Preparing for a harvest

Although the writings of the prophet Isaiah were given for a specific purpose, in particular, of calling the people of the northern and southern kingdoms back to following God, there are many lessons we can learn today. The information about the coming Messiah springs readily to mind, but we also find other passages that cause us to think and evaluate what we are doing. Notice this passage about farming.

“Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer ploughs for planting, does he plough continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil? When he has levelled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.” (Isaiah 28:23-26 NIV)

What does this tell us about God? Isaiah’s message has been a warning to Judah and to Ephraim, the northern kingdom, that God was coming in judgement. It wasn’t just going to be perpetual warnings, just as a farmer doesn’t plough his field over and over again. The farmer has more to do. But each action – ploughing, planting, harvesting, threshing, and grinding – comes at the right time and has the proper purpose.

“Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is the cartwheel rolled over cumin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it for ever. The wheels of a threshing-cart may be rolled over it, but one does not use horses to grind grain. All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.” (Isaiah 28:27-29)

Just as the farmer does all of these things, God had been doing these as well. He was using his wisdom so that his purpose would be accomplished. The people of Judah and Ephraim needed to recognise this and act accordingly.

There are many illustrations throughout scripture that come from an agricultural society. A farmer planting, taking care of his fields, and harvesting were part of everyday life in Israel. Jesus frequently used farming illustrations as well.

We understand that, in order to bring in a harvest so we can eat, there are many things which need to be done. The same can be applied as we consider our reaching out to those around us with the good news of Jesus. Paul expressed it like this:

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

Notice that in order to bring in a harvest, in order to bring people to Jesus, we all have work to do. Going back to Isaiah’s illustration, someone needs to make the plans, to prepare the soil. And, as Paul expressed it, someone needs to plant the seed, the word of God. It may require someone else to water, to nurture and encourage those with a growing faith. But we need to keep in mind that people becoming Christians isn’t because of us – it is God who makes things grow, it is God who gives the increase.

It is important that we all work together with one purpose and that is to help people know and obey Jesus the Messiah. We are all fellow workers. May we continue to work together for the glory of God.

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Readings for next week: Isaiah 22-31

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