Sunday, May 31, 2015

The First to Partake

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. “And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. “Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. “But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. “But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”     Matthew 13:1-9  NKJV

In the valley where I live, Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the time when the locals plant their gardens.  Up until then, there is usually the possibility of a late frost which would kill the young plants or flowers.  Since I always have a garden, this past weekend was spent as it usually is, tilling the soil and planting the vegetables I hope to harvest.  Although not large by many standards, it still is a chore which entails a lot of work but in my mind is worth it when the time to harvest comes in late August.  That is, of course, if I can somehow beat off those critters who hope to take the fruit of my labor before I can.  Who knew raccoons like sweet corn anyway?  (This verse from Job seems appropriate even if it is taken out of context)

Because the hungry eat up his harvest, Taking it even from the thorns, And a snare snatches their substance.    Job 5:5  NKJV

I suppose it is because I enjoy gardening that I also enjoy and appreciate how the Bible uses farming terms and illustrations when referring to the work done on this earth in regards to the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus continually used these during His ministry here on earth, and I am sure most of us can recall many of them from reading His Word.  The time came when Jesus began to teach only in parables, and most of them used analogies to sowing, cultivating, and harvesting.  The very first parable Jesus taught was the Sower and the Seed, which today’s blog begins with and one which I am sure most of us are familiar with.  This trend continued throughout His ministry and He even chose to use it at the very end while referring to His own death and resurrection.

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.     John 12:23-24  NKJV

Those who choose to believe in the salvation given by Jesus’ death and resurrection become the “grain”, or fruit of His labor.  We in turn become the sowers who sow the seed to an unbelieving world, spreading the good news of salvation to anyone willing to hear.  The Church, the body of Christ, produces the laborers Jesus uses in the fields of this world.  Has it ever occurred to you that when you became a believer, no matter what your vocation, you also became a farmer?  It is our responsibility to sow the seeds of good news to an unbelieving world.

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.             Luke 10:2  NKJV

I was reading Paul’s letters to Timothy this past week when I noticed a verse I had read before, but somehow possibly not quite completely understood and it is what prompted this whole train of thought I am sharing with you today.  Paul is writing to Timothy in his second letter and giving him encouragement by giving examples of the character traits to be found in one who chooses to serve Christ.  One of these illustrations is that of a farmer, and I found it interesting especially as I was contemplating my garden, and the possibility of once again losing it to my nocturnal friends.

The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.                                                 2 Timothy 2:6-7  NKJV

As I read this, my first thought was how appropriate it was considering what I had been thinking about.  Then of course, I began to think about what Paul was trying to convey to Timothy, and as I did, a thought occurred to me which I had not ever previously considered.  The idea of being the first to partake as a reward for hard work seems appropriate, but then I began to think about where and when the Church might expect to be rewarded and an interesting thought appeared.  Since Paul taught and affirmed the position of a pretribulational rapture of the Church, is it possible this little verse to Timothy is saying the same thing?

If you think about it, the fact that the Church fulfills the role of the farmer sowing the seed, and the fact that Paul says the farmer should be the first to partake of the harvest, does it not make sense that will occur at the time of the rapture of the Church?  It certainly seems possible that Paul was trying to convey that message to Timothy here, and to us as well.  As we labor here on earth, and especially in these times as it gets more and more difficult to do so with the opposition and hostility we sometimes face, a little encouragement along these lines seems refreshing and invigorating.  The Church will soon be raptured to spend eternity with the Father, and our reward for our labor is the knowledge that as hard working farmers, we will go first!

Keep watching.