Last week, the church group I usually meet with canceled services, so I tuned into the livestream of the Messianic group I attended before moving for grad school. And I’m glad I did. The rabbi’s message was about preparing our hearts for an uncertain future, and I found it very encouraging. I hope you find today’s blog post, inspired by that message, encouraging as well 🙂
As you may remember from some of my previous posts, I love the book of Hosea. I don’t think I’ve ever studied this particular verse in depth, though:
Sow righteousness for yourselves,Hosea 10:12, NET
reap unfailing love.
Break up the unplowed ground for yourselves,
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes and showers deliverance on you.
There is so much agricultural imagery used in the Bible, and I find this particular one especially beautiful. Sowing seeds of righteousness leads to harvests of unfailing love. There’s preparation needed, though. We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8) and the harvest is also affected by where we sow. You know this if you’ve ever planted anything. Even a lawn won’t grow well if you sow weedy seed or don’t prepare the soil properly. The same is true in our hearts.
Parable of the Sower
One of Jesus’s best known parables is that Parable of the Sower, which appears in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. In this parable, the seed is the word of God and the type of ground it falls on is connected to the state of the person’s heart and how they respond to the word.
First, you have the hard-packed soil of a “well-worn path” (NET footnote on Matt. 13:3). Seed that lands on earth like that has no chance to grow, and for this analogy the word is immediately snatched away from their hearts by the wicked one, Satan the devil (Matt. 13:9; Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12). Second, you have the rocky ground; a thin layer of soil over “a limestone base” where there was no soil deep enough for roots to grow (NET footnote on Matt. 13:5). This relates to someone who’s happy to hear the word, but their faith isn’t deep and they abandon it when trials come (Matt. 13:20-21; Mark 4:16-17; Luke 8:13).
Third is the seeds that fell among thorns, which in Palestine can refer to weeds “up to 6 feet in height” with “a major root system” (NET footnote on Matt. 13:7). These are the ones who get crowded out by what’s competing for soil space; the people whose hearts are filled with “worldly cares” and “the desire for other things” that “choke the word, and it produces nothing” (Mark 4:19, NET). Finally, there is the seed that lands in good soil–tilled deep and prepared as Hosea talks about–where the word finds a place to grow. These people, “after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart and bear fruit with steadfast endurance” (Luke 8:15, NET).
Determining the Focus of Your Heart
I think for a long while, it has been easy for many of us (at least in the U.S.) to coast along with shallow faith or faith that’s barely competing with the other things in our lives. We dare not keep that up now. Whether or not you believe we’re living in the last days, things are changing in the world and we will face challenges to our faith. We need to prepare our hearts so we’ll be ready to follow God no matter what, unlike this ancient king:
King Rehoboam … did evil because he was not determined to follow the Lord.2 Chronicles 12:13-14, NET
In Hebrew, the last part of this verse literally means, “because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (NET footnote). The focus and direction of our hearts is of vital importance! We can’t just coast along thinking “eh, I’m an okay person so I don’t really need to bother with changing anything or preparing myself.” But we are responsible for preparing, establishing, and determining the direction our lives will go and how we respond to God’s word. If we’re not taking action to be “good ground,” it is very easy to slip into living lives that do not glorify God. In contrast to Rehoboam’s example, we have someone like Ezra:
For Ezra had set his heart to seek Yahweh’s law, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.Ezra 7:10, WEB
We need to be careful and diligent to “break up the unplowed ground” in our lives and hearts; to be sure we never forget God’s word or let it “depart from our hearts” (Hos. 10:12; Deut. 4:9). Determine in your heart to follow God. Seek His ways and do what He tells you in His word. That’s how you grow a “root system” of faith that will keep you steady no matter what comes.
Asking God to Prepare Us
We get a say in what kind of ground we are. We can “break up the unplowed ground” and “seek the Lord,” cultivating a heart where God’s word can sink in, take root, and grow. We can weed distractions out of our lives to make room for God’s character to flourish in us. We can dig ourselves into His truths and cultivate a relationship with Him that will sustain us through trails. And we can ask God to help us with this.
Yahweh, you have heard the desire of the humble.Psalm 10:17, WEB
You will prepare their heart.
You will cause your ear to hear
Yahweh, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this desire forever in the thoughts of the heart of your people, and prepare their heart for you1 Chronicles 29:18, WEB
David, as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), knew the importance of preparing your heart to seek God. He also recognized that preparing our hearts requires a commitment to God and a recognition of our spiritual helplessness without Him. When we ask Him, He will help us prepare our hearts to take in His word, understand Him, and know Him. So long as we do our part to seek Him and cultivate lives where His word can flourish in us, He will make sure that our hearts are safe in Him.