This morning we looked at the topic of ‘Gardens’, focussing on Hosea’s words in Hosea 10:12 about the need to sow for ourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love and break up our unploughed ground. Gardens feature heavily in the Bible, from the first garden in Eden (Gen 1-2) to the garden with the tree of life in Revelation 22. The very first job given to humanity was to take care of the garden, and the miracle of growth in gardens shows us God at work. The variety, colour and sheer beauty of the created world reminds us that God can be plainly seen through His creation, and we have a duty of care towards that creation.
Hosea uses analogies from the natural world to remind us that growth is also what God wants for us in the spiritual realm (see Eph 4:14-16). Gardening is a great example of the miraculous and the mundane going hand in hand and also of our partnership with God (we sow and plant, but God makes things grow, as Paul reminds us in 1 Cor 3.) There is much hard work and effort involved in gardening; we can’t afford to neglect a garden, or the weeds will take over.
Hosea urges us to ‘sow for yourselves righteousness’, but this is not our own righteousness (which Isaiah reminds us is as ‘filthy rags.‘) Rather, Christ has given us His own righteousness (see Rom 3:10-23) and ‘a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.’ (Eph 4:22-24). Christ’s life within us produces a different kind of life to that which we knew before.
The result of this is reaping the fruit of unfailing love – unfailing because God is the source and love never fails. (1 Cor 13:8) Reaping or harvesting is probably the most wonderful aspect of gardening, but still it involves hard work over a period determined for us by nature. Love has to be our priority and the outworking of our faith.
This will inevitably involve breaking up our unploughed land, digging deep into our hearts to examine our motives. The Ephesian church was known for its hard work, sound doctrine and perseverance, but Jesus still admonished them for having forsaken their first love. (Rev 2:4) Breaking up our unploughed land will mean putting to death everything that belongs to our old nature (Rom 6:11-14) and clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col 3:12-14) It will take effort and self-discipline, but the reward will be spiritual fruit. (Gal 5:22-23)