Harvest is an important theme in the Bible. We first meet human beings in the Garden of Eden, where they were responsible for working the land and caring for the plants, and were free to harvest any of the fruit, bar that of one tree only. Next we find them breaking the one rule God gave them, at the instigation of the devil; so they end up driven from the garden, and the land is put under a curse: work becomes hard and the earth grows too many weeds! Nevertheless sowing and harvesting continues; even when the world becomes unbearably wicked and God starts again after the flood, his first promise is that seed time and harvest will never cease as long as the earth endures. That doesn’t mean there won’t be crop failures and famines – the earth is still cursed; but the cycle of the seasons will continue one way or another.
As we read on through the Bible we see harvest as an important season in the life and worship of the people. The first fruits of a crop are brought into the temple, as a thanksgiving to the God who gave them the crop. Tithes are paid, a token reminder that the whole crop belongs to God. The people in those days (and these days in many parts of the world) knew that life depended on a good harvest, and that was dependent on good rainfall and peaceful politics – which in turn depended on a good relationship with God. At times in their history they turned to worship other gods, in the hope that they would give them good harvests; disasters followed, including the people being driven from their land for a time in exile.
In the New Testament harvest is seen as a picture of God’s plan for the world. God has worked the world and cared for it in the hope of a harvest – a harvest of people living God-like lives, freely choosing to love God and one another, and to look after God’s creation. Unfortunately humanity as a whole has chosen to go its own way, and God’s harvest would have been a total failure had not God mounted a rescue operation through Jesus Christ. Even now there is need for quality control at harvest time: God will have to sort out what is fit for purpose and deal with the rest.
Harvest is not an end in itself, of course. We harvest for a purpose – for food or fuel or fabric or whatever. God’s purpose is a new creation, a post-evil creation, where there is no more death or suffering or temptation, and all is perfection. (When imagining that, don’t imagine boredom or drabness – those are not in God’s purpose.) This less than perfect world is the field where the ingredients for the new creation are growing. Without the difficulties, without the choices, would they grow?
1) How can we ensure we are ‘fit for God’s purpose’?
2) What has harvest to do with God?