Summertime is a gift from God. We enjoy long sunny days, flowers, delicious fruit and well-earned vacations, with time to relax in a shaded hammock and sip lemonade. People in the northern hemisphere are enjoying summer right now, while those in the southern hemisphere look forward to it with anticipation. Yet in summer those who work the land do not rest. They must tend the crops, then gear up for the harvest soon to follow.
Yeshua often used an agricultural model to describe the workings of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps He used the analogy because He knew that both take much time. The agricultural harvest is not a happening without antecedents. It requires elaborate preparation of the soil, careful planting of the seed, much watering, thorough weed removal, and protection from insects and marauding animals. Then comes growth and finally the harvest.
A spiritual harvest of souls for God’s Kingdom requires the same painstaking care a farmer gives his field if it is to yield a harvest. Yet many church and para-church programs fail, because in seeking a spiritual harvest they do not take into account the developmental nature of the gospel seed. You cannot harvest what you have not sown. It’s a simple equation:
NO SEED = NO HARVEST;
MUCH SEED = A GOOD HARVEST.
In the Jews for Jesus ministry we have committed ourselves to the principle of sowing much gospel seed, that there might be a good harvest. Our seed is plentiful, but it is of little value unless we spread it evenly and abundantly where it can grow. We hand out millions of tracts to get thousands of contacts, to find hundreds who are willing to continue to hear from us, so that dozens might come to faith. This harvest in Jewish evangelism is hand-picked fruit.
Laboring in God’s field requires effort and much perseverance, but it yields a great reward to those who toil. Indeed, God leads us to expect something for our diligence. The Bible mentions reward” 78 times. In Hebrews 11:6 we read that God will reward those who diligently seek Him. Don’t misunderstand the text. It does not imply that God is lost and we must search for His person so that we can find Him and collect our reward. The text means that God will reward those who seek to know His heart that they might serve Him. Those who have put this promise to the test can affirm that holy effort for God and His Kingdom does result in joyous rewards.
Consider again the physical harvest. Just as sowing the seed and tending it requires much labor, harvesting demands even more. Harvest time requires an all-out effort. At that season the farmer must work harder than ever. It involves not only physical endurance, but a battle against time. If the crops are not harvested when ripe, they will rot in the field and be lost.
The ancient Israelites under their agrarian economy understood this well. They knew when they had to labor and when they could take time to play. The land had to be worked hard. After harvest there was time for leisure in ancient Israel, but when the fields were ripe a family’s prosperity—even its survival—depended on the fast hands of the harvesters. Harvest time was hurry time. Whatever they neglected to harvest quickly would go to the gleaners or rot and be wasted.
Often the fields were far from the villages where people lived, so the harvesters would set up lean-tos and sleep in the fields during harvest. Yet workers were not deprived of family life because, by divine decree, family plots of land were held adjacent to one another. Land was assigned to tribes. The tribal leaders apportioned it to clans and the clan leaders assigned it to families. During harvest, brothers, sisters, wives, children, uncles, aunts, indeed all the family, would be close by and equally busy.
For ancient Israel bringing in the harvest was like a camping holiday. It took place in the fields, with rough provisions. The Israelites took joy in the bounty of the harvest, which they regarded as God’s gift or reward for their efforts. They always acknowledged that the land and its fruits were the Lord’s.
Harvest always meant work now, have fun later. At the end of the harvest there came a great celebration. As with the agricultural harvest, there is also a harvest of souls for God. This harvesting of souls for the Kingdom is a time when we, the faithful, should all be working to the point of exhaustion. Some of us have been called to work in the field full time. Others, not called to full-time service, still ought to be tending their small gardens, that all of us believers might rejoice in His harvest together.
In sending out His disciples, Yeshua said, “The fields are white unto harvest.” Enslaved by Rome and by their very own human nature, many in Israel were hungering for God, ready to come into His Kingdom. If it was true then, how much more so now? Today there are other oppressors, but the worst of the human predicament still comes from within, and only Yeshua can save people, Jews or Gentiles, from ourselves and our sinful inclinations.
Do you believe that? If you do, act as though you do! No conscientious farmer would allow himself much rest until all of the harvest was brought in. Nor can we who labor in God’s field allow ourselves too much time or too much leisure, lest the crop be stolen or spoiled.
If people are sincere about what they say they believe, they will work at it as though it is really true. As believers in Yeshua (Jesus) we promise, we preach and we ponder the return of Messiah, the Lord of the harvest. Yet sometimes we do not practice what we preach. We think we can gather a harvest while we lie on a hammock tied between two trees in the orchard. Then, should any fruit happen to ripen and fall upon us as we lie there, we reach out a hand to catch it and consider ourselves workers in God’s harvest. We might fool ourselves, but we are not fooling Him.
There is a harvest even now, and soon there will be the great, final ingathering—not of grain, but of God-harvested souls. Then we all will enter into the joy that can only come to those who have worked hard, believing that God will act. So don’t get caught lying in your hammock, sipping lemonade. Get out and work in God’s field, that others may come to know Him. Then what joy it will be to hear from the Lord of the harvest, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”