Photo credit to Herdwick Shepherd.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
This is the standard, but this is not the reality for us all. “Sow to yourselves righteousness, reap in mercy…You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity.” Yes, that is the standard and it’s the possibility but it only becomes a probability when we follow and do what the words say.
“Sow to yourselves righteousness (tsedaqah), reap as mercy (hesed).” First, how do we determine what righteousness is? Is it just doing good things? By whose standards? Tsedaqah is more than doing good things. Tsedaqah is about everything that God does. He is the standard setter and the standard bearer. It’s everything right, pure, true, good, just and more. Think of the heart of God, think of the actions of God and you have tsedaqah. I think of the widow at the temple who put her last coin in the offering box (a form of tsedaqah). She put all her trust in God and His care. She put all her tsedeqah in God’s tsedeqah which is a bigger box than that offering box outside the temple. I think of Jesus who was made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30) I think of the Son of God, Jesus, who God made “to be sin for us, [He] who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) I think of how Paul declared “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)
I think of those things and see that righteousness is more than being good. Righteousness is a relationship with the heavenly father. It is a joy in all the things that bring Him joy and a distaste for all the things that are distasteful to Him. It is a joining in with Him in what He is doing and an absence of desire for what He is not delighting in. It’s self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Sometimes it’s painful but it is always good and always the best. It always glorifies God and never glorifies self. It always thinks of others.
Tsedaqah or righteousness isn’t about speaking in tongues, or having prophetic powers, or understanding mysteries, or having knowledge. It’s not about having faith that moves mountains or giving everything up or delivering ourselves over to death for the sake of something good. It’s about pure, unadulterated love from God and love of God. It’s letting the character of God flow through me and out to others. It’s what each of us was created for, to be vessels of God’s character, image bearers of our Creator in this world.
Because His love is patient and kind, we realize that which was planted in us and we plant that around us. We realize it’s not about us and it never was but it was always about You, God, and our boast that we plant, is in You. I’m not puffed up or rude but the humility You displayed is what I plant. You could have had Your own way in every life. You guide and You invite but You don’t insist. I plant those same seeds and give people the choice to choose righteousness or wickedness, life or death. You didn’t treat me with irritability or resentment, but love and forgiveness and I plant those seeds for the sake of others. You never rejoiced in doing wrong even if I deserved it, but You rejoiced in the truth and doing it and being it and living it and sharing it. So I sow, no matter what someone else might deserve. Your righteousness bore all my wrongs and all my injustices to You and yet You still loved me. I must sow the same to others. You believed in me before anyone else. I must do the same. You endure no matter how hard things are and so must I. Your love never ends and neither must mine if it is in You and from You. This is righteousness. This is only attained in relationship with You. But I cannot sow without it. At least, I cannot sow and reap hesed without You sowing in me first.
If I want hesed to spring forth from my life and its influences, If I want “mercy, lovingkindness, unwavering care and concern, goodness” and more to flow from my life I have to sow Your conduct and Your integrity. It takes my sowing the seed and breaking up the hard ground to give nature the chance to put the rain and sun and warmth and air together in such a way as to grow the seed and produce that which nourishes me as I eat it. But if I don’t sow, I don’t grow food, and I don’t get fed. Sowing righteousness doesn’t just feed others; in feeding others, I am fed. No man lives by that kind of bread alone.
What does that mean? Of course if all I ate was bread and no other nutritional source I would die because of lack of adequate nutrition. But what was Jesus trying to tell us by that? What did He mean when He said He was the Bread of Life? Am I not just to look to sowing? Am I in need of the reaping? Does the reaping and accepting from others feed me? Am I in need of being sown in myself? Do I need to know that I am not sufficient in myself and that I must be fed from You, Lord, and from what You feed others? Just a thought…
It’s time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon us. I can sow, but I can’t make it rain. I can sow, but I can’t make the sun shine and make it warm enough. So I can’t sow rightly without seeking You first, Lord. I sow, but You provide. I mean, You’re even the One who gives me the seed. I mean, unless I’m planting healthy, good seed, I’m not going to have a healthy, good crop. That’s got to come from You too.
But there’s a problem. I can plow iniquity. I can turn the soil and plant tainted seeds. I can plant seeds that are foreign to You. I can plant seeds of hate and distrust, of anger and shame, of pride and apathy. I can choose to plant those things. But then I will reap them in greater measure. And those around me will reap them. I mean, what do I want to feed on and feed others? Injustice? Lies? Is it really worth it to trust in my own way and in all the people around me instead of trusting in You, my Creator and the Lover of my soul?
Everyone will plow something. Everyone must harrow for himself. But what will it be?
You can blame it on God if you want to. But He didn’t invite injustice into the world. We did. We have the choice to sow righteousness or not. Why do bad things happen? Is it because God does not love? Or is it really because we don’t love enough to practice what God practices, to let Him have His way in us and in the world? Do we have injustice because it’s the logical consequence of sowing wickedness? Well, if we don’t like injustice, why not choose to sow righteousness in Christ instead?
I can plow wickedness by having a total disregard and contempt for Your ways, Lord, or I can sow righteousness by loving and adhering to Your ways. I can follow my false heart or follow You God who is always true. I can declare “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king-what could he do for us?” I can do things on my own, my own way, but I better be ready for the outcome.
On the other hand, I can declare, “You are my King! Not only do I fear You, Lord, but I love You with every part of my being. You can do everything for me. You sing over me. You give me life. You give me purpose. You give me You. Yes, You can do everything for me for You are my Everything!” Lord, I want to sow everything I have in You. I want You to teach me to sow You in my life so that what is brought forth nourishes me and those around me in You. I love Your righteousness, Lord, and I want to live in it and draw others to it. You are the most amazing King I know. You are King, yet You are humble Shepherd and Farmer as well, and You are unashamed of teaching me step by step all that I need to know to follow in Your footsteps.