November 2015
From Pastor to Pasture

Celebrate the Harvest

My wife loves to gather produce. She loves to pick up potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, and "oohs" and "ahs" over how big they are. She finds great joy in looking at a bushel of green beans or beautiful apples. She delights in a big yellow tomato.

In agriculture, the main thing is the harvest. It always has been. It always will be. Everything we do is for the harvest. Without the harvest we go broke. Ultimately without the harvest we die of starvation. The harvest is a really big deal.

And when the harvest is abundant and safely gathered in, we are glad. We celebrate. We rejoice. We give thanks to God, who blessed our labor and provides our crops, flocks and herds to produce and increase. God gave us strength to work and land to work on. He sent sunshine and rain. We recognize that He is the One who protected us from our enemies and provided peace and stability without which agriculture is impossible.

Life depends on the harvest. The harvest depends on God. We depend on God. We cannot survive without His help.

One of the major feasts of Israel in the Old Testament was the celebration every year at the conclusion of the harvest. The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:39-44) lasted for seven days and it was an annual event. It was a reminder to the people that God is the one who gives the harvest and that we are to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks and praise to Him.

Life is not just about hard work, long days and constant busyness. Life is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated. It is OK to be happy. It is good to be glad. God wants us to take time to have a good time with each other in His presence. He commanded it. He expects us to do it. He knows we need it. And true joy and gladness are always found in the company of thankfulness, gratitude, humility, love and faith.

The Bible speaks of the cycle of planting and harvesting, and sowing and reaping in many passages; and in those passages, God makes precious promises and assurances to His people. Psalm 126:5-6 (KJV) is one of those promises: Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

There are several life lessons found in agriculture:

The Bible often uses agricultural metaphors to teach spiritual laws of sowing and reaping. The spiritual realities are just as true and dependable as the agricultural and material truths. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7-10: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due time we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6: … He which sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Jesus told a parable about an unfruitful fig tree. He was not trying to teach us how to grow figs. He is warning us about the danger of not being useful and pleasing to God who has the right to expect a harvest from us.

… A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then he said to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I came seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)

Jesus talked about workers to gather in a spiritual harvest.

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest. (Matthew 9:36-38)

Just like in agriculture, the harvest is the main thing in life. The most important things are not the physical and material but the spiritual and eternal. We devote much time, energy, effort and attention to producing a harvest in agriculture or to making a profit in business and that is necessary and good. It is God’s plan for us. And we celebrate and rejoice when we gather in the harvest and know that our work was not in vain. But how much more valuable and how much more important is the spiritual harvest. God created us to bear fruit for Him. Jesus died and rose again to change us, save us, transform us and make us a new creation. What a joy and privilege it is to see His purposes realized and fulfilled in our lives and to know that He finds joy in us, and we find our joy in Him and His people. What a blessing to be able to participate in His harvest as we work with Him in spreading the gospel of the life, death, resurrection and coming again of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Luke 15:10: … there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Knowles Shaw, 1834-1878, wrote this great hymn about the harvest, "Bringing in the Sheaves."

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

(Refrain) Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Steve Crumpler is Glenn’s brother.