“The Three Hermits” by Mikhail Vasil’evich Nesterov
The Three Hermits
By Leo Tolstoy
“And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” (Matthew 6: 7-8)
A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.
‘Do not let me disturb you, friends,’ said the Bishop. ‘I came to hear what this good man was saying.’
‘The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,’ replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.
‘What hermits?’ asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. ‘Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?’
‘Why, that little island you can just see over there,’ answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. ‘That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.’
‘Where is the island?’ asked the Bishop. ‘I see nothing.’
‘There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.’
The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.
‘I cannot see it,’ he said. ‘But who are the hermits that live there?’
‘They are holy men,’ answered the fisherman. ‘I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.’
And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.
‘And what are they like?’ asked the Bishop.
‘One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest’s cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel’s from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.’
‘And did they speak to you?’ asked the Bishop.
‘For the most part they did everything in silence and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: “Have mercy upon us,” and smiled.’
While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.
‘There, now you can see it plainly, if your Grace will please to look,’ said the tradesman, pointing with his hand.
The Bishop looked, and now he really saw a dark streak—which was the island. Having looked at it a while, he left the prow of the vessel, and going to the stern, asked the helmsman:
‘What island is that?’
‘That one,’ replied the man, ‘has no name. There are many such in this sea.’
‘Is it true that there are hermits who live there for the salvation of their souls?’
‘So it is said, your Grace, but I don’t know if it’s true. Fishermen say they have seen them; but of course they may only be spinning yarns.’
‘I should like to land on the island and see these men,’ said the Bishop. ‘How could I manage it?’
‘The ship cannot get close to the island,’ replied the helmsman, ‘but you might be rowed there in a boat. You had better speak to the captain.’
The captain was sent for and came.
‘I should like to see these hermits,’ said the Bishop. ‘Could I not be rowed ashore?’
The captain tried to dissuade him.
‘Of course it could be done,’ said he, ‘but we should lose much time. And if I might venture to say so to your Grace, the old men are not worth your pains. I have heard say that they are foolish old fellows, who understand nothing, and never speak a word, any more than the fish in the sea.’
‘I wish to see them,’ said the Bishop, ‘and I will pay you for your trouble and loss of time. Please let me have a boat.’
There was no help for it; so the order was given. The sailors trimmed the sails, the steersman put up the helm, and the ship’s course was set for the island. A chair was placed at the prow for the Bishop, and he sat there, looking ahead. The passengers all collected at the prow, and gazed at the island. Those who had the sharpest eyes could presently make out the rocks on it, and then a mud hut was seen. At last one man saw the hermits themselves. The captain brought a telescope and, after looking through it, handed it to the Bishop.
‘It’s right enough. There are three men standing on the shore. There, a little to the right of that big rock.’
The Bishop took the telescope, got it into position, and he saw the three men: a tall one, a shorter one, and one very small and bent, standing on the shore and holding each other by the hand.
The captain turned to the Bishop.
‘The vessel can get no nearer in than this, your Grace. If you wish to go ashore, we must ask you to go in the boat, while we anchor here.’
The cable was quickly let out, the anchor cast, and the sails furled. There was a jerk, and the vessel shook. Then a boat having been lowered, the oarsmen jumped in, and the Bishop descended the ladder and took his seat. The men pulled at their oars, and the boat moved rapidly towards the island. When they came within a stone’s throw they saw three old men: a tall one with only a mat tied round his waist: a shorter one in a tattered peasant coat, and a very old one bent with age and wearing an old cassock—all three standing hand in hand.
The oarsmen pulled in to the shore, and held on with the boathook while the Bishop got out.
The old men bowed to him, and he gave them his benediction, at which they bowed still lower. Then the Bishop began to speak to them.
‘I have heard,’ he said, ‘that you, godly men, live here saving your own souls, and praying to our Lord Christ for your fellow men. I, an unworthy servant of Christ, am called, by God’s mercy, to keep and teach His flock. I wished to see you, servants of God, and to do what I can to teach you, also.’
The old men looked at each other smiling, but remained silent.
‘Tell me,’ said the Bishop, ‘what you are doing to save your souls, and how you serve God on this island.’
The second hermit sighed, and looked at the oldest, the very ancient one. The latter smiled, and said:
‘We do not know how to serve God. We only serve and support ourselves, servant of God.’
‘But how do you pray to God?’ asked the Bishop.
‘We pray in this way,’ replied the hermit. ‘Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.’
And when the old man said this, all three raised their eyes to heaven, and repeated:
‘Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!’
The Bishop smiled.
‘You have evidently heard something about the Holy Trinity,’ said he. ‘But you do not pray aright. You have won my affection, godly men. I see you wish to please the Lord, but you do not know how to serve Him. That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.’
And the Bishop began explaining to the hermits how God had revealed Himself to men; telling them of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
‘God the Son came down on earth,’ said he, ‘to save men, and this is how He taught us all to pray. Listen and repeat after me: “Our Father.”‘
And the first old man repeated after him, ‘Our Father,’ and the second said, ‘Our Father,’ and the third said, ‘Our Father.’
‘Which art in heaven,’ continued the Bishop.
The first hermit repeated, ‘Which art in heaven,’ but the second blundered over the words, and the tall hermit could not say them properly. His hair had grown over his mouth so that he could not speak plainly. The very old hermit, having no teeth, also mumbled indistinctly.
The Bishop repeated the words again, and the old men repeated them after him. The Bishop sat down on a stone, and the old men stood before him, watching his mouth, and repeating the words as he uttered them. And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.
The Bishop did not leave off till he had taught them the whole of the Lord’s prayer so that they could not only repeat it after him, but could say it by themselves. The middle one was the first to know it, and to repeat the whole of it alone. The Bishop made him say it again and again, and at last the others could say it too.
It was getting dark, and the moon was appearing over the water, before the Bishop rose to return to the vessel. When he took leave of the old men, they all bowed down to the ground before him. He raised them, and kissed each of them, telling them to pray as he had taught them. Then he got into the boat and returned to the ship.
And as he sat in the boat and was rowed to the ship he could hear the three voices of the hermits loudly repeating the Lord’s prayer. As the boat drew near the vessel their voices could no longer be heard, but they could still be seen in the moonlight, standing as he had left them on the shore, the shortest in the middle, the tallest on the right, the middle one on the left. As soon as the Bishop had reached the vessel and got on board, the anchor was weighed and the sails unfurled. The wind filled them, and the ship sailed away, and the Bishop took a seat in the stern and watched the island they had left. For a time he could still see the hermits, but presently they disappeared from sight, though the island was still visible. At last it too vanished, and only the sea was to be seen, rippling in the moonlight.
The pilgrims lay down to sleep, and all was quiet on deck. The Bishop did not wish to sleep, but sat alone at the stern, gazing at the sea where the island was no longer visible, and thinking of the good old men. He thought how pleased they had been to learn the Lord’s prayer; and he thanked God for having sent him to teach and help such godly men.
So the Bishop sat, thinking, and gazing at the sea where the island had disappeared. And the moonlight flickered before his eyes, sparkling, now here, now there, upon the waves. Suddenly he saw something white and shining, on the bright path which the moon cast across the sea. Was it a seagull, or the little gleaming sail of some small boat? The Bishop fixed his eyes on it, wondering.
‘It must be a boat sailing after us,’ thought he ‘but it is overtaking us very rapidly. It was far, far away a minute ago, but now it is much nearer. It cannot be a boat, for I can see no sail; but whatever it may be, it is following us, and catching us up.’
And he could not make out what it was. Not a boat, nor a bird, nor a fish! It was too large for a man, and besides a man could not be out there in the midst of the sea. The Bishop rose, and said to the helmsman:
‘Look there, what is that, my friend? What is it?’ the Bishop repeated, though he could now see plainly what it was—the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not morning.
The steersman looked and let go the helm in terror.
‘Oh Lord! The hermits are running after us on the water as though it were dry land!’
The passengers hearing him, jumped up, and crowded to the stern. They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:
‘We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.’
The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship’s side, said:
‘Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.
And the Bishop bowed low before the old men; and they turned and went back across the sea. And a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.
Tolstoy’s Three Hermits
Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky
Vintage Footage of Leo Tostoy
Tolstoy on the road from Moscow to Yasnaya Polyana
Little Horsethief Fire in Jackson, Wyoming, 2012
In the past ten days, I hitchhiked from northern California through eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, western Montana and then through eastern Idaho. Today I hitchhiked from Idaho Falls and ended up in Jackson, Wyoming. I was at my friends’ place in Jackson and noticed a copy of the Jackson Hole Daily newspaper in their kitchen. I read the first two paragraphs of this front page story and thought it was very prophetic:
Jackson Hole Daily
March 23, 2015
Fire is small, season is early
By Mark Huffman
“A brushfire Sunday was small enough to be called minor, but early enough in the season to be an ominous taste of what might be ahead.
“With Jackson Hole coming out of a warm and dry winter, the fire burned dead grass and seared sagebrush and leafless aspens at a construction site on NW Ridge Road, in the Skyline Ranch subdivision. During many winters the area would have been under snow, but it’s clear now.”
This is from A Wilderness Voice Blog:
There is so much more to what it means to be intimate with our Father and Jesus than what seeps to the surface in today’s churches. Even the Bible translators seem to have gone out of their way to strip intimacy out of what the original languages were written in. For instance, what it means to be “born again.” We hear this phrase all over Christendom, but how hollow it is! Being “born again” is the very beginning of our relationship with the Spirit Being who has called us to Himself. The translators really missed it on this one! Take the word, “born”
1) of men who fathered children
1a) to be born
1b) to be begotten
1b1) of women giving birth to children
This word can be used for both being born and for insemination by the father. But in this case our heavenly Father is the progenitor. He is not our biological mother, but who is? Father is the one who moves and “broods over” us and inseminates us with spiritual life! That is what it means to be “born of the Spirit.” With us it is just as it was with Mary, the mother of Jesus and how she became pregnant.
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know [ginosko – intimate knowing] not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born [gennao] of you shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
Then our intimacy continues on for we are inseminated INTO Christ and abide there in Him from then on. Jesus said, “That whosoever believes in [Greek – eis INTO not “in”] him [the Son] should not perish, but have eternal life.”(John 3:15 KJ2000) Salvation is all about in whom we abide. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in [Greek – eis INTO] him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJ2000)
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe INTO [Grk – eis] his name [character or personage]: Who were born [gennao – inseminated], not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 KJ2000)
The initial act by the Father is one that makes us spirit beings and then through faith places us INTO the Son. Jesus is the Father’s womb where we live! From then on we are IN Him. Jesus said,
He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. (John 6:56 KJ2000 – Emphasis added)
We are eating and drinking from Him just as a fetus does eat and drink of its mother. Paul nailed it when He said,
‘In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28 RSVA – emphasis added)
Jesus’ final prayers are very instructive,
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on [eis – into] me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in [eis – into] one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
As I hope you can see, everything about what it means for us to become a NEW creation IN Christ is about intimacy. We who are His body and Bride have our singular being (not beings) IN the Father and the Son. This is not mere religious activities that is spoken of here. God is after intimacy with all who are His.
Another thought on intimacy. Jesus said, “But you, when you pray, enter into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6 KJ2000). Prayer is our time of intimacy in secret with the Father, not a public performance. We enter into our room with Him and shut the door. What room? The room that Jesus has prepared for us for our intimate communion with the Father and the Son. Jesus said,
“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe [INTO – Grk. eis) God, believe also [INTO – Grk. eis] me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 RSVA)
We are the BRIDE of Christ, not His platonic girlfriend. There is so much more to becoming the Bride of Christ than attending endless church meetings. Jesus first prepares the bridal chamber for us and then invites us into it with Him. We can have that intimacy now in this life as we learn to go into our heavenly room in our Father’s house and shut the door with Him. Oh, what intimacy is ours if we will just open our eyes and follow our Bridegroom.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:10 RSVA)
This is from the blog Homeward Bound:
I’ve been doing more praying than writing lately. I’ve been doing more praying than pretty much anything else if I am to be perfectly honest, and I think anyone seeing the world for what it has become, and watching the chess pieces moving on the chessboard with lightning fast speed can do nothing less.
We knew these things were coming, for long and long we knew. Seeing them up close, however, does make one catch their breath and realize these are just the outlying storm clouds. The brunt of the storm itself and the true fury thereof has not yet arrived.
My heart breaks as I watch more and more people tether their hopes to the church, thinking it a place of refuge and safety, only to have their hopes shattered at the revelation that the church is full to the rafters with godless wolves who are tirelessly bringing in destructive heresies, hoping to seduce, to tempt, to deceive, and to shipwreck faith in the Christ, as well as the Word.
It seems like every other day there is some Christian college somewhere embracing what God abhors, and lest anyone have the temerity to say anything about it, they’ve already taken preemptive measures and painted any who would object as being bigoted knuckle draggers whose only place on this earth is a cave somewhere.
There no longer remains reverence for the Word of God, and as such we can call it a story book, the ramblings of long dead people who had nothing better to do than sit down and scrawl some chicken scratches on some parchment, or an antiquated tome likened to an instructional manual on making buggy whips.
There is no outrage, and this outrages me. There is no outcry, no call for the immediate dismissal of those who would slander the Word of God and compare it to nothing more than useless dross and filler.
With each passing day those who continue to cling to Christ and stand on the Word will be labeled outsiders. With each passing day those that refuse to be indoctrinated into the new and glorious heresy will be marginalized, shunned, and made out to be the worst kind of humans.
Most of you already know this; you’ve prepared your hearts for it. You’ve steeled your constitution, and are ready to brave the crashing waves of hatred and vitriol. This post is not so much for you, but for those who still walk about with their heads in the clouds thinking if only they make enough compromises, if only they acquiesce enough, if only they become more and more like the world, the world will eventually embrace them.
As long as you cling to Christ, you are a foreign entity and the world’s singular purpose is to expel you. The only way to be at peace with the world is to betray the cross, and sadly more and more ‘spiritual leaders’ and men of renown are doing exactly that.
For the past six years or so I’ve been warning of coming persecution only to be mocked, ridiculed, and even laughed out of some churches. It’s good to see some are at least are catching up, seeing what’s on the horizon, and beginning to sound the alarm.
Make your peace about being an outsider. Make your peace with the reality that you will be ostracized, maligned, marginalized, and persecuted. Pray not to be spared these things, but rather pray for the boldness, courage, and strength to endure them.
The hour draws nigh, and He who sees all will judge in righteousness and holiness among His own. You will know when this has commenced from the wailing and mourning that will pierce the silence.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.
This is from the blog Homeward Bound:
Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron. From early youth they were witness to the inner workings of the priesthood, having their father as an example of what it was to be consecrated unto God. Granted Aaron had some growing pains along the way, he didn’t always make the right decisions, building a golden calf from the gold and jewelry of the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai springs to mind, but since God received him as a priest, it is self evident that he repented, and learned obedience in his older years.
Their uncle was none other than Moses the servant of God who led the people of Israel through the red sea as though they were walking on dry land; the selfsame Moses whose relationship with God was so intimate that God allowed him to see His glory, and glimpse His back as He passed by, for no man could see the face of God and live.
Nadab and Abihu were not lacking in godly examples, nor were they lacking in hearing the Word of God, yet they made the fatal error of bringing strange or profane fire before the Lord, and as consequence were devoured by the fire of God.
So what is strange fire, and how can we keep ourselves from offering it before the Lord? It is indisputable that bringing strange fire before God is punishable by death, because the God who changes not, demands that those who come near Him regard Him as holy, and that He be glorified before all the people.
Nowadays the fear of the Lord being what it is among professing Christians, certain men and women who have reached the heights of Christian fame, seem to have no qualms about replacing the fire of God with their own fire. If it is ignorance that is causing them to offer God strange fire, I hazard to submit that ignorance is not an adequate excuse.
Offering God one’s own fire, rather than insisting on His fire, amounts to nothing less than the sacrifice of Cain that was brought before God absent of obedience. There is this sense of going through the motions in today’s church, following some ceremony, or program, simply to placate God. Just as Cain of old, we do not bring our sacrifice of praise, our sacrifice of worship, our sacrifice of reverence before God out of a pure and undefiled heart, but we view these things as necessary burdens we must carry to get God to bless us.
Some consider the path too narrow, some consider the ways of God too intolerant, some consider the standard of God too rigid, and so they take it upon themselves to replace the ways of God, with their own ideas and doctrines. Make no mistake, it is strange fire that many are offering before the Lord, and it was not at His command. They are wise in their own eyes, making straight paths crooked, and by so doing heap up for themselves the wrath and judgment of a righteous God.
Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
The second means by which the modern day sons of Aaron offer up strange fire, is by dismissing the commands of God. The Bible was given as a guide and a lamp unto our feet, not as a means by which we can find loopholes for less than total submission and surrender to God. Rather than search the Word for instruction and truth, there are men today whose entire purpose is to scour the Word of God in order to find justification for sin, to find an obscure passage a solitary verse that can then be butchered and twisted to mean something it clearly does not mean. We may think we can play games with God, but God is not mocked.
God’s instruction for us today is as clear and straightforward as it was for those who handled the censers of God in the olden days.
Leviticus 16:12-13, “Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.”
1 Peter 1:15-16, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.”
So what led to the sons of Aaron offering strange fire before the Lord? I believe the holy things of God had become common and routine for Nadab and Abihu. They had witnessed their father bringing sacrifice to God so many times, that they no longer had a reverence for it. Experiencing the presence of God, bringing sacrifice to God’s temple had become a common thing for them. The entire ceremony had become something they got used to insofar as they came to believe that if they wore the priestly robes they would be spared judgment.
Wearing a suit on Sunday morning as one stands behind the pulpit does not make them right in the sight of God! I have seen, on occasion, men absent of reverence as they treat the word of God as just another book, as a prop that looks good in their hands as they look into the camera and ask you to make the biggest sacrifice you can like that widow with the pancake.
It is a dangerous thing to treat the work of God with indifference and disregard, to set aside the standard of God, and just go through the motions, or worse yet, play it by ear and hope it all works out in the end.
Be in constant awe of God. Make standing in His presence a precious experience. Be reverent and come before Him with a clean heart, and a humble spirit. We learn what not to do from the sons of Aaron, we learn how not to take the things of God and the word of God lightly, we learn that God is righteous and just, and does not play favorites.
Yes, Aaron had done alot for God, but this did not exempt his sons from being obedient, but rather required them to live up to the expectation that God set forth.
The Word tells us that fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. What I find worthy of mentioning, is that Aaron held his peace, accepting the righteous judgment of God even as his two sons were being carried by their tunics out of the camp.
Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.
Dreams from the LORD 2011-2015
10 March 2015
Last night I had a dream where I was at this public library in Mason City, Iowa. I met this young man at the library; his last name was Shey. I told him that my last name was Shey, also (we may have been related). I told him that my book, High Plains Drifter, was in that library. I pointed out my book to him: High Plains Drifter was put prominently on top of this shelf where everybody could see it. There was even a colored, fold-out poster advertising my book. The young man was happy to see my book.
The next scene: I was in this restaurant. I noticed a relative of mine walk through the restaurant. He didn’t see me. A while later, I walked up to this relative and we shook hands. We made some small talk. He told me that there were other relatives of mine in that same restaurant.
This is from the blog DUSTTOGLORY:
“Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12)
Here are two kinds of ground: fallow ground and ground that has been broken up by the plow.
The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Such a field, as it lies year after year, becomes a familiar landmark to the crow and the blue jay. Had it intelligence, it might take a lot of satisfaction in its reputation: it has stability; nature has adopted it; it can be counted upon to remain always the same, while the fields around it change from brown to green and back to brown again. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment.
But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility; never does it feel the motions of mounting life, nor see the wonders of bursting seed, nor the beauty of ripening grain. Fruit it can never know, because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow.
In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow, and the plow has come as plows always come, practical, cruel, business-like and in a hurry. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken.
But its rewards come hard upon its labors. The seed shoots up into the daylight its miracle of life, curious, exploring the new world above it. All over the field, the hand of God is at work in the age-old and ever renewed service of creation. New things are born, to grow, mature, and consumate the grand prophecy latent in the seed when it entered the ground. Nature’s wonders follow the plow.
There are two kinds of lives also: the fallow and the plowed. For example of the fallow life, we need not go far. They are all too plentiful among us.
The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. He smiles in tolerant superiority at revivals, fastings, self- searching, and all the travail of fruit bearing and the anguish of advance. The spirit of adventure is dead within him. He is steady, “faithful,” always in his accustomed place (like the old field), conservative, and something of a landmark in the little church. But he is fruitless.
The curse of such a life is that it is fixed, both in size and in content. “To be” has taken the place of “to become.” The worst that can be said of such a man is that he is what he will be. He has fenced himself in, and by the same act he has fenced out God and the miracle.
Broken To Bring Forth Fruit
The plowed life is the life that has, in the act of repentance, thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. The urge of the Spirit, the pressure of circumstances and the distress of fruitless living have combined thoroughly to humble the heart. Such a life has put away defense, and has forsaken the safety of death for the peril of life.
Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. And, as always, fruit follows the plow. Life and growth begin as God “rains down righteousness.” Such a one can testify, “And the hand of the Lord was upon me there.” (Ezek. 3:22).
Corresponding to these two kinds of life, religious history shows two phases, the dynamic and the static. The dynamic periods were those heroic times when God’s people stirred themselves to do the Lord’s bidding and went out fearlessly to carry His witness to the world. They exchanged the safe of inaction for the hazards of God- inspired progress. Invariably, the power of God followed such action. The miracle of God went when and where his people went. It stayed when His people stopped.
The static periods were those times when the people of God tired of the struggle and sought a life of peace and security. They busied themselves, trying to conserve the gains made in those more-daring times when the power of God moved among them.
Bible history is replete with examples. Abraham “went out” on his great adventure of faith, and God went with him. Revelations, theophanies, the gift of Palestine, covenants and the promises of rich blessings to come were the result. Then Israel went down into Egypt, and the wonders ceased for four hundred years. At the end of that time, Moses heard the call of God and stepped forth to challenge the oppressor. A whirlwind of power accompanied that challenge, and Israel soon began to march. As long as she dared to march, God sent out His miracles to clear a way for her. Whenever she lay down like a fallow field, God turned off His blessing and waited for her to rise again and command his power.
This is a brief but fair outline of the history of Israel and the Church as well. As long as they “went forth and preached everywhere”, the Lord worked “with them…confirming the Word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). But when they retreated to monasteries or played at building pretty cathedrals, the help of God was withdrawn ’till a Luther or a Wesley arose to challenge hell again. Then, invariably, God poured out His power as before.
In every denomination, missionary society, local church or individual Christian, this law operates. God works as long as His people live daringly: He ceases when they no longer need His aid. As soon as we seek protection out of God, we find it to our own undoing. Let us build a safety- wall of endowments, by-laws, prestige, multiplied agencies for the delegation of our duties, and creeping paralysis sets in at once, a paralysis which can only end in death.
Miracles Follow The Plow
The power of God comes only where it is called out by the plow. It is released into the Church only when she is doing something that demands it. By the word “doing”, I do not mean mere activity. The Church has plenty of “hustle” as it is, but in all her activities, she is very careful to leave her fallow ground mostly untouched. She is careful to confine her hustling within the fear-marked boundaries of complete safety. That is why she is fruitless; she is safe, but fallow.
The only way to power for such a church is to come out of hiding and once more take the danger-encircled path of obedience. Its security is its deadliest foe. The church that fears the plow writes its own epitaph. The church that uses the plow walks in the way of revival.