Originally, Thanksgiving Day was a time to celebrate the harvest of grain, fruits, and vegetables. As the United States became more urbanized, the emphasis shifted to a general time of expressing gratitude to God for His goodness. And while this change may be fine, it may also be helpful, at this Thanksgiving time, to return to the original meaning of the day – the harvest.
This Thanksgiving Day can be enhanced if we consider some Scriptural truths about the harvest. For the average person, the harvest just means having enough to eat. But a survey of Scripture suggests that the harvest has a greater meaning.
TRUTH #1 Harvest is an EXPRESSION of God’s MERCY.
I think you would all agree that humans are naturally very vain. We consider ourselves very important. We love to take credit for success, even if we had little if anything to do with the success. I do understand that there is a human element to the harvest. Without the work of the farmer, very little food would be available. But here lies the danger.
Jesus illustrated it well when he told about the farmer who had harvested an excellent crop. So great was the crop that he did not have a place to store it. And one night, Jesus heard the old farmer talking to himself. And he was saying, “Look what you have done!” And what did Jesus say? “Thou fool!”
According to Jesus’ definition, there are a lot of fools in our world – people who think that the harvest's success is all to their credit. They forget that harvest is an expression of God’s mercy - the fulfillment of God’s promise. Notice the context of the promise that there would always be a harvest - Genesis 8:22.
The harvest does not come because we are so good - just the opposite. It comes even though humanity is so flawed. Jesus declares in Matthew 5:45 that God sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust. I know you worked hard for your fruits and vegetables. But don’t be deceived into thinking that you deserve them. They are an expression of God’s mercy. Through them, God has given us a few more days in which we may prepare to meet Him.
Let us give Him thanks.
TRUTH #2 Harvest is an EMBLEM of God’s LAW
We often talk about the laws of nature as though there was a person by that name. We talk about the laws of science as though they existed due to their own effort. And some people criticize the Church for being too full of laws. But may I remind you that the laws of nature and science are just as surely the law of God as are the laws found written in his Word.
Our God is a God of order. And we like that, as long as it allows us to do as we please. But when God’s law reprimands us for stepping out of order, the natural man becomes upset. Jesus asked the question in Matthew 7:16, “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes?” The harvest illustrates the law that declares that you receive what you give.
The harvest reminds us that what we receive back from God is related to what we gave Him. That is both a comforting and frightening thought. There will be abundant results for those who have sown a little faith. Jesus said that even mountains could be moved with just a little faith. But for those who have sown selfishness instead of selflessness, there will be an abundant harvest of pain. God will give us what our lives ask for, even if it is to our hurt.
The harvest always yields more than was put into the ground. The harvest forces us to ask an important question. What kind of seed am I sowing in my life?
TRUTH #3 Harvest is a PICTURE of God’s PLAN
Throughout Scripture, the harvest is used as a figure of speech. The New Testament refers to the resurrection as a harvest. Jesus is called "the first fruits of the dead." Harvest is also used to refer to the results in our lives. In Galatians 5, Paul talks about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. But probably, the dominant idea of harvest as a picture of God’s plan can be seen in Jeremiah 8:20, where the prophet cries, “The harvest is past; summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
The harvest we celebrate at Thanksgiving reminds us that a greater harvest day is coming. It is the day that God will reap the fields of the earth, taking the wheat to His barns, but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. As Christians, we have a part in this harvest. We are to pray for reapers. We are to prepare the ground. We are to plant the seed. We are to respond to the call to reap.
It is sad to see grain, fruits, or vegetables waste because there is no one to gather in the harvest. But there is something infinitely sadder. And that is, souls lost forever, because the Church did not respond to the call to harvest.
Connecting Thanksgiving Day with the harvest takes Americans back to their roots. Harvest time is a time to rejoice for the abundant food supply from God. But it is also a time to ponder the truths that the harvest teaches us.
Harvest is a REFLECTION of God’s mercy.
an EMBLEM of God’s law
a PICTURE of God’s plan