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Giving thanks to the God of the harvest

29 September 2017 16:54

Giving thanks to the God of the harvest

“You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy” (Psalm 65.8-13)

From time to time (depending on what English version of the Scriptures we are using) we read of God visiting. We are all familiar with the idea of people visiting. According to Scripture, God visits too. Sometimes in judgement. At other times in blessing.

It is to just such a time of blessing that David refers in Psalm 65.8 ff when he speaks about God visiting the earth (or the land) – watering it, enriching it, making it fruitful so that it yields a harvest. Here is a visitation of God that results in an abundance of crops and food.

Nor is this the only place where our harvests are traced to his hand. In Psalm 147, for example, we are invited to sing to the Lord with thanksgiving. Why? “He supplies the earth with rain and makes the grass grow on the hills” (v.8). And not just grass, but also “the finest of wheat” (v.14). Or here is what Paul says in Acts 14 to the people of Lystra: “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” (v.17).

Two things strike us as we read what David says in the latter part of Psalm 65:

The first is how unhesitatingly this truth is affirmed. There is not the slightest hesitation in attributing the harvest to God. Rain from the sky, the fertility of the ground, the crops that it produces – all are traced without embarrassment to God. And for his honour and glory we ought to do the same.
Many imagine, of course, that this is just a throw-back to pre-scientific days. That’s just how people thought back then. They didn’t understand the science behind the rain and the fertility of the soil and the growth of crops and so they attributed these things to God. Others, though not perhaps denying the involvement of God, to all intents and purposes as completely exclude him from the process. Rarely do they trace the harvest of the fields and the food on their tables to the God from whom all blessing flow. Rarely do they lift their hearts to him in thanksgiving. The result? God is robbed of the honour and glory that are rightfully his.
How important, then, that we model ourselves on David – openly and unhesitatingly affirming that God is the one who blesses the land with fertility and grants us our harvests. Fruitful fields are from him. Once again he has visited us in his mercy. We confess it to his praise.

The second is how joyfully this truth is celebrated. According to one writer it “as fresh and irrepressible as the fertility it describes” (Derek Kidner). Charles Simeon suggests that the background is the lifting of the famine mentioned in 2 Samuel 21. After years of judgement God answered prayer on behalf of the land and a harvest was eventually reaped. What a cause for celebration that was! In any event, there’s no missing the note of gladness. God has been wonderfully good to his people and David, on behalf of the people, expresses thanksgiving in the joyfullest way.

And when we think how dependent we are on God, and how undeserving we are of his mercies, and how he gives so ungrudgingly notwithstanding men’s ingratitude, and how lavish he is in his giving – let it be with no cold hearts that we give him our thanks but warmly and fervently. As we ought.