Waiting for the Harvest

I’m waiting for the harvest. How about you?

Let me explain. I just heard Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 read together by itself and it may be the first time I ever heard it on its own.

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Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’””

Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.” Jesus replied,“The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, NLT)*

You see, I’ve always just lumped this parable in with the passage that immediately precedes it, which is the story of the farmer scattering seed (you know—some goes on the rocks, some gets choked by weeds, some falls on good soil, etc.). I always thought this was just repeating more of the same sentiment.

It’s not the same at all.

Here, Jesus addresses the problem of suffering in the world.

Since the beginning of time (literally—look at Job, one of the earliest books of the Bible) people have struggled with this question: Why wouldn’t a good God remove evil and suffering from the world, particularly from the righteous?

Jesus addresses this question straight on (well, as straight on as Jesus ever answered anything through a parable, which is to say not very…but still).

The field is the world. The good seed are the people of the Kingdom of God. The weeds are those who belong to the evil one, or anything that causes sin. The weeds cannot be removed without damaging the growth of the good seed, though. Only at the harvest, once the good seed has had the chance to mature and produce, will the weeds finally be removed.

The weeds remain so that we can grow.

God, in His mercy, keeps us in the soil of this world where we can grow strong roots, and develop into mature, healthy plants that produce a rich harvest. If our sorrows and suffering were removed, this would actually damage our development and stunt our growth.

Even so, we long for the time where we are not twisted up in the weeds of brokenness, sin, and sorrow. Christ promises a harvest—a harvest where the weeds will finally be removed, thrown out, and burned.

While we rejoice at this promise, let’s not forget what the purpose of a harvest is, though. The purpose of a harvest isn’t to burn weeds.

The purpose of a harvest is to bring in the produce of the good crop.

Through this time of growth, in the midst of sorrow and sin, we still have a crop to produce for good.

While we longingly look forward to the harvest, this time now is not wasted or pointless. We are called to be God’s people, growing righteousness and glory for God.

As Jennie Allen puts it in her book, Restless,

To understand our purposes, we must understand God’s ultimate agenda.

God is most after his glory. And glory is the visible expression of God’s goodness and beauty on this earth. It’s how we recognize him. . . .

. . . [W]e have a tremendous responsibility. We are to live out the same call [as Jesus]. God has chosen to show himself and his goodness—his glory—through us. (p. 85)

So, rejoice!

What an opportunity we have! God grants us the chance to grow—in righteousness, in relationship with him, in goodness, in faith—before the harvest brings in the produce of the good crop and throws out the weeds forever!

“Our divine vocation is not ultimately to suffering, but to a hope that triumphs over suffering. It is the hope of our future inheritance with Christ.

This hope is no mere wish or idle longing of the soul. It is a hope that is rooted in the exceedingly great power of God. It is a hope that cannot fail. For those who embrace it, this hope will never bring shame or disappointment.

The hope of eternal joy in the presence of Christ, a hope that sustains us in the midst of temporary suffering, is the legacy of Jesus Christ. It is the promise of God to all who put their trust in Him.”

R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life

 

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;

all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;

come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

 

All the world is God’s own field, fruit as praise to God we yield;

wheat and tares together sown are to joy or sorrow grown;

first the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;

Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

 

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home;

from the field shall in that day all offenses purge away,

giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;

but the fruitful ears to store in the garner evermore.

 

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring thy final harvest home;

gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,

there, forever purified, in thy presence to abide;

come, with all thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.

Henry Alford, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”

 

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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