A song for the harvest

Jamie Read

Perhaps 2020 has sown seeds of doubt in your mind about God’s plan for the world. We have often asked, ‘Lord, what are you doing?’

Within their first year overseas, one Crosslinks mission partner family lived under a curfew for weeks, whilst riots took hold in the neighbourhood. A few weeks later this was followed by a strict lockdown that lasted nearly six months and kept the children at home for 17 weeks. 

There are times that we need God’s reassurance concerning his future for the world and Psalm 67 certainly provides it. Once more we are encouraged to think about the Lord’s harvest.

When the Bible speaks of harvest it usually points to one of two great truths. First, it’s a sign of God’s blessing upon His people. So, Deuteronomy 28:2-4:

'And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground...'

Second, harvest is often used in reference to God’s blessing spreading out through his people. For example, in Genesis 41 the exertions of one man, Joseph, averted disaster for the masses,

'Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.'

This tells us something about God himself. He is not a God who takes. Rather he is a God who gives in abundance. He does not demand what he has not first given.

By implication, God's ways are to be reflected by God’s people. They are to share all they enjoy with those otherwise cut off from God’s loving rule. 

Think of it this way. One day scientists will discover a vaccine for COVID-19. It will be the result of months of clinical testing, trials on humans, regulatory approvals, licensing and, eventually, mass production worldwide. 

But imagine if, once available, the nation’s policy-makers decide that the vaccine should be restricted to just one age group, in one location. It would be madness. The country would be in uproar! 

An effective COVID-19 vaccine will be widely shared. It is for the masses, not the minority.

It is the same with God’s mission. The good news of the conquering, reigning Lord Jesus Christ is for all nations. 

Psalm 67 reminds us of this truth and shapes our priorities and our prayers.

1.    Blessing for the many

The psalm recalls the prayer of blessing spoken over God’s people in Numbers 6. To pray this prayer is to bring the people under the protection of the Lord (Num 6:27). It’s a picture of a bride being united to her bridegroom, adopting his name. The Lord’s blessing is given in the context of a special relationship. 

This prayer is followed by the promise first given to Abraham (v2). Blessing upon the few is the means of blessing the many. There were to be no closed borders, only wide open ‘travel corridors’ by which the nations could come to enjoy life under Israel’s God. 

This promise echoes through the Old Testament: Joseph provides grain in abundance for ‘all the earth’. Boaz makes generous provision not just to a blood relative but for all his descendants. More reluctantly, Jonah carries God’s salvation to Israel’s greatest enemy. 

It is no surprise that four times Psalm 67 declares ‘let all the peoples praise you’! 

Life under God’s loving rule isn’t to be enjoyed apart from the world but with the world. 

2.    Blessing through the one

How can such a prayer be answered? How does this promise reach its fulfilment?

Verse 4 says the nations ‘sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth’.

The Lord’s justice is partnered by his guiding hand. The Lord is both strong and tender. He is both perfectly loving and perfectly just. 

The one whom the world needs and the one to whom all praise will one day be directed is the Shepherd-King. He is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed him and uses his power to save them.

This Shepherd-King is the Lord Jesus Christ, the only source of blessing for all the nations of the earth! 

3.    Blessing that’s assured

If what we see around the world doesn’t match with what we read in the pages of the Bible, we need to look at the harvest. That was Jesus’ approach* and the psalmist makes a similar point here.

‘The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.’ (v6)

Notice the earth has yielded its increase. The grain is already coming into the storehouse. God has blessed the earth. This would give the farmer confidence to sow seed for the next season. 

How did Paul put it to a church too confident in its own capabilities and gifts?

‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.’ 

Our confidence does not come from what we do or how hard we work. It does not come from the circumstances in which we sow the seed of the gospel. No, our confidence must come from God and his character: our generous, life-giving, Shepherd-King: ‘Let all the ends of the earth fear him!’

You can read here and here of examples of God’s great harvest. But if that doesn’t persuade you, consider God’s kindness to you wherever you are reading this. You are someone from the ‘ends of the earth’ now grafted into God’s family through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Then declare ‘let all the peoples praise you!’

*John 4:35, check out this blog post.

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Jamie Read

Jamie was Director of Misison Partnerships at Crosslinks from 2016 – 2021. Before this, he was a Crosslinks mission partner in South Africa and worked in local parish ministry in the UK. Jamie now works with St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks.