Harvest by Abidan Shah, PhD

HARVEST by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  One of the most fascinating things for people when they first visit Israel are all the beautiful farmlands. Since only 20% of the land in Israel is conducive to growing crops, it is truly amazing to see how the Israelis have turned this problem around by draining swamplands and reclaiming the desert areas. Water is scarce, but they’ve been able to grow more with less water using inventions like drip technology. They’ve also come up with fascinating innovations like hydroponic farming, which means growing crops without soil but with water-rich nutrients. Then there’s vertical and robotic farming, which means growing crops year-round and using robotic technologies to operate the greenhouses. As wonderful farming is in modern Israel, it is not a new thing. The Bible makes many references to farming in ancient Israel to make spiritual points. In fact, Jesus repeatedly talked about it in his ministry. Last weekend, we learned how Jesus used the analogy of fishing to call his disciples to reach souls. In today’s message we will learn how he used the harvest time to motivate his disciples to have a sense of urgency in reaching souls. Main point: Just as the harvest season is a limited time opportunity, so also is soul winning. God is constantly reaping and gathering souls into his kingdom, and he wants us to partner with him. To work in the field of souls, we need to have a sense of urgency in reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John 4       34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!

Context: The passage we just read was given in the context of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. It all begins in John 4       3 “He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.” 2 things here: first, the route; then, the history. First, “He needed to go through Samaria” – this is usually treated as some kind of a theological/spiritual decision. Not true. We often hear that in ancient times Jewish people did not go into Samaritan territory. That’s not really true. We have plenty of evidence that they passed through the territory, even in this account. Jesus had to pass through Samaria to get to Galilee. This was not some spiritual impulse. It was the natural geographical route. Nonetheless, being God, he knew that he had to meet someone there. So also, with us, don’t wait for some spiritual impulse to motivate you to share the gospel, just be prepared that in the natural everyday routes of life, God has ordained for you to meet someone who needs the gospel. From last week’s sermon, Jesus has called us to cast a net in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria…and to the end of the earth. He was about to cast a net in Samaria.

Second, John 4:5 “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar…” Let’s pause here and talk about who were the Samaritans? According to the Samaritans, they were the true descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that the worship center was wrongfully moved from Gerizim to Shiloh under Eli and that’s when things went downhill. But, if we read 2 Kings 17, we see a different account. When God sent Assyria against the Northern Kingdom, they not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples. Under this strategy, they would move the conquered people to another part of the world, and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Samaritans were people who had been settled in the land of Israel by the Assyrians. They somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were left behind. The Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. To make matters worse, the Samaritans even tried to sabotage their building projects when they returned from the second exile in Babylon. Needless to say, there was bad blood between them. We want to share the gospel with people just like us, but God wants us to share the gospel with people unlike us, maybe even our enemies. John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, includes a little detail here – “…Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.The Samaritans believed that they were the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. In a sense, John is giving them the benefit of the doubt. “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ Listen to the Samaritan woman’s response – John 4       9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Application: How willing are you to share the gospel, even with people who are unlike you? By the way, don’t expect people to immediately pray to receive Jesus as Savior and King. Most of the times, it will be an odd look, like what’s your problem.

We don’t have time to read through the whole encounter, but I’ve preached on this passage before, and it’s on my blog site. The woman tries to get into a theological debate with Jesus, but he does not fall for it. Instead, he reveals to her that he knows everything about her – 18 “…you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband.” Finally, in verse 25 “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” Jesus did not give some generic all-inclusive nonspecific response.

Application: When you cast the net, don’t be throwing it halfway, half in the boat, half caught on the oars or the motor. Don’t just slide it overboard, cast it. Mention the name of Jesus. If possible, give the gospel. Don’t walk away just mumbling some platitude.

Now the disciples had gone into town to get food, and they were back. Listen to their reaction – John 4      27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30Then they went out of the city and came to Him. Now, pay attention to the interaction between the disciples and Jesus. 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 

This use of harvest (therizo in Greek) is actually coming from the Old Testament (Qatsar in Hebrew). Harvest was a very important time in the life of ancient Israel.Without the harvest, all was waste. God has given them important laws regarding the harvest. The people were supposed to remember that it came from God. Leviticus 23      9And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.’” They were supposed to have a special celebration for the harvest. Deuteronomy 16:15 “Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.” A good harvest was a blessing from God. Psalm 67:6 “Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.” Also, a bad harvest was a curse from God. Israel’s idolatry was compared to a bad harvest. Isaiah 17:11 “In the day you will make your plant to grow, And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins In the day of grief and desperate sorrow.” Israel was considered God’s first fruits of the harvest. Jeremiah 2:3 “Israel was holiness to the LORD, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; Disaster will come upon them,” says the LORD.’ ” It was also a promise of their future restoration. Hosea 6:11 “Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for you, When I return the captives of My people.” It also represented judgment time for the ungodly nations – Jeremiah 51:33 “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor When it is time to thresh her; Yet a little while And the time of her harvest will come.’” We can go on and on the significance of the harvest analogy

By using the same analogy of the harvest regarding the Samaritans, Jesus was saying to his disciples – “Why are you ignoring this field? Because it is a Samaritan field? Do you think that they will be threshed like the Babylonians? By the way, this was not the only time, Jesus used the harvest analogy – Matthew 9      35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” In both these passages (John 4 and Matthew 9), there’s a sense of urgency. The Gezer calendar mentions different harvests. In other words, there is a limited time for this harvest, and then it will be gone. 

But there’s more to going into the harvest than just urgency. There’s also rewards! John 4      36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: “One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” Here are some other references – 1 Corinthians 3        8 “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field…14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 1 Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” Philippians 4:1“Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.” This also ties in with the Old Testament – Daniel 12:3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” Revelation 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

Invitation: Are you ready for the harvest? How hard and passionately are you going after the harvest? Are you doing your part? Are you truly ready for the harvest? Psalm 126      5 “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. 6 He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

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