Bible Study

4. Lord of the Harvest

Many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving this month—a holiday designed so we could thank God for the harvest... by Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

Many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving this month—a holiday designed so we could thank God for the harvest. This is the time of year to reap what has been sown and recognize that man plants, but God brings the harvest. The goal of planting seeds is to grow fruit. As we continue “Gardening with God,” and as we enjoy our tables loaded with pumpkins, turkeys, vegetables, cranberry sauce and dressing, let us remember these foods don’t just come from grocery stores. They are products of the hard work and patient skill of farmers.

Jesus has some interesting things to say about the harvest in John 4:34-38. The context of this passage follows Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman beside a well. He reveals that he can provide living water (much better than well water) which gives eternal life. During this conversation, His disciples are off getting food and have returned to find Jesus talking with a woman. They are shocked by this and the fact that He is no longer hungry. Jesus then explains that His nourishment comes from doing the will of God and finishing this work.

In describing this work God sent Jesus to accomplish, Jesus mentions fields ready to harvest. He says that everyone knows the saying, “Four months between planting and harvest.” He is not referring to the actual time that transpires between the planting of seeds and the production of fruit. He is saying that some things can’t be hurried and that patience is required. James 5:7 says, “… be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.”  

Jesus moves from talking about the harvest to preparing the disciples to harvest people for the Kingdom: “… the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life.” As the Samaritans are streaming out of the village to see Him (v. 30), Jesus sees a ripe harvest ready to believe in Him. It is curious that Jesus says, “… the fields are already white for harvest.” A ripe field is usually golden or brownish in color. A white wheat field would indicate that the wheat had gone bad, and the harvest was missed. R. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on John (“That You May Believe,” Crossway Books, 1999) relates this story by H. V. Morton who observed:  

“As I sat by Jacob’s well a crowd of Arabs came along the road from the direction in which Jesus was looking, and I saw their white garments shining in the sun. Surely Jesus was speaking not of the earthly but of the heavenly harvest, and as He spoke I think it likely that he pointed along the road where the Samaritans in their white robes were assembling to hear His words.”

Matthew 9:36-37 records, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.’” When Jesus encountered people, He saw their need and urgency of their sinful lives and recognized the eternal significance of their coming to faith in God.  

Jesus also used another saying: “One plants and another harvests.” This refers to the joy experienced by the one who plowed and the one who reaped. In harvesting souls, the work can be started by one person, involve many people along the way and be completed by another. He tells us that we might harvest where we didn’t plant—enjoying the fruit when others have done the work. We should be satisfied to prepare the ground, plant the seed, water the plant or weed and prune as needed. There are at least two truths here.

First, everyone’s work is important in God’s Kingdom. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”

Second, our work builds on those who have gone before us. I am grateful for those who have preceded me who have fought this salvation war and provided me a ministry where I can continue this fight. I am reminded of Moses’ sermon where he said, “The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:11).

This month, as we enjoy the harvest God has provided, we should ask ourselves, “Does our nourishment come from doing the will of God or from finishing His work of harvesting souls?” We should all be plowing (preparing the ground), planting (sowing seed), watering, weeding or reaping (bringing in the harvest when the field is ripe). When Christ returns, or calls us home, may He find us hard at the work He has given us!

Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!  You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 3I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

John 4:34-38 NLT
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