5TH OF THE 11TH MONTH 2015/2016
Shabbat Shalom all,
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 4:3 “For this is what יהוה said to the men of Yehuḏah and Yerushalayim, “Break up your tillable ground, and do not sow among thorns.”
While going through Yirmeyahu this week I was gripped once again by these words that were part of a clear command being given to a backsliding people. The House of Yisra’ĕl had already been divorced and taken into captivity by the Ashshurians and scattered throughout the earth, and Yirmeyahu was a very instrumental prophet during the reigns of the last 5 kings of the House of Yehuḏah and their being taken captive by the Baḇelonians.
Yehuḏah had become terribly corrupted and were behaving worse than the House of Yisra’ĕl did before they were divorced. In a clear call being given for Yisra’ĕl to repent and return to יהוה in the proper manner, the command to Yehuḏah was made very clear – which was – “…Break up your tillable ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves unto יהוה, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Yehuḏah and inhabitants of Yerushalayim, lest My wrath come forth like fire and burn, with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
The House of Yehuḏah had been turning in the same direction as the House of Yisra’ĕl had done a little under 100 years before, and were becoming even more treacherous than Yisra’ĕl, as we read in the previous chapter the following:
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 3:6-11 “And יהוה said to me in the days of Yoshiyahu the sovereign, “Have you seen what backsliding Yisra’ĕl has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there committed whoring. 7 And after she had done all these, I said ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Yehuḏah saw it. 8 And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra’ĕl had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Yehuḏah did not fear, but went and committed whoring too. 9 And it came to be, through her frivolous whoring, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and wood. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Yehuḏah has not turned to Me with all her heart, but falsely,” declares יהוה. 11 And יהוה said to me, “Backsliding Yisra’ĕl has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Yehuḏah.”
The clear command that was now given here to a backsliding nation was that they were to break up the tillable ground and circumcise their hearts. This was a call to repentance and the bearing of fruit worthy to repentance. Yoḥanan the immerser said to the crowds that came out to be immersed by him:
Luqas/Luke 3:8 “Therefore bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Aḇraham as our father.’ For I say to you that Elohim is able to raise up children to Aḇraham from these stones.”
Yoḥanan then went on to explain how the axe is laid at the root of the trees and every tree that does not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire and then proceeded to teach them the need to go and do what is right, according to the Word by taking care of each other, not cheating anyone and not intimidating others.
Many today want to lay claim to the belief that they are children of Aḇraham yet they show by the fruit of their lives (or the lack thereof) that they are selfish, cheating intimidators who are not bearing fruit worthy of true repentance and a proper returning to our Master and Elohim!
In a brief message tonight called, ‘DO NOT SOW AMONG THORNS!’ I want us to carefully consider these words that were spoken to a backsliding and callous hearted people!
As we consider these words we recognise the clear truth that true repentance is a whole lot more than an external confession of the lips. It involves a complete change of both heart and mind, as is clearly illustrated by the two metaphors that are used here in Yirmeyahu 4:3-4 – that is the metaphors of planting and circumcision!
DO NOT SOW AMONG THORNS! This is what I want to look a little more closely at!
Ground can only be properly planted in when the soil has been broken up and all thorns and weeds have been removed. The command that is given here is very clear – do to your heart as a good farmer would do to his ground in proper preparation of bringing forth a good harvest of fruit! To do that the roots of corruption must be plucked out!
We know from Scripture that soil is likened to the heart of man and the Seed is likened to the Word of Elohim. The Good News of the Kingdom cannot be sown on soil that still has the thorns of worry, deceit, selfishness, pride or even the falsehood of vain teachings and traditions of man planted deep within! Thorns choke out the Truth and render the soil fruitless!
Our Master and Elohim is the Vine and we are the branches, or so we ought to be! Branches of the Vine ought to bear grapes. In a clear warning against false prophets our Master makes this very clear:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 7:15-20 “But beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are savage wolves. 16 By their fruits you shall know them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 So every good tree yields good fruit, but a rotten tree yields wicked fruit. 18 A good tree is unable to yield wicked fruit, and a rotten tree to yield good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, by their fruits you shall know them”
We are to bear good fruit, and we shall be known by our fruit and whether or not we are indeed true branches of the Vine. Those who do not bear good fruit will be cut off, plucked out and thrown into the fire.
Our life clearly reveals the ground of our heart, or rather the state of the ground/soil of our heart! The question we ought to ask ourselves on a regular basis is whether or not there is fruit that is worthy of repentance being brought forth!
Let us first make clear that bearing fruit worthy of repentance does not mean that you are constantly sinning and having to repent, but rather that the fruit of one’s life clearly reveals that the old has gone and the good fruit of righteousness reveals that one has truly turned to the Master and continues to stay in Him and guard to do all He commands!
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 3:6 “Everyone staying in Him does not sin. Everyone sinning has neither seen Him nor known Him.”
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 3:9 “Everyone having been born of Elohim does not sin, because His seed stays in him, and he is powerless to sin, because he has been born of Elohim.”
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 5:18 “We know that everyone having been born of Elohim does not sin, but the one having been born of Elohim guards himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.”
These three verses make it abundantly clear – Everyone who is born of Elohim and stays in Him does not sin but guards Himself! This is to say that the one who does not sin bears the true fruit of repentance and is done with sin by guarding himself through the proper tilling of the heart and continual sowing of the Word through righteousness, which is to guard to do all that He has commanded us to do!
Realising that our lives reveal the state of the soil of our hearts, by the exposition of the fruit that we bare, we must then ask ourselves whether we are bearing fruit of righteousness worthy of repentance or whether the thorns of this world are choking out the life of the Word!
As I already said, and will say it again… This message/command in Yirmeyahu needs to be preached and proclaimed today! This was a stern rebuke for backsliding with a clear call to repentance and getting properly cleaned up to receive with meekness the implanted Word! These words that we find in Yirmeyahu are very similar to that which we find in:
Hoshěa/Hosea 10:12-13 “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap according to kindness, break up your tillable ground, it is time to seek יהוה, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. 13 You have ploughed wrongness, you have reaped unrighteousness, you have eaten the fruit of lying, because you trusted in your own way, in your many mighty men.”
Sha’ul makes it very clear to us that we reap what we sow:
Galatiyim/Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be led astray: Elohim is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap. 8 Because he who sows to his own flesh shall reap corruption from the flesh, but he who sows to the Spirit shall reap everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”
I think that there are many who are being easily led astray into thinking that it does not really matter what they sow, yet they are so wrong! Those who sow according to the flesh and all the desires and lusts thereof will reap the corruption that comes with it, which is death, while those who sow according to the Spirit shall reap everlasting life. Here the call for endurance is clear and very fitting indeed for the imagery of the work of a farmer that we see being used repeatedly in Scripture clearly reminds us how diligent we have to be and how farming is not an easy task but takes great skill, strength and endurance! We are clearly told in
Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 4:12 “The Word of Elohim is living, and working, and sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through even to the dividing of being and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Knowing this truth may cause some to ask the question, “Why are people bearing bad fruit?” The answer is simple… The problem of people not bearing fruit does not lie with the Word of Elohim, for it is Good Seed. The problem lies with the hearts that are not being properly tilled and kept free from thorns and weeds. So when the Word is sown among the thorny hearts it is quickly choked out and unable to bear the fruit of righteousness!
Break the tillable ground and do not sow among thorns! We are to sow righteousness and reap accordingly as we break up the tillable ground of our hearts!
The Hebrew word translated as ‘sow’ is the primitive root verb זָרַע zara – Strong’s H2232 meaning, ‘to sow or scatter seed’, and clearly implies a much need action of ‘doing righteousness’, which is ‘to guard all the command of Elohim’ (Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25). The Hebrew word translated as ‘break up’ is the verb נִיר niyr – Strong’s H5214 which means, ‘till the soil, break up the soil, freshly plough or till’, and the word translated as ‘tillable ground’ is the noun נִיר niyr – Strong’s H5215 which means, ‘tillable, untilled, fallow ground’. This root word is closely identical to נֵר ner – Strong’s H5216 meaning, ‘lamp, candle, light’, with the idea of the gleam of a fresh furrow; and so we see how vital it is to shine the light of the Truth through a proper tilling of the soil of our hearts that result in bearing the fruits of righteousness!
In Hoshěa we are clearly told that they had ploughed wrongness and reaped unrighteousness! This is due to a heart not properly being tilled to receive the Truth of the Word!
The fruit of our lives is a clear indication of the resulting actions of obedience or disobedience, and we must do our utmost to be bearing the fruit of repentance that results in set-apartness.
Ground that is not tilled and left uncultivated becomes hardened and needs to be ploughed and turned and cleared of all weeds, thorns and thistles! Many have allowed their hearts to harden due to deceit, compromise or sin, and even though they think that they are ploughing they plough wrongness and reap unrighteousness! False and corrupted teachings and traditions that have been so engrained or ploughed into the deepest parts of the soil of hearts cause people to reap unrighteousness, which is lawlessness and sin, and are easily identifiable by their bad fruit of unrighteousness as they refuse to submit to walking in the Truth and obeying the Word!
What we recognise is that it is very easy for hearts to become hardened, especially when one becomes lazy in keeping the soil of one’s heart clean and pure and free from thorns! Hearts that become hardened cannot render the necessary fruit from any of the Good seed that may be sown, which should cause us to be urgent in keeping our hearts good. What are some of the things that can cause a hardening of the heart? What are some of the things that can cause one to become lazy and slack in their duty of breaking up the soil and keeping it weed and thorn free? There are many things that could be mentioned, and here are a few of the things that can cause a hardening to take place:
Disappointment; tragedy; marital problems; relational issues; selfish desires; depression; fears; conforming to worldly behaviour due to the corruption and influence of bad company that is kept; inability to prioritise the Word and becoming too busy to read, study and pray; unwilling to learn; stuck in beliefs that have been handed down in error; refusal to submit to the leadership that Elohim has appointed!
These are just a few that could be mentioned, and what we must recognise is that the thorns of life must be kept out of our hearts so that we DO NOT SOW AMONG THORNS!
To break up the tillable ground is a clear command to break off all bad habits and clear one’s heart of deep rooted weeds and thorns that can choke the life out of the Good Seed of the Word!
We are told in:
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 12:13: “They have sown wheat but reaped thorns, they have exhausted themselves – they do not profit. And they shall be ashamed of your harvest because of the burning displeasure of יהוה.”
They had sown wheat but reaped thorns, and in the process had exhausted themselves!!! So many people have the Word sown into their lives yet they reap thorns simply because their soil was not properly tilled to receive the Good Seed!
The Hebrew word that is used for ‘thorns’ is קוֹץ qots – Strong’s H6975 which means, ‘a thorn or thorn bush’. A thorn bush is a non-fruit bearing bush that is noted for its sharp wood-splinter-like spines!
The first times we see this word being used is in:
Berěshith/Genesis 3:18 “and the ground shall bring forth thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
This was part of the curse of the ground that was given when Aḏam listened to the voice of Ḥawwah and ate of the tree which he was commanded to not eat of! Thorns being brought forth are the result of sin/lawlessness, and we are able to recognise here that because of the sin and the corruption of the flesh we have a clear task of keeping the ground of our hearts clean and free from thorns! Aḏam was then told that it would be by the sweat of his brow that he would eat bread, signifying the task ahead would be hard and tough, yet not impossible! From this first wording of thorns we are able to recognise the repeated picture of hearts that must be kept good, as the imagery of farming takes on a vital role in teaching us a great deal about keeping our hearts in check!
False teachings and vain traditions of man have trampled the Word under foot rendering the path hard and wide that many walk upon and has caused most to be unable to bear true fruit of repentance, for they do not know how to sow righteousness!
We are told in:
Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 6:7-8 “For ground that is drinking the rain often falling on it, and is bearing plants fit for those by whom it is tilled, receives blessing from Elohim, 8 but if it brings forth thorns and thistles, it is rejected and near to being cursed, and ends up by being burned.”
Rain, in Scripture, is often used as a metaphor for teaching and herein lies the danger of allowing the rain of false teachings to be that which waters the ground of one’s heart as it will bring forth thorns and thistles and end up being rejected!
As we know from the Parable of the Sower we are clearly told that the seed that is sown among the thorns is choked out, and we are told what the thorns are:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 13:22 “And that sown among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the worry of this age and the deceit of riches choke the word, and it becomes fruitless.”
Marqos/Mark 4:18-19 “And others are those sown among thorns, these are they who hear the word, 19 and the worries of this age, and the deceit of riches, and the desires for other matters, entering in, choke the word, and it becomes fruitless.”
Luqas/Luke 8:14 “And that which fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with worries, and riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”
From these three accounts we are able to clearly identify the thorns that choke out the Word and cause a heart to become fruitless!
The worries of this age, the deceit of wealth, the desire for other matters, riches and the pleasures of life! The Greek word that is translated as ‘pleasures’ is ἡδονή hēdonē – Strong’s G2237 which means, ‘pleasures, lust, desire for pleasure’, and comes from the word ἥδομαι hēdomai which means, ‘to enjoy oneself, indulge in pleasures’. It is from this word that we get the English word ‘hedonism’ which, according to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is understood as meaning, ‘the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life’. There are so many who live by this principle today and do whatever it takes to indulge in fleshly pleasures and cast the Torah aside as non-existent and unnecessary.
The Greek word translated as ‘worries’ is μέριμνα merimna – Strong’s G3308 which means, ‘cares, worries, anxieties’.
This Greek word can also render the understanding of, ‘being pulled in different directions’ – have you ever felt like you are being pulled in so many directions that you do not know which way to turn?
The sad reality is that most of us often allow anxieties to consume us and when this does, then the very Word that has been deposited gets choked out – now think about this ‘choking’ – it is not a nice experience!!! Worries choke out the good deposit. We are to be on guard and watch, and be careful for this not to happen!
When one has any of these ‘thorns’ in one’s heart then the Word cannot be sown in to bear the proper fruit of righteousness that is worthy of repentance!
As we consider the reality of the thorns of the flesh we must guard our hearts from being riddled with the thorns that can choke the life out of us! In this command given in Yirmeyahu to break up the tillable ground and not to sow among thorns, the question I ask is this: “How are you sowing?” Have you been sowing among thorns and recognise that the proper fruit that is worthy of repentance is NOT being faithfully brought forth on a regular basis? Perhaps this is due to a lack of proper tilling and breaking up of the soil of the heart and all that should be put away and removed has not be done so diligently in order to properly receive the implanted Word!
Ya’aqoḇ/James 1:21-22 “Therefore put away all filthiness and overflow of evil, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your lives. 22 And become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
The Greek word that is used here for ‘implanted’ is ἔμφυτος emphutos – Strong’s G1721 which means, ‘engrafted, implanted by nature, implanted by another’s instruction’, which is constructed from two Greek words: 1) ἐν en – Strong’s G1722 which is a primary preposition denoting a fixed position (in place, time or state) meaning, ‘in or on, with, by’; and 2) φύω phuō – Strong’s G5453 which is a verb meaning, ‘to bring forth, produce, spring up, to be born’. What we are able to clearly recognise is that our Teacher of Righteousness has come and caused His word to be engrafted upon our hearts and by His Spirit He has implanted the Good Deposit that must spring up and produce the fruit of righteousness! As we continue to seek first the reign of Elohim and His righteousness we must make sure that we do not sow His good seed among thorns that choke out the Word, but keep our hearts pure, clean and undefiled as we put away all filthiness and overflow of evil! This we can only do when we become doers of the Word and not hearers only!!!
How is your heart? Are there any thorns that choke out the Truth present? Thorns of worry, deceit, pleasure of life, selfishness, pride, fears or other matters of this life? If the heart is left untilled a few thorns will quickly become a dangerous life-choking bush that will restrict any fruit worthy of repentance from being brought forth!
We all need to hear the command to break up the tillable ground and sow righteousness, but we must also hear the command:
DO NOT SOW AMONG THORNS!
Taking heed to this command will cause us to be diligent in breaking up the ground of our hearts, get the thorns out and sow righteousness as we receive with meekness the implanted Word, in order to bear much fruit as we stay in the Master and be done with sin!
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show favour to you; יהוה lift up His face to and give you shalom!