"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." - Genesis 8:22
"They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing plunder." Isaiah 9:3
"Yet God has not left himself without witness. He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Acts 14:17
I grew up in a large town in eastern Massachusetts, pure suburb. All my life, I have eaten food purchased from grocery stores or restaurants, and I have never worked as a harvester of any sort—not counting “pick your own” apples or strawberries. During the COVID pandemic, I saw grocery shelves empty of specific products because of “supply chain issues.” That is the closest I have come to any sort of famine. I have never known the diligent labor of a farmer in Palestine or a settler in colonial America in which my survival and that of my family was hanging in the balance of a successful harvest. It is so easy to take harvest time for granted in an affluent and technologically advanced society like ours, in which free market economy and division of labor ensure that no essential commodity is ever lacking.
But in the scripture, harvest is never taken for granted. The rhythm of the seasons listed after the flood of Noah includes “seedtime and harvest.” It is a pattern well-known to agrarian societies throughout redemptive history. Harvest is celebrated with a kind of joy and relief I think we are not likely ever to experience. In the Isaiah passage above, the joy at the saving work of the Messiah is likened to the celebration of the people at a successful harvest or of warriors who have survived a battle to the death. Most of us never feel that level of delight laced through with relief because we have crafted a society in which survival is more guaranteed than at any other time in human history.
"In the Isaiah passage above, the joy at the saving work of the Messiah is likened to the celebration of the people at a successful harvest or of warriors who have survived a battle to the death."
I am not calling on my readers to go back to nature or become subsistence farmers. Nor do I believe that an annual trek to the apple orchards in October will revive this level of joy. Certainly a daily expression of thanks to God for how he has worked to guarantee our food supply is in order. Though the farmer can prepare the soil, plant the seed, water it, and protect it, only God can make it grow. “In him we live and move and have our being.” Beyond that, perhaps what we need to do is ponder more regularly how fragile our lives really are, how vulnerable the crops are to pests and weather disasters, how dependent we are on God simply to stay alive by the nourishing food he provides.
This Thanksgiving, as we see symbols of harvest all around us in artistic renditions—an abundance of produce pouring out as if by magic from a mythological cornucopia—let us realize it is God who has specifically willed to make each of those plants spring from the earth. It is God who has sufficiently mitigated the curse of thorns and thistles he justly put on the farming work of Adam’s descendants. It is God who has “shown kindness” by giving us rain and harvest and filling our hearts with joy. Praise his kindness!