Fallow or Fertile Ground?

Reading #10 | July 14, 2021

There is much judgment and condemnation in Hosea 10—not the easiest text to read and ponder. But, in the midst of this difficult chapter is verse 12: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (NRSV). The Message Bible interprets part of the verse like this: “It’s time to till the ready earth, it’s time to dig in with God, until he arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest.” Verse 12 shows God’s mercy. Even after repeated failures to live as God intended, God again shows Israel how to live, so that God “may come and rain righteousness” on them.

I’m not a gardener, let alone a farmer, so I had to check what fallow means. According to Merriam-Webster, it describes land that is “left untilled or unsown after plowing” or refers to things that are “dormant” or “inactive.”

I imagine that each of us has fallow ground in our lives, an unsown area (or areas) that God can do something with, that can become fertile ground, even if it seems useless or hopeless.

In 2018, I began my journey as a candidate for minister of word and service which has entailed cultivating areas of my life that could have been described as fallow. I’d told myself I shouldn’t be involved in some of these areas. Others I’d avoided because they caused discomfort. I didn’t know some areas could be useful. Others I hadn’t explored before.

Verse 12 reminds me of the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Luther’s Small Catechism with African Descent Reflections states, “This petition commits us to seek and to act on God’s will in every way we can” (p. 49). What powerful encouragement for us to try, with God’s help, to cultivate areas of our lives that might feel unredeemable. Even when all seems lost, our merciful God offers us opportunities to “dig in with God” in the bringing about of God’s kingdom on earth.

Kimberly Dunbar is the Outreach Ministry Coordinator at Good Shepherd, Brevard. She is in the Masters of Religious Leadership Program through Lenoir-Rhyne University and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, and is a candidate through the NC Synod. Kimberly feels blessed to be the mother of 12-year-old Sophie.

To Consider

1. What areas of your life, with God’s help, might be cultivated to become fertile ground?
2. What support or encouragement do you need for this to happen?


Merciful God, help us to see the fallow areas in our lives that can become fertile ground. Guide us to cultivate these areas and put them to use in the bringing about of your kingdom on earth. Amen.

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