Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you. (Hosea 10)
Several years ago I spoke on the above text in a church service. I didn’t mean to yank it out of its wider context, but looking back, I see I didn’t grasp the broader story of Hosea. For when I read this verse on its own I feel encouraged and hopeful. It conveys a sense of urgency – that now is the time to sow, reap and break up the land. And that God will rain down his showers of righteousness.
But having spent more time with the prophet’s words, I see now that this verse is tucked amid the bigger picture of God’s sadness and judgment. Israel and Judah still haven’t turned from their evil ways. They follow other kings; they tell lies; they make false idols out of wood and metal. They are a ‘spreading vine’ (v.1), but this spreading is not a positive fruitfulness. Rather it’s a selfish use of their resources. They disseminate the smell of death, not life.
Yet as we ponder the greater context, we can still take encouragement from the hope that these few words evoke in the midst of the larger, more damning case that the prophet reads out against God’s people. For when we sow seeds of righteousness, God will enable us to reap his fruit of love that never fails. As we break up the hardened ground of unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, covetousness and control, he will send his showers of gentle rain to bring healing, love, grace and peace.
The alternative is stark: the Israelites planted wickedness and reaped evil; they were forced to eat the fruit of deception. May the Holy Spirit fill us and transform us, that we might daily produce his fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Prayer: Lord God, cultivate your fruits, that from me may waft the sweet smells of your Spirit, for your glory.