Harvest... but not as we've known it
by Lynette Woods
All Scripture references are from The Amplified Bible
"Then I heard a voice from heaven saying Write this: Blessed are the dead from now on who die in the Lord! Yes, blessed, happy, to be envied indeed, says the Spirit, in that they may rest from their labors, for their works do follow and accompany them! Again I looked and behold, I saw a white cloud and sitting on the cloud One resembling a Son of Man with a crown of gold on His head and a sharp scythe (sickle) in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple sanctuary, calling with a mighty voice to Him Who was sitting upon the cloud, Put in Your scythe and reap, for the hour has arrived to gather the harvest, for the earthís crop is fully ripened. So He Who was sitting upon the cloud swung His scythe on the earth, and the earthís crop was harvested. Then another angel came forth from the altar, who has authority and power over fire, and he called with a loud cry to him who had the sharp scythe, Put forth your scythe and reap the fruitage of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are entirely ripe. So the angel swung his scythe on the earth and stripped the grapes and gathered the vintage from the vines of the earth and cast it into the huge winepress of Godís indignation and wrath. And the grapes in the winepress were trodden outside the city, and blood poured from the winepress, reaching as high as horses bridles, for a distance of about 200 miles." (Revelation 14:13-20).
The Bible frequently mentions harvest time. One interpretation of the harvest is that of souls entering the kingdom, Christ stated that the harvest is ready, but the laborers are few. That is but one side of the harvest though, He also frequently referred to us as being the seed (and the fruit of the Vine) and of course the harvest from the perspective of the seed or fruit, is rather different than the perspective of a laborer! Harvest is a time of great joy and satisfaction for the laborer and for the One who has sown the Seed yet right here is where we can err in our interpretation of the harvest and what it may mean for us. We are not the ones that the harvest is for; the harvest, the fruit, is always for God alone. HE provides not only the Seed, but also the soil, sun, rain and workers - the only way in which we may be partakers of the joy of the harvest is by knowing His heart and experiencing it with and in Him!
Harvest for the Jews was a time for bringing in not only the grain, but also the grapes and the olives. These three are represented in the Old Testament by the offerings of grain, wine and oil which were required in the temple. The harvest of grain would be harvested, crushed and ground into flour. The grapes would be cut from the vine, trodden on and the juice used. The olives would be shaken or beaten from the tree, pressed between a Rock and a stone and the oil extracted would be kept. The grain would be used for Bread, the grapes for Wine, the oil for Bread, Light and Anointing. So while the harvest is a time of great joy for the Harvester, for the fruit or seed it may not initially appear to be a time of happiness at all... God's ways are not our ways.
Harvest time for the grain is a very painful, perplexing and difficult time. The seed experiences painful separation. It has had a sword cut between the soul and spirit, it has had the scythe cut it off from its roots in the earth, from the plant that it had been part of and had grown from. It has been separated from all that it has known and been comfortable with. The stalk has been cut off from the natural life source it had relied and depended upon and is now dead and is nothing in itself except for the precious grain, the Seed of Life which it carries. The rest of the plant can be burned, for only the Seed is what is important. This season of harvest is about dying to Self and being transformed through Christ's resurrection by then living for and from the Life of Another.
There have been many who have spoken of an end-time harvest of souls, interpreting that to be a last days revival. Often such things can be based on what WE would like to see happen for God, based upon our desires and values and not necessarily God's... Jesus, in speaking of the end-time harvest, said: "The harvest is the close and consummation of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the darnel is gathered and burned with fire, so it will be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom (note: HIS kingdom!) all causes of offense and all who do iniquity and act wickedly, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be weeping and wailing and grinding of teeth. Then will the righteous, those who are upright and in right standing with God, shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him who has ears to hear be listening, and let him consider and perceive and understand by hearing." (Matthew 13:39-43).
Jesus was clearly speaking of a harvest of the bad and not just the good; the opposite to what we may initially think a harvest is about. He said that at the harvest the false wheat would be gathered and would be burned! The darnel looked almost the same as the wheat, but it was false and not genuine even though it may have outwardly looked good. Harvest is about separating the true from the false, discerning and dividing between that which is of the flesh, and that which is of God. External, outward appearances can deceive.
God is always after the intrinsic rather than the extrinsic; He is concerned first and foremost with who we are (the internal) rather than what we do (the external) simply because if the internal is correct, then the external will automatically be taken care of. If the heart is right, the mouth and the actions and the life will be right. Failure to recognise this can result in our misinterpreting and misunderstanding many of the ways of God in our lives. Man's way is to try to make things happen for God by concentrating on what can be seen - the external; we typically think that the internal will happen if we do the external but the opposite is true - anything external that will be eternal can only first come from the internal work of Christ within us. He is not building a large earthly kingdom which can be seen and celebrated by men, where numbers are more important than His Truth living in the inner man. The Kingdom which He is building is unseen because it is spiritual and heavenly; it is a Kingdom of those who see the unseen and who worship Him in spirit and in truth. The principle in Scripture is that of a remnant at any given time of history, and often a very small remnant at that. In the Old Testament there were times when it was only a small handful of people that remained faithful to God. He will always call many; but few are chosen and few will pay the price required for it costs your life.
God has established the principle of death and transformation to new life in creation to teach us that this principle also applies to us in the spiritual. "I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just one grain; it never becomes more but lives by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." (John 12:24). Perhaps this is why John was told to write "Blessed are the dead from now on who die in the Lord! Yes, blessed, happy, to be envied indeed, says the Spirit, in that they may rest from their labors, for their works do follow and accompany them!" Those who have died to themselves, rest from laboring and striving to please God; they have died to their earthly ways of doing things and yet their works which now have their source from God in the heavenlies, do follow them!
We are so ready to point the finger at the world and think that the harvest at the end of the age is only for them as judgment for their wickedness. But Jesus said this wickedness, this wild wheat, would be gathered out of HIS kingdom where He sovereignly rules! Do not look at the world or at other's sins; look at yourself and allow God to bring YOU to repentance: "Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance, let your lives prove your change of heart; and do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham for our forefather; for I tell you, God is able to raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones! And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand and He will thoroughly clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out." (Matthew 3:8-10,12).
After separation comes the time of gathering in, but much painful work must be done with this grain before the gathering together of the useful parts of the plant - the grain - are finally gathered together and stored, ready to be used by the Harvester (Mark 4:26-29). God has much work to do in us. The grain being cut from the plant was only the very beginning of the work of harvest for the Jews, after this initial separation the grain was gathered into sheaves, then taken to the threshing floor where it was either beaten with a rod or trodden on by oxen dragging a metal sledge until it was separated from the stalk and the husks. The stalks and husks (that which is without Life) were either burned, used for animals, or was mixed with clay to make bricks for man to build with... The grain was winnowed - tossed into the air so the Wind/Spirit could remove the chaff (husks).
God's workers in His harvest are used as a threshing instrument and for winnowing (Isaiah 41:15,16). The harvest is about separating the Holy from the unholy, the Seed from the chaff, the Heavenly from the earthly, the Precious from the worthless, the True from the false. The word in Greek for 'judgment' means to separate and choose.
We each must decide who is the ruler of this personal kingdom of ours. To choose Christ as our Life is to give up our own life - to choose death to ourselves and what we want. Harvest is about separation. Perhaps this is why Jesus said the harvest was ready but the workers are few, because to be a worker in this harvest means you first have to have been separated yourself before God can use you as a laborer in bringing separation - which many grains will not like or appreciate.
This harvest, this separating of what is of earth and gathering in of what is of heaven is not only a future event at the last day but is also for NOW. "For the time has arrived for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not respect or obey the good news of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the godless and wicked?" (1 Peter 4:17,18). Ezekiel also saw this beginning in the sanctuary of God and those that were spared and marked on their foreheads by God were those who sighed and groaned over the abominations committed in the city and house of God (Ezekiel 9:4-7). May God open our eyes to see the harvest He desires to see happen in our own lives, and for the work He would have us do... "Jesus said to them, My food (nourishment) is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish and completely finish His work. Do you not say, It is still four months until harvest time comes? LOOK! I tell you, raise your eyes and observe the fields and see how they are already white for harvesting." (John 4:34,35).
Why do we need to go through the pain of this harvest and this separating now? It is because there is so much of the earthly nature still in us, so much of Self, so much religious self-righteousness and pride, so much that is not right, so much of the earthly which has been planted in us and is bearing fruit which must be harvested. We die to our life and way in order for Christís Life and the Kingdom of Heaven to come forth from us. We cannot see these things in our own lives without God opening our eyes and bringing us to repentance, sighing and groaning over the abominations in this house of God. "Jesus said, I came into this world for judgment, as a Separator, to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind." (John 9:39). This separating and dividing can be in many different areas of our lives, even in what we perceive to be good and even righteous. This separating may even be felt in close relationships within households and families (Luke 12:51-53). It is a separating of all that is of fleshly earthly origin from that which is of heavenly origin, it is about purifying and refining us, sifting and winnowing us.
There can be no resurrection Life without a crucifixion death. There can be no harvest without the sickle cutting and separating the stalk and seed away from the plant. The Hebrew word for "separate" is "nazar" and those who were separated ones were called Nazarites. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and was called Jesus the Nazarene - THE Separated One! We too are set apart and are His separated ones - part of Him and His Body and not one with this world - we are the assembly of those who are called out of this world in which we temporarily live.
The ultimate separation is death - physical death releases us from this world and propels us into the next and spiritually death to Self does the same thing - it brings transformation and resurrection Life. Yet just as a grain of wheat cannot harvest itself and as we cannot physically crucify ourselves, so we also cannot spiritually crucify or separate ourselves or bring about any harvest through our own labor or strength. It must all be the work of the One Who is the Sower and the Reaper of His Seed in our lives so that He alone gets the credit for all the work and receives the harvest. It cannot and will not happen but for Him and His work in our lives.
This is written not to suggest that anyone try to bring forth these things through their own strength, either in their own lives or in others, because it cannot be done. It is something which cannot be entered into without first knowing God as your Strength and your Life. Rather, this is written with the hope of encouraging those separated ones who may be going through a difficult season of harvest, to have their eyes opened to see what God may be doing in their lives and to willingly and gladly embrace and yield to this work of separation in the sure knowledge that resurrection Life will follow as we are decreased and brought to nothing, hidden in Christ who is our true Life (Col 3:3) and Who is being daily increased and becoming Everything to us and through us.
After death/separation comes the time of resurrection and Life and this new Life for the grain is completely different than what it has ever known before and perhaps different to what it had expected. It now sees that it is not alone, but is just a very, very small part of a very, very big picture! The point is not about any individual grain of wheat, but about the harvest of many grains. After being separated, beaten and winnowed, we are then ready to be ground into powder! In losing sight of ourselves our vision is expanded to see the much bigger picture. We need to realize that sometimes our difficult spiritual experiences are not 'ours' alone but are that of the corporate Body - a much larger harvest. We are members of one another and what one goes through spiritually, the others also experience because we are part of each other.
Prior to being gathered in we are just one of many grains of wheat separated from others, but when the grains of wheat are gathered together and are husked, winnowed and then ground into flour ready to use - you lose who you are. When the grain has been ground into flour; how do you then find what bit of powder came from which grain of wheat, and what does it matter anyway? No, you are simply part of a much larger whole, you are hidden as part of Him Who combines His flour with His Oil to make Living Bread to feed the hungry. 'I' am no longer important, but 'We' are. 'I' am no longer a separate entity, 'We' are one; brought together by our participation with Christ's suffering, we are made into one Loaf, one Body.
Harvest is a regular time and season in the natural and in the spiritual. It must happen at the right time for us, which God alone knows. If the harvest is too soon, the grain is not ready, it is not mature enough and so is wasted. If the harvest is left too long, it again is wasted. God knows when to harvest His grain, before the winter storms begin, safely gathered and hidden in Him Who is our Storehouse. May we be those who are totally hidden in Him, those who will allow Christ to do this vital work of separation, harvest and resurrection within our lives so that He receives all honor and a truly great harvest with which to feed many!
"Collect your thoughts, yes, unbend
yourselves in submission, O shameless nation! The
time for repentance is speeding by like chaff
whirled before the wind! Therefore consider,
before God's decree brings forth, before the time
is gone like the drifting chaff, before the fierce
anger of the Lord comes upon you - yes, before the
day of the wrath of the Lord comes upon you! Seek
the Lord, require Him as the foremost necessity of
your life, all you humble of the land who have
acted in compliance with His revealed will and
have kept His commandments; seek righteousness,
seek humility, inquire for them, require them as
vital. It may be you will be hidden in the day of
the Lord's anger."