Summary: We long for revival, but revival seems to be delayed. Contemporary Christians must "break up the fallow ground" if we will ever experience revival.
“From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel;
there they have continued.
Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah?
When I please, I will discipline them,
and nations shall be gathered against them
when they are bound up for their double iniquity.
“Ephraim was a trained calf
that loved to thresh,
and I spared her fair neck;
but I will put Ephraim to the yoke;
Judah must plow;
Jacob must harrow for himself.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
“You have plowed iniquity;
you have reaped injustice;
you have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your own way
and in the multitude of your warriors,
therefore, the tumult of war shall arise among your people,
and all your fortresses shall be destroyed,
as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle;
mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
Thus, it shall be done to you, O Bethel,
because of your great evil.
At dawn the king of Israel
shall be utterly cut off.”
Scripture gives me scant hope for God’s continued blessing on our nation. Speaking with a woman some weeks past, we were discussing the moral climate of the nation. As we spoke, I commented that witnessing the moral choices being made by many professed Christians, I was distressed, disappointed. She agreed, noting that many of her single friends were promiscuous—they were openly sleeping with multiple sexual partners—and the women of whom she spoke were professing Christians. Excusing immorality appears to be rather common among the professed people of God; demands for holiness from the pulpit are increasingly rare.
Reading morning devotions one crisp morning a few weeks past, I heard the voice of God speaking through Jeremiah. Jeremiah warned the nation, “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD’” [JEREMIAH 23:1-4].
Soon after Jeremiah had written these words, the LORD again spoke these arresting words through His prophet.
“In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:
‘Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness has gone out into all the land.’”
Even as Israel was facing invasion by a cruel nation, the religious leaders were deceiving the people by prophesying peace and prosperity. It was not unlike the days foretold by the Apostle Paul which are coming soon. The Apostle warned Christ-followers, “Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” [1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-3].
Tragically, the shepherds whom Jeremiah described had enriched themselves at the expense of the people they were to serve. Because of their focus on their own interests rather than the LORD’s will, they had destroyed the LORD’s flock, scattering them through deliberate distortion of the Word of God. Prophets of the northern kingdom had turned to outright idolatry, bringing God’s judgement upon the nation. However, religious leaders of the southern kingdom had committed an even greater sin, if such was possible; they had excused evil through their failure to warn of the consequences of sin. Even the religious leaders had begun to participate in wickedness. In short, they had become idolaters, worshipping their own fallen desires.
I must wonder whether contemporary Christendom is not guilty of the same spiritual malady that brought the LORD’s solemn rebuke against the shepherds of Israel. I must wonder, when contemporary Christians spend more on facilities than on sending the message of life throughout the world, whether we who direct the work of God do not deserve His condemnation. I must wonder when we Christians spend more time praying for relief from aches and pains than is spent in prayer for lost family members to be saved, whether we are now under divine censure. I must wonder when missionary agencies always desperately seek missionaries to declare the message of life, whether we are not guilty of focusing on our own comfort to the exclusion of being committed to following the Master whatever the cost. Is it not time that we seek revival? Is it not time that we break up our fallow ground?