Harvest

 

In God’s perfect world, when you need something, the good steward, within whom God will have planted the seed meant to provide for you, will have nurtured it to full and healthy growth for you to harvest.  The planting and the harvest are a natural course of events in God’s world, material and spiritual.

 I grew up on the farm so this cycle was the rhythm of my life.  It provided a certain security of being connected to the earth and a relationship with God to send the rain and sunny days in a timely manner so we could harvest enough to sustain our family and give us provision for the next year. As the winter ended, and the days became longer and warmer, it was an exciting time to see my dad get the equipment ready for the planting of the corn.  My mother too, would begin planning the family vegetable garden. “How blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.”  Isaiah 32:20 NIV   “The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.”  Psalms 67:6 NIV “The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Psalms 85:12 NIV   “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Gen. 8:22 NIV

 As an adult, I learned that farming is more than just making a living, it is a way of life based on faith and a relationship with the Great Giver of life.  The planting and harvest shaped who I am today.  The scriptures are filled with references about this natural process.  I believe it is the process by which God intended for us to understand the abundant life we could have on this earth.  I believe he intended for us to understand who he is and our relationship to him through our stewardship over the earth.

“And God saw all that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” Genesis 1:31NIV

 God described himself to the prophet Isaiah as the life-giving elements of planting and harvest: “This is what the LORD says to me: ‘I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.’” Isaiah 18:4 NIV  

Without the sunshine and dew, there would be no harvest.  In our relationship with God we are most content when we recognize that: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,”  Psalm 24:1 NIV

 Isaiah presents this image in 17:5 “It will be as when reapers harvest the standing grain, gathering the grain in their arms . . .”  I experienced that as a child.  Dad would hook up our tractor to the binder and pull it through the field of oats while it cut and bundled the grain.  My brothers and sisters and I would follow behind and shock the oats, standing several bundles together upright in the field.  A crew that traveled with the threshing machine, generally neighbors, would come to our field where a hayrack would have begun going through the field gathering the sheaves of grain to be put into the threshing machine and the plump, golden grain would shoot  out the other side into a wagon or truck.  The oats would then be stored in our barn as loose grain to be fed to our livestock or taken to market if we had an especially good year.  I remember my mother and a few women from the neighborhood would be setting up tables in the yard laden with homegrown food – most likely fried chicken from my mother’s flock, freshly killed and dressed that morning for the celebration and pies made from the fruit harvested in our neighborhood.  These are some of my fondest memories.  The harvest was a time of coming together in community, sharing the labor and rejoicing in it. 

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Gen. 8:22 NIV

 

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Exodus 34:21 NIV

 

I long for those days once more, not for myself, but for mine and everyone else’s children to experience how being connected to the earth through the seasons of planting and harvest changes us to a more inclusive culture filled with hope no matter who you are. We were not middle-income level by any stretch of my imagination today, but at the time we didn’t think about socio-economic levels.  If we applied ourselves honestly to any worthy endeavor we were rewarded for it with recognition and opportunity.  We grew up with respect for others and ourselves.  These are values that we can still have without the farming element.  This is community for all.  

Celebrating the harvest began long before my generation.  God implemented it into every aspect of life with his special family.  As part of God’s gift of redemption he established a family who would be his people. The nation of Israel was meant to be God’s shining light for all the earth to know him as the living God and creator of all things.

And so from this one man (Abraham), and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”  Hebrews 11:12 NIV

Like the loving parent God is, he guided and nurtured them from Abraham to Moses, when he delivered them out of Egypt.  He removed them from a culture that was enslaving them spiritually and placed them in the wilderness where he would have their undivided attention.  The Hebrew concept of wilderness is “being driven away from that which would destroy them so that they can be taught that which would save them”.  That understanding definitely came out of their struggle in leaving Egypt and its spiritual decay. Every plague God sent challenged a corresponding Egyptian god undermining the hold they already had over his people, the Israelites. The plague of water turning to blood against Hapi -Egyptian god of the Nile; frogs coming from the Nile River against frog-faced Hekket – goddess of fertility, water and renewal; lice from the dust of the earth against Geb – Egyptian god of the earth; boils and sores against Isis – goddess of medicine and peace,  just to name a few.  Pharaoh’s magicians could conjure more of the same but only Moses’ God could stop the withering pestilence.

It was here in the wilderness, God began to more intensely teach them like children seated at his knee about gratitude and celebration in everything you do, in every aspect of your life.  He gave them the Ten Commandments and instituted feast days around the harvest to keep their focus on what mattered and the relationship he wanted with them. 

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.” Leviticus 23:10 NIV

 

As a shining light to the world, everything they did was meant to have a sacred element.

“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.”  Exodus 23:16 NIV

“Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.” Exodus 34:22 NIV

“For seven days celebrate the festival to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.” Deuteronomy 16:15 NIV

In this way, God taught the value of self-discipline as it was taught to the early Christians: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11 NIV

God taught his people, the Israelites, how to care for each other especially the poor, the widowed and the stranger:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:9 NIV

We will be rewarded for helping care for the poor:

“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands”. Deut. 24:19 NIV

“Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when farmers plow and thresh, they should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”  I Cor. 9:10 NIV

It was God’s intention that the Israelites be taught the principles of sharing and being stewards – teaching them the spiritual aspects of the harvest, not unlike when we teach our children to tithe a certain percentage of their allowance for the offering at church.

 “Take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name.”  Deut. 26:2 NIV

When Israel broke God’s commandments which they did regularly, the lament would be in an emotional rant of a spoiled and wasted harvest:

“So I (Isaiah) weep as Jazer weeps, for the vines of Sibmah. Heshbon and Elealeh, I drench you with tears! The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit and over your harvests have been stilled.”  Isaiah 16:9 NIV

 “Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 2:3 NIV

 “Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.” Nehemiah 9:37 NIV

The planting and harvest is a concept of responsibility as stewards and caretakers.  In the following anecdote we see how far reaching that can be.

At New College in Oxford, England a few centuries ago, a busy entomologist had gone up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife poking around at the large oak beams and it was discovered that they were full of beetles.  This was then reported to the College Council.  The discovery was met with some dismay: “Where will we get beams of that caliber?”  The beams were two feet square and forty-five feet tall.  The College Forester was called in and asked this question to which he replied:  “Well sirs, we was wondrin’ when you’d be askin’”.  Upon investigating further the Council discovered that when the College was founded in 1379, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetley, because oak beams always become beetley in the end. This plan had been passed down from one forester to the next for over five hundred years saying “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”  (Information taken from Atlas Obscura website)

“You will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil on yourselves, you will crush grapes but not drink the wine.”  Micah 6:15 NIV

“But those who harvest it will eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather the grapes will drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.” Isaiah 62:9 NIV

 

SEEDS

“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”  Genesis 1:29 NIV

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

II Cor. 9:10 NIV

 Down through history, seeds have had dedicated stewards who prepare for the future saving of humanity in case of a doomsday scenario, should it occur. During the German siege of Leningrad, Russia from 1941 to 1944, 12 scientists starved to death rather than eat the grains stored at Pavlosk Agricultural Station, the world’s first seed bank.   800,000 people starved to death at that time.

There are seed banks established in many parts of the globe. Currently there are more than 1,000 seed banks, collaboratives and exchanges around the world.

In today’s economy, not to our credit as stewards of God’s purpose, seeds have become a commodity to manipulate for corporate and private wealth.  Only heirloom seeds will reproduce it’s own seed to replant.  Everything else has been genetically modified for the purpose of raising production levels and at any cost to the dietary health of the consumer, controlling marketing through patented seed varieties.

Like the Israelites, when we don’t follow God’s plan to share and have everyone’s best good at heart and only tend to our own needs, God promises an eventual outcome:

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” Haggai 1:9 NIV

God’s house in this case represents the bigger picture, the broader work which includes everyone’s welfare and salvation, not just the few who were blessed to be born into a materially affluent life or the opportunities needed to attain it.

“They will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. They will bear the shame of their harvest because of the Lord’s fierce anger.” Jeremiah 12:13 NIV

“I will take away their harvest, declares the Lord. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.” Jeremiah 8:13 NIV

A spiritual sowing and harvesting represents God’s work toward salvation.

 “Even now those who reap draw their wages, even now they harvest the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” John 4:36 NIV

God blesses us both physically and spiritually in our lives as we follow his commandments and the guidance through his Son Jesus Christ.

Like the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the old person we once were is born again in a spiritual planting and harvest:

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24 NIV

 We are called to live lives of service to others which includes sacrifice.  It is the old person we were who falls to the ground and dies through the sacrament of baptism and becomes the new person, producing much fruit in our new lives for God to harvest.

 If God has placed a seed within us or before us to plant and nurture for someone else’s harvest then it behooves us as good stewards to respond. 

 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV

 Apostle Paul spoke about a material harvest to his church in Corinth:

“If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” I Cor. 9:11 NIV

 “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 NIV

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37-38 NIV

  “Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.”  Proverbs 25:13 NIV

The sweetwater we as trustworthy messengers take to offer to others does refresh the spirit of God and those he places on our path as we realize that all are foreigners and strangers on earth living the probationary life.   “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.   Hebrews 11:13 NIV

 

May God bless your harvest that it will always be ten-fold and bless the lives of many.

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