You ever notice that when the ground is left to itself, it grows weeds, thorns, and briars? When the earth is left to itself, it runs wild and provides only thorns and weeds. I know, annoying right!? It’s as if God gave humanity some sort of responsibility to work the ground!? Sheesh! (I realized after re-reading this, that that joke is only going to be funny to about 4 people, but seeing as how I sometimes only a few people read this blog, I’ll just leave it.)
I remember the first yard I had to mow. I don’t mean the first yard I mowed. I mean the first yard that was “mine.” It was not rented, it was not someone else’s. It was mine and is to this day my yard! This yard barely had a sprig of grass in it. When we moved in, there was a 3 foot perimeter of grass around the majority of the house. Beyond that, most of the yard was weeds and dirt. But we seeded that ground, and watered, and mowed, and weeded, and used grass feed, and weed killers on repeat. I can remember trying to follow the lines when mowing. You know what I mean? You mow trying to keep a straight line next to the line you’ve already mowed. However, if you have weeds and dirt over most of your yard, you cannot always see the lines. It takes a great deal of patience to mow weeds and cultivate grass.
In the book of Isaiah, God speaks about the need to work the ground. He talks about His vineyard. He says in chapter 5 that He is going to let His vineyard become overwhelmed by the thorns and briars. What is remarkable is that God is restraining evil from over running His people. So, He need not destroy the people Himself, just leave them alone and let them to their own devices. Much like a yard, weeds will spring up when it is left untended. God says that briars and thorns will grow up in it. Even without the nourishment of the rain, these choking instruments of death will grow! (Isaiah 5:6-7)
Why is it that the vineyard has become so abased? It is because they have forsaken the Lord and they lack the knowledge of the Lord. (1:3, 5:13) So, the Lord states that He will let the earth overrun His garden.
I believe that the American Church has been overrun by the world. Though there are exceptions, many have forsaken the word of God for the consumer driven lusts of this world. this personal belief is why I work in the church, but that is beside the point. The cares of this world have risen to choke out many who would otherwise love the Lord and devote themselves to Him! Many have forsaken the Word of God and are blind to their own doing so. And many more are aiding the slow steady death of the churches in our country, albeit unwittingly. The message of Isaiah 1-5 is an extremely apt description of the state of the American church. (Just a disclaimer: The church in America is NOT ISRAEL, while the description is similar, it is not the same. The true church has the indwelling Holy Spirit and is therefore able to do some mowing and mission, Israel did not.) So… it is to those who are on the mission of God to mow the weeds. (No need to quote the wheat and the tares parable, the illustration is just an illustration, read on)
How do we mow? Well, I’m glad you asked. The first thing to do is to return to the study of God’s Word. The people of Israel were cut down because they had no knowledge of God and they had did not follow His word. God has given us His word; we must feast on the word! The second is a fierce devotion to obedience of that Word! You can read the Bible, or you can Study the Bible. It should be assumed that “studying” the Bible has an objective to it. The objective of a Christian who studies the Bible is to become more like Jesus. Study of the Word must be transformative or it is a waste of time. Finally, it takes time. No one gets to be an old Saint overnight. In the same way, the church (a collection of saints) will take time to get there. It takes years of labor to mow weeds and cultivate grass, but Isaiah 4 promises us that the Holy Spirit will redeem and make His people beautiful. So we can rest in the confidence that our labor is not in vain, though sometimes it is difficult to see the lines that we have been working so hard to follow.
My wife and I mowed our weeds for seven years now. The grass is beautiful and our yard is lovely. It didn’t start that way… We only had a few feet of grass around the immediate perimeter of our house. But given time, diligence, and patient work, the grass has grown and now much of what we do is maintenance. Weeds still rise and we still must remain faithful to tend the garden. But the constant tending has resulted in a beautiful garden in a fallen world. Likewise, the churches in our country must dedicate themselves to the diligent study and obedience to the Word of God. Otherwise, the warnings in Isaiah 5 will soon beset our churches.
Some encouragements for those who mow (spread the Word of God):
- The grass WILL grow. You may not see it, but hold fast, it will grow in time. The promised redemption of Isaiah 4 is just as true as the condemnation of Isaiah 5.
- God gives the growth! A truth from 1 Corinthians 3:7. It is not your mowing that makes the grass grow! God gives the growth.
- Make your mowing fun! Remember to rejoice in the sprigs of grass that God gives you to tend. When you see some growth, delight and rejoice in it!
- Finally, remember Jeremiah verses Jonah. Jeremiah did not get to see the grass grow, but it was his joy to mow and trust the Lord. Jonah saw grass grow but did not delight in mowing and had no joy.