of healthy growth. Yet the old growth and the wild corn are not wasted. Buried, they will improve the tilth of the soil and be fertilizer to the good seed.
We all go through our fallow times. Sometimes, we have been so busy about the Lord’s work. Year after year, we have produced crop after crop of good fruit. And now in a time of Jubilee the Lord says, “Rest.” The rest can come in many ways: the loss of a ministry, a change in employment or family status, ill health or even the death of a dear one. In the enforced idleness we often chafe, looking for something, anything to do that will restore our self-esteem and community reputation. Impatience results in the growth of wild corn. Wait. The time of new growth is coming.
Other times we have not produced good fruit. Rebelliousness, selfishness, pride and stubbornness have produced a pasture overgrown with prickly thistles, coarse grasses and scruffy shrubs, but not useful fruit. The Gardener has been after us, chopping out one thistle, uprooting one dandelion at a time. But the rank growth of self-will has taken over. Drastic measures are called for. The self, the “old Adam” must die. So the herbicide is sprayed. Everything dies. We stand naked, in stark contrast to the healthy believers around us. How long will we be sere and fallow? The timing is in God’s hands, but surely every time we send up a shoot of wild corn, we extend the fallow time. Though it may not seem like it, the time of chastening will end. The fallow ground will be tilled, good seed planted and new growth with good fruit reaped.
Are you lying fallow right now? Be patient with God and with yourself. Whether a time of rest or a time of chastening, God’s plan will be fulfilled.