This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:
“Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.”
Walking in a restricted nation, my eyes caught a small, green leafy plant pressing up out of the thick stone floor. What a beautiful picture, I thought, of the church in areas like this. Despite the opposition, the gospel still grows. This verse from Jeremiah is a cry to the modern church as much as it was cry to Israel back when it was written. We are called to break up unplowed ground. What does unplowed ground look like, spiritually?
Merriam- Webster defines “plow” as “to turn, break up, or work with a plow”, “to spend or invest in substantial amounts —used with into”, or “to move forcefully into or through something”. When we think in terms of the world, the places that are “unplowed” are those that have not been turned to the gospel, those that have not broken their ties with other gods, those that have not been invested in spiritually in substantial amounts, and those who have not had God move into or through their countries. These qualifiers serve as honing devices for our prayers and efforts.
On a smaller scale, we all have unplowed ground in our own personal lives. These are the areas that we have not let the Holy Spirit break into, the ones we have not substantially “sold out” to God, or the areas that God is not the force moving us. Take a moment to pray and think about what unplowed ground you currently notice in your own life. Ask God to begin to break up the soil and work in and through these places.
The second the Jeremiah 4:3 instructs us to do is to not sow among the thorns. In the Parable of the Sower, thorns are an analogy for worries of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth. A more broad way to view thorns are those things that take away nourishment from what God is growing in our lives and hurt us in the process. God wants all of our lives to be “usable soil”, so the things that are taking up our time, energy, and resources that are hurting rather than blessing are the things we need to avoid sowing.
On a global scale, sowing among the thorns is dedicating our efforts where there's the most reward in it for us. For example, giving our time where it is compensated the best as opposed to where God needs it the most. Another example of sowing among the thorns is allowing comfort to dictate our missions efforts. There are many places the gospel needs to reach that are very difficult places. If we let the worries of the world or impossibilities “choke out” the dreams the Lord has for these places, they may never be reached.
This week, think about- both personally and corporately- how you can better fulfill the call to break up unplowed ground and not plant among the thorns! Before you know it, you will see spiritual sprouts even breaking up stones of impossibility.