Today’s Chocolate: Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch
Today’s Passage: Hosea 10
Pre-industrial agriculture is one of those aspects of the ancient world that I know next to nothing about. I have no hands-on farming experience, but I know enough about it to know I’m glad I don’t have to know about it. Plowing is hard work. Sowing is hard work. There’s a reason they call all the farm activity that gets done before sunrise “hell to breakfast,” and weeding the flower beds is about all the horticulture I can handle, thank you very much. If God had put me in the fifth century instead of the twenty-first, I guess I’d have to get my hands dirty and sweat out ten-hour days just to eat. But thank God I don’t.
But there’s one agricultural figure of speech that we all know: you reap what you sow. In the form we most commonly hear it, the expression traces its roots back to Paul: “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Paul was a tentmaker, not a farmer, but he could see that actions have consequences. What you plant in the soil grows up into the plant that the seeds came from.
That said, planting-and-harvesting metaphors didn’t originate with Paul. You can find them throughout the Hebrew scriptures, including Hosea 10, where the metaphor of the moment is plowing. God declares, “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself” (11). The people of Israel want to cut straight to the end of the process without doing the hard work of plowing, but God intends to discipline them.
Did I mention that plowing is hard work? It’s so hard that human beings have used domesticated bovines to pull their plows for centuries. Still, despite our best efforts, we are spiritual bovines, and in our lives we have to do the moral heavy lifting ourselves. Speaking through Hosea, God drops an agricultural proverb here: “Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness” (12). Our gut reaction is to reject the plow, so God disciplines us for the harvest. And for all I talk about free will, it’s a miracle we ever come around to choosing kindness and righteousness at all. We can’t do it without God building the plow and hitching us up to it, sowing the seeds.
The description of yoking in verse 11 reminded me of Jesus’ well-known saying: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Doing good and becoming un-evil is a hard row to hoe, but Jesus Christ makes it possible, and he won’t make it harder than it has to be. Moreover, oxen are typically yoked in pairs. I don’t think it’s a stretch to infer that Jesus Christ himself is taking the other side of his yoke upon himself, plowing right alongside us. He’s God and man, the farmer who is also the ox. He disciplines us and obediently subjects himself to the discipline of God the Father.
Man, one of these days I’ll figure out how that Trinity thing works. But until then, here I am, plowin’ my way through Hosea.