Why Must Christians Plow?
God addressed Israel clearly and pointedly in this passage. He chose to convey His message by illustrating a farmer's dealings with agriculture. That's because there is a strategic process the farmer employs upon his field before gathering the harvest. It starts before the first seed is sown.
The farmer begins by cutting through the hardened clay with an instrument known as a plow. The plow is placed against the ground and begins to cut through, overturn, and soften that which is otherwise unprepared to receive the seed. And the farmer's work is not complete when the plowing is accomplished. He then plants, waters, sprays pesticide, waters, perhaps prunes, and weeks or months later he harvests the crop.
The cycle of the Christian life strikingly resembles this farming cycle. Christians are like a garden that God constantly tends. He plows, plants, protects, prunes, and reaps. And when we yield to the process it eventually produces the "fruit of righteousness."
(Transition) I want to talk about God's plowing process and ask the question, "Why have you plowed?"
I. God's Plowing Process
Look again at verse one. You can hear the urgency God packed into this message by issuing a four-fold injunction to listen: "Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say." This message God had for Israel was vitally important to their welfare. God didn't want Israel to marginalize it or miss it; and that's why He insisted four times that they listen to Him.
And what was God's message to them? It was a message of plowing. There are few aspects of God's dealings with us that create more discomfort than having His plow thrash through our life. Like a tractor that shreds apart a field, God's divine plow can overturn everything we have become comfortable with in life.
But we must always remember the purpose of plowing. And the purpose of plowing is to prepare for planting. Proper planting cannot occur unless the ground has been prepared for it. The farmer plows to plant. And the farmer is never satisfied with mere plowing and planting. The process is employed because the farmer wants fruitfulness.
And it's the same with God's work in our lives. He plows and sows into our lives because He wants to see a harvest of righteousness.
(Illustration) Some years ago my dad talked with a farmer about his technique of farming. The farmer said that long before the seed was put into the ground he began the plowing process. This particular farmer didn't plow at a superficial level, he harrowed 16" to 18" inches deep into he soil, all the way down to the hardpan. He explained that this process increased the soil's ability to retain moisture during the hot season—and even during times of draught.
Do you understand that there are times when God plows deeply into our lives for the same reason? He wants us to produce a harvest of righteousness—even during seasons of draught and famine—so He plows painfully deep into our lives.
But God's plowing isn't designed to harm us or curse us. When we endure trials we often wonder what we've done wrong to deserve it. And while introspection is appropriate, a trial isn't always designed to correct us; it's design to prepare us. God wants us bearing fruit even when everything around us is dry and brittle.
Listen to Psalm 92:12. "The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (13) Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. (14) They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, (15)To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."
When God plows into your life it's never pleasant; but it's always purposeful. He is plowing so that He can uproot anything that would prevent His seed from producing a harvest. And by the way, we need constant cultivation because a one-time tilling is insufficient. Just as farmers plow their land each year, Christians need repeated seasons of plowing to maintain fruitfulness.
(Transition) But plowing not only occurs from God's hand, at times He asks us to plow! That's why He said in Hosea 10 that "Judah must plow." In other words, God's people are called into the plowing ministry.
II. Judah Must Plow
There are times that plowing through life describes our journey when it could never be described as "Sailing through life." It's never pleasant when God has us plodding, trudging, and sweating through to achieve His purposes. But even then, our plowing serves a divine purpose and we need to understand that purpose. When we understand the purpose of plowing it helps make it bearable. So what is the purpose of plowing? Let's read from that passage I mentioned in Hosea 10:11‑12.
"Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh; so I will put a yoke on her fair neck. I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plow, and Jacob must break up the ground. [Why? What's the purpose for this plowing? Well, here comes the answer] (12) Sow for yourselves righteousness, 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 righteousness on you."
(Prophetic Word) I want to tell some of you why you have plowed for months and perhaps even years. It was all designed to bring a "harvest of righteousness"; the rain of the Spirit; the blessing of the "latter rain." You haven't plowed and labored in vain. The justice of God wouldn't allow that to happen! Our text in Isaiah 28 says our seasons of reaping will certainly follow a season of sowing. If God has ordained a plowing season, He has certainly ordained a reaping season!
Let's look again at our text in Isaiah 28:23-26. (Read text)
Paul concurred in 1 Corinthians 9:7 when he said: "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? (8) Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? (9) For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? (10) Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest."
(Example) How many people would work for a major corporation forty to fifty hours a week for nothing? Nobody. You set the alarm for 5:00 a.m., shower, fight the traffic, and grind with corporate America for a paycheck. Remuneration eases the pain of pulling the plow of labor.
Take heart plowmen, payday is coming! Sometimes here, other times hereafter. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16‑18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (17) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (18) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."