"It is Time"
Hosea 10:12, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you."
This morning, Scripture continues to amaze in its freshness and relevance. Over the years reading and studying the Bible, it has been astounding to me to see how instep Scripture is with life, and yet the world continues to play catch up - if at all - all the while thinking they are in tune or ahead of the curve. Friends, the Bible has always and will always blow the world away in its superiority. Nothing today is truly new, as man continues to find new ways to repackage the same old things. Yet, something as old as the Bible continues to be a treasure trove of new and old things that can truly transform lives and provide comfort through the maladies of life. A Book like no other, its vibrancy stems from the fact that it has an Author like no other: God Himself. As I study it, however, I find that different things in it hit me more profoundly than other passages do at different times. As a young father, I find the passages on fatherhood to be more profound than I did prior to fatherhood. Likewise with married life. Passages talking about husbands and their responsibilities took my breath away more than they ever had before shortly before and after my wife and I tied the knot. Such is the case with verses like our study verse this morning. Though the vibrancy and relevance never truly fades, its effect charges through the door of our lives and challenges us to look deeply into our lives for examination.
The book of Hosea in general contains dark themes and images. The Lord's man had a charge that I am glad that I did not. His cross to bear was tough. The Lord instructs him to take a wife of whoredoms and bear children with her, all the while she continues to flirt with her wicked lifestyle. The point that the Almighty is serving to His prophet is that he would understand experientially what God felt. Like as Hosea's wife continued to break his heart by her wayward liaisons, the Lord's people Israel continued to grieve Him by following after other nations and their idols. As our heavenly Husband that has married us, He felt pain and grief by our misdeeds, and Hosea understood this better having lived the same in his own house. His message had the weight and teeth of understanding to tell the people just how far they had rolled off the rails.
However, the book of Hosea is not chock full of dark images, themes, and tones to the exclusion of bright glimpses and rich promises. In fact Paul quotes from Hosea 14:13 in his grand declaration of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15. Our study verse is one of those bright moments in the midst of exhortation. Very briefly, let us examine some of the other expressions leading up to the theme "It is Time" that opens up the thought of a rich and comforting promise. God compares His exhortation to the people to the way a gardener tends his plot. Things must be sown before something can be reaped, and breaking must be in attendance for profitability. In our lives, we cannot honestly expect good things to come in our lives when we constantly input evil things. No one would expect a good crop by sowing few seeds or sowing spoiled seed. Likewise, we should not expect truly good and profitable spiritual ends when we constantly input spoiled and tainted seeds. We must input righteousness (good dealing, honest mindset, and upright decorum) to expect to reap in mercy. Someone might say, "Oh but preacher, God can still bless good things to come out of bad circumstances right?" He can, and sometimes He does. However, to expect the Lord to arrive and clean up our mess when He has given us the tools to do better is like expecting Him to be the worldwide nanny servicing the spoiled brats of a household. As Paul would warn, "God is not mocked..." (Galatians 6:7b). We should expect to reap after the same manner that we have sowed.
To fulfill the reaping of mercy, we must break away the things that offend and stand in the way. Breaking up fallow ground in a garden provides the seed with a good environment to nurture in. With the ground packed and clodded together, the seed struggles to produce the desired fruit according to its nature. Likewise, the seed planted within the child of God needs the flesh around it broken with the affections and lusts thereof to properly bring forth the mercy that we desire to receive and should desire to impart to others. Having gone through the gardening analogies, what is the Lord's aim in using them? His aim is simple: it is time.
In farming and gardening, we see and understand there are certain times for things. Almanacs and other tools provide information on when to plant different seeds, and the farmer/gardener is best suited to bring forth an ideal crop by following those times. Consider where Israel was during this time. Long periods of languishing had ensued, and Hosea had lived in a form of hell to understand what God saw and experienced. Dark, dark times. Does that sound familiar? People chasing their own desires and fulfilling their own pleasures. Sound familiar? One might be inclined to think, "This season is wrong for a crop. Nothing good can come now." The Lord's message is exactly the opposite. Right now! It is time! Seeking the Lord needs no calendar date or time restriction. Every minister has heard older souls bemoan their younger selves in frittering away so much time before renewing their zeal and effort in seeking the Lord. No minister has heard an older soul lament the fervent time they spent in serving the Lord from an early age. Consider two examples: 1. John the Baptist and 2. Naomi. Both of them were Israelites and blessed to be born into a land that God favored with His presence. Yet, John the Baptist died early by execution from a wicked man for simply standing up for the truth. Naomi lived to be an old woman who had ups and downs through her life. John the Baptist fulfilled his course through faithfulness and righteousness. Naomi forsook her land and came back empty, bitter, and heartbroken. Yes, she had joy again before her life ended, but many years of her life's experience were ruined by chasing after the world (Moab). Both are housed in heaven now, and will experience no less of its fullness than you or I. Yet, I would rather have the faithful life of John the Baptist, even if it costs me everything than the heartbreak of Naomi from the world's destruction.
Think about the here and now. Are things really all that different today than in Hosea's day? Is there anything new under the sun? Life today is spent chasing vain dreams, finding empty promises, and gathering great disappointments and regrets. The prize of today is replaced tomorrow by something different but equally empty. Children's toy boxes are full of items that were "the thing" one day and forgotten the next. Life is full of such empty pursuits and prizes. I am reminded of the scene from Ben-Hur when Pontius Pilate crowns Judah Ben-Hur with the laurels after he wins the chariot race, "You are the people's one true god for the time being. Permit us to worship." He then then states, "I crown their god." What was Pilate saying in the scene? What so many others today say. By the deeds of today or the pursuits of today, someone/something becomes someone's god for that day. Just as the victory in the chariot race is not worthy of worship, so is nothing today worthy of serving/seeking outside of the Lord.
At what time or season should He be sought? A farmer knows that planting generally happens in the spring, harvest in the fall, with select things grown in the winter. However, the Lord's service knows no specific season or time. Notice the phrase - it is time - is present tense. The phrase cannot be uttered about past successes or future expectations. It is uttered about the right now. What if dark times beset us? It is time. What if our days are filled with the sunshine of comfort and pleasures? It is time. Whether old or young, rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile, it is time. For how long? The answer to that question opens the door to a great promise that the Lord manifests. This service endures until the Lord comes and rains righteousness on us. To the people that Hosea had been speaking to, the message may have seemed dark and hopeless, but the Lord renews His affection and promise that He is coming and righteousness is coming with Him.
The righteousness that He has will be freely and fully rained upon us/given to us. Paul looked forward to that day in II Timothy 4:8 as he described it as a "crown of righteousness." Nothing that happens will stay or keep this event from coming to pass. Dark times on the earth will not prevent it. Our waywardness will not prevent. The devil cannot stop it. It is coming. By implication, therefore, it is still time right now to seek Him. He is coming, but now it is time. Paul told the Romans our service should be right now, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." (Romans 13:11) We are nearer that salvation and deliverance than we have ever been, but now it is time. Paul says it is high time. Life is not hopeless friends. There is much to do, and He is worthy of living for and following after.
Friends, nothing would delight our adversary more than to keep us steeped in our own wayward actions and decisions, and prevent our eyes from gazing upon that great consummation when the Lord rains righteousness and delivers us up. Evil men try to foster the mindset of terror and dread in what they do. Corruption seeks to sear us and make our love wax cold. Every day we must fight the hardening that this old flesh enjoys doing. Seeking Him is not a "what I once did" or "what I will do." Seeking Him must be a what I am doing. I cannot serve Him today through future sermons I will preach, nor can I serve Him today through past successes/failures in preaching. I can only serve Him today through my sowing and breaking today, hoping to reap mercy through the effort. If we are waiting before we do something or living based on something that we have previously done, we are living in the "it will be the time" or "it was the time" mentalities. We have lived many days, and He is coming one day. We can only serve Him today.