4 October 2020 (Harvest Thanksgiving - Trinity Seventeenth Sunday Morning Prayer) 2 Corinthians 9:7
Today is Harvest Sunday. It is a day we thank God for all the blessings He has given us. I would like to share a few things about harvest according to Jesus. We Christians believe that the whole world was created by God the Almighty Father. On the third day of creation, God said the earth to bring forth grass, herbs and trees. Genesis 1:12 says that “the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind”. God then prepared the whole world to meet human needs before creating Adam and Eve. He created humans on the sixth day when everything was perfect and ready for humans. Genesis 2 says that the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air out of the ground and the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. God took care of Adam and Eve when they were in the garden of Eden. But Adam and Eve sinned against the Father Almighty and were sent away from the garden of Eden. We read that the Lord God sent them away “from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken”. We also read God’s curse in chapter 3 verses 17-19. Adam started cultivating the land to harvest food and to feed himself and his family. This is the first harvest in the world.
Adam’s sons soon followed in his footsteps. Cain became a tiller of the ground and Abel became a shepherd. Cain brought the fruit of the ground as an offering to the LORD God. Abel brought the firstlings of his flock as an offering unto the LORD God. They both brought offerings to give thanks to the LORD Almighty. This was the first Thanksgiving offering in the world and the Bible. When the world was filled with sin, God destroyed the world by water but saved Noah and his family. Noah was very righteous before God and lived with God. When Noah and his family came out of the ark, Noah started cultivating the ground. He planted a vineyard. Bible does not mention about Noah offering a harvest thanksgiving.
So when did it become a law for the Israelites? God separated Abram and he became the father of nations. The twelve tribes of Israel became slaves in Egypt. The LORD God led them out from their bondage, through the wilderness, to the promised land Canaan. When they were in the wilderness, God gave commandments and laws for their day-to-day lives. God asked them to celebrate a few festivals when they reached the promised land. Harvest thanksgiving is one of the seven festivals God mentioned in Leviticus 23. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest”. Following this commandment, the Israelites started celebrating harvest thanksgiving when they inherited the promised land Canaan. God had two requirements about the offering. When the Israelites brought their firstfruits to the priest, the priest had to wave the sheaf before the Lord. The Israelites had to offer an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord. The two key requirements from God for sacrifices were first fruits and burnt offering without blemish. Let us look back at the first thanksgiving offered by Cain and Abel. Bible says that Cain brought the fruit of the ground but Abel brought the firstling of his flock and of the fat thereof an offering unto God. Abel’s offering was pleasing in the sight of God.
Let us meditate a few things about thanksgiving, offering, and harvest from Jesus’ perspective.
Thanksgiving: In Matthew 5:23 Jesus said, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee”. Here Jesus reminds us about the first harvest and thanksgiving by Cain and Abel. Abel gave His best to God and was accepted. This created enmity between the two brothers. By referring to the two brothers, Jesus preached about reconciliation.
Offering: Another familiar passage is about a certain poor widow who cast in two mites. Looking at her, Jesus said that the poor widow cast more than the rich men. This is because they all gave of their abundance but the widow cast in all the living that she had. God is not interested in what we give or how much we give but in our attitude towards giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver”.
Harvest: In Luke 10:2 Jesus said, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest”. Jesus began His ministry alone in this world. He then chose ten disciples who followed Him. Jesus then appointed seventy people and sent them by two to every city and asked them to preach about the kingdom of God. Jesus preached about the kingdom of God and harvested souls for the kingdom of God even when He hung on the Cross.
Today, as we are celebrating harvest thanksgiving, let us self-reflect on ourselves, our offerings and attitude towards thanksgiving. Both Cain and Abel had good intentions. They wanted to give thanks to God the Almighty Father. But their attitudes were different. Cain brought what he could find but Abel offered his best to God. Are we offering our best to God? God does not want us to bring Him offering because He is in need. Our God of Trinity, who is the creator and Jehovah Jireh, does not need anything from us. The one who sacrificed His life for us does not see the quantity of our sacrifices or offerings. But He sees our hearts when we bring our offerings to Him. That is why He was pleased with the two mites that the poor widow offered. Our attitude plays a very important role in our offerings to be pleasing in the sight of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. What is our attitude when we give offering or thanks to God? Romans 12 1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Ephesians 5:2 says, “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour”. Jesus expects our hearts more than our money or material offerings.
The first Adam fell into temptation and was sent out of the garden of Eden to till the ground and harvest food. God sent His only son Jesus Christ who is the second Adam to overcame temptation in the wilderness. He got victory over sin and curse on the cross. He toiled on the ground which was cursed and cultivated it by His precious blood. He sent Him to till the world with the Gospel so we bear the fruits of the Spirit for God. He commanded in Luke 24:47 “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”. This means all of us are responsible to turn people to God and harvest souls for the kingdom of heaven. We who have tasted the love of God are expected to share the love of God with others.
I would like to close with a few questions. Let us think about our country and the whole world. Christians are persecuted in many parts of the world. The Christian population is dropping down in numbers and the church goers are decreasing year by year. Are we sharing the love of God to others and preparing them to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of heaven? When we meet Jesus face to face, what is the harvest we will bring to him?