Have you ever been in the middle of singing or listening to a song when you suddenly thought, “Wait! What in the world does this mean?”
I remember that moment when sitting in church singing this song:
“Lord of harvest, send forth reapers! Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry; Send them now the sheaves to gather ere the harvest time pass by.”
The song is taken from several passages in the Bible.
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
John 4:35-36 (ESV)
In Matthew 9:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)
Some of my favorite verses in Psalms also speak of this concept.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6 (ESV)
As I sat in that church pew that Sunday, singing about the harvest, the irony of what we were singing burned in my mind.
We were a happy and comfortable bunch who loved Jesus and tried to please Him. But why were we praying for “reapers”? Who was supposed to be doing the work? Some obscure few in lands far away?
Where was this great harvest that was supposed to be ready for reaping?
And how was it possible for us to heartily plead God to send someone else to do the work while we did nothing?
I’m not even sure that present-day America is “white for harvest.” Jesus prepared people of His time by loving people, preaching the Gospel and doing miracles. How much of that is happening here? I think our country has a whole lot of rocky, untilled, and unplanted ground.
People are seeking Jesus–oh yes! But many, many people know nothing of Him yet. We don’t have to go overseas or even to the nearest big city. Unless you’re extremely isolated, you’ll have people who desperately need Him practically at your doorstep.
But we can’t just sing our glowing songs and expect heaps of grain floating into our churches on our holy coattails.
No. We have to get out into the world, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. Sharing the goodness of Jesus means doing excruciatingly hard things we never thought we were capable of doing. It means listening, loving, and never giving up on people in spite of their questions, their fears, and their failures. It means having our own lives radically changed. It means lots and lots of loneliness and tears.
It means picking up the plow and refusing to look back. Reaping can’t come before a long season of working the ground and sowing. Kingdom work is a long-term investment, not something that can be finished in a few months or years.
Too many of us want the glory of reaping (or of watching others do the reaping) but are unwilling to do the hard and lonely work of plowing and planting.
So we sit in church and sing to the Lord of harvest, thankful that it’s someone else’s job and praying it all gets done somehow.
I wonder what the Lord of harvest thinks.
What songs make you stop and wonder what you are singing?