Life for the farmer is very dependent on two things: his work and the weather. Israel was a farming nation and so God speaks to them in these terms. Despite their own efforts, they were an “empty vine” (v.1) and the only crop they would produce was judgment which would spring up like hemlock (a poisonous plant) (v.4).
Thorns and thistles would overgrow their idolatrous altars (v.8). Instead of the easy work of threshing out grain, the nation would be yoked into the heavy work of plowing (v.11). The only way out was to work hard at sowing righteousness, breaking up fallow ground, and seeking the Lord. This was the only way they would reap mercy and have God rain righteousness upon them (v.12).
How sad that things had to get so bad before they would seek the Lord. Actually, they would not heed this warning and all the judgment foretold would come on them. Let us learn from their mistakes. Let us seek the Lord today. Let us sow righteousness and obedience to the Lord. If we will, we will find that He will be merciful and gracious to us.