Ordinarily, we plant our garden in mid-March, and it is well up and growing by the end of the month. That year we followed the usual pattern, and by April 1 we were replanting—nothing came up in many rows and the rest were sparse. If you are a gardener, you know that squash is the easiest thing in the world to grow. You can practically throw it at the ground and within a month you can supply a city the size of New York. After two weeks we didn’t even have one half inch seedling in the whole row!
So water it, you say? We did. Faithfully. Every evening. Still nothing.
When we decided to replant, we went down the same rows, planting the same things. When we dug new rows, there lay the old seed, looking just like it did when it came out of the package, no germination at all. You know what we discovered? The watering job we did was not deep enough to reach the seeds, in spite of the fact that we spent two hours at it every night.
So we replanted, this time watering the row before we covered it, and watering much longer every night afterward. The seeds came shoving their way up through the dirt before a week was out, and some of the old ones sprouted too. It wasn’t long till people went running when they saw us approaching with our buckets of squash.
Even after 32 years of gardening we learned something. Growth happens with deep watering, not shallow. And it takes an effort to get it as deeply as you should. It’s not something you can do with a half-hearted, rushed effort. We’re so used to “labor-saving devices” that I wonder if we even recognize real work, because that’s what it takes.
God’s people in the Old Testament had a watering problem as well. They thought that serving God was simply a matter of following prescribed rituals. Despite daily reciting a passage from the Torah that began Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, they never got within an inch of their hearts. They “celebrated” the Sabbath, all the time watching the clock, hoping it would be over with soon. They offered sacrifices, the lame and blind, and anything else that didn’t cost them too much. They fasted, a ritual they called “afflicting the soul,” which never once touched their souls.
Now, how is my spiritual garden growing? Maybe I need to do some deep watering.
Is this the fast I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head in a rush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to Jehovah? Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh and blood?...If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing finger, and the malicious talk, and if you draw out your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall light rise in darkness, and your obscurity be as noonday. And Jehovah will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in the dry places, and make strong your bones and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. Isa 58:5-11