Harvest 2017 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Harvest 2017

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Text:    Ps.65:9-13

Harvest 2017

The Generosity of God


Introduction
David certainly believed that the generosity of God was something to celebrate. In Ps.65 he rejoiced in the fact that the Lord sent the rains to water the earth so that it could bring forth its fruits in abundance.

Food is an important part of our lives. I would guess that most of us have had a meal of some sort or eaten something on almost every day of our lives. We might have skipped a meal here and there but by and large we are a well fed bunch of people.

Being such an important part of our lives we would expect the Bible to have something to say to us on the subject and when we turn to the Bible that is exactly what we do find.


Food in the Bible
Right at the beginning God placed a wide range of fruit bearing trees along with seed bearing plants in the Garden of Eden: this was all to serve as food for Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve were not content. The fruit of just one tree was denied to them, just one, but they determined that they had to eat it. In taking and eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve became the first to abuse the good things that God has given us but sadly they were far from being the last. After they took and ate the fruit they were thrust out of the garden of Eden but God continued to provide food for mankind to eat. Cain grew crops successfully and Abel raised livestock – they both had more than they needed and both could offer some to God. (One did well and the other not but that is a different story).

Mankind grew worse and worse until the time came when God decided to send a flood upon the entire earth. There was a great loss of life and yet God provided for all the inhabitants of the ark be they human or animal. And after the flood the earth he had made readily produced its crops again: and we hear of Noah growing a vineyard. He abused it and got drunk when he drank too much of the wine it produced but whose fault was that?

If we leap ahead to consider that forty year period in the wilderness after the Israelites were brought safely out of what do we find? God provided consistently for the near million strong group: manna and quails. In fact in response to grumbles and complaints he supplied so many quails that many people overate making themselves ill with them! How easily we can abuse the good things that the Lord gives us!

Then after those years in the wilderness the people were finally brought into the Promised Land that was a rich and fruitful place so much so that it could be described as flowing with milk and honey.

Indeed if you were to look up all the food items that are mentioned in the pages of Scripture you’d end up with a long and varied shopping list. Here are just some of the items you’d find:

  • Seasoning, spices and herbs

Mint, mustard, garlic

  • Fruits and nuts

Apples, dates, figs, almonds and pistachios

  • Vegetables

Beans, leeks and onions

  • Grains

Barley, wheat and flour

  • Fish

  • Fowl

Quail, pigeon

  • Animal meats

Calf, goat, lamb

  • Dairy

Butter, cheese, milk

  • Misc.

Eggs, honey, vinegar etc.etc.

God’s provision for the people of the earth and in particular for his own people was and is very generous and wide-ranging. And we are meant to enjoy what he has given us!

1Tim.6:17 "God... richly provides us with everything to enjoy."


Of course it is possible to abuse such generosity but are we to blame God for that? Surely not.


A Blot on the Landscape?
The Bible doesn’t however only speak of crops and harvest and plenty it also describes famines. Now a famine occurs when there is an acute shortage of food. There are perhaps 13 or 14 famines referred to in the Bible some of which were very severe indeed.

The Bible refers to some of these famines as judgments that God sent to discipline his people and to punish them for their disobedience. Not all famines however are described this way and so we must be careful that we don’t automatically regard a famine as God’s punishment of those suffering it as though they somehow had brought it on themselves by bad behaviour.

God continued to provide for his people even in the midst of these famines. Even after two years of that harsh seven year famine that caused Jacob to take his family into Egypt there were still some foods available. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt with the following gift as they returned for more supplies:

Gen.43:11 "take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds."


The Israelites were kept alive in Egypt during that extremely severe famine and then they stayed on living there. Over time they became numerous and were seen by the Egyptians as a threat and so were reduced to slavery, a state in which they were held for over four hundred years. But God continued to provide and they ate well. Looking back on that time the abiding memory some had was not such much the hardness of those days but of the food they had been able to enjoy there:


Ex.16:3 "we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full,"

Num.11:5 "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic."


The Bible record readily recognises that famines did sometimes occur but they were very much the exception than the rule. By the time David wrote his Psalm four famines had taken place. Even if each had been the length of the severe seven year famine at the time of Jacob then this would still represent less than 3% of the time. When a famine did occur it was limited in geographical extent so that by moving from one location to another the worst effects of the famine could be avoided.

Israel under King David would experience a three year famine (though whether that was before or after the penning of this psalm it is impossible to tell). Nevertheless David was able openly and honestly to celebrate the goodness of God in regularly sending the necessary rains that permitted the crops to grow.


Rain
Now while the description David supplies in vv.9-10 might sound depressingly like a typical British summer we should stop for a moment and remind ourselves that David was writing as a middle easterner in a region where rainfall was never likely to be viewed as negatively as it might be in England’s green and pleasant land.

Rain was and is a wonderful blessing. Only let the rains fail and see what a problem we quickly get into. In the UK we might experience hose-pipe bans or maybe even stand-pipes in extreme circumstances but in some countries it spells an absolute disaster – just ask some of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In March this year an international news agency that focuses on humanitarian disasters that so easily get overlooked wrote that 17 countries in Africa were struggling against the effects of a two year drought and that this meant some 38million people were at risk.

We should therefore appreciate what David has to say about just how the Lord supplies the rains:

vv.9-10 "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."


And this was a truth that Jesus re-emphasised in the NT. Speaking of our Heavenly Father Jesus said:

Mt.5:45 "he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

David doesn’t focus just upon the rain however but upon the crops that flourish as a result of it. And so he continued to describe in highly poetical terms the fruitfulness of the harvests produced:

vv.11-12 "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."


If the fields can be referred to as singing together for joy then surely we ought to as well, we who benefit from God’s steadfast love and kindness in continuing to give us what we need and in such abundance. The British Summer Fruits crop association unwittingly bore witness to this generosity of our God when it expressed concern about the possible effects of brexit on foreign workers entering the UK. The current number of non-UK seasonal workers it says is essential is 29,000 and that that number is growing!


But how easily we take it all for granted
Every now and then there is some scare and some panic buying and we perhaps see a few empty shelves in our supermarkets for a few days but it quickly passes and we think no more about it. Yet we ought to be thankful to God for such remarkable and faithful provision for us.

Yes, we can and should give thanks as we sit down to a meal at home – after all Jesus taught his followers to pray including the words:

Mt.6:11 "Give us this day our daily bread,"


Our Saviour’s own example:

Mt.15:33-38 "And the disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children."


We can celebrate and give thanks too in a Harvest Thanksgiving service like this one, singing his praise and reminding ourselves that every good gift we have has come down to us from our Heavenly Father who does not change.

We can express that thankfulness too in our giving to help others who are in need. Just as help during the time of famine could be sought from another region which had been spared so we who have been spared can help those who have not. So our gifts today in the offering box will go to help those who have suffered with the recent storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean islands.


Let us remember too:
While it is good and appropriate for us to remember that it is God who supplies us with our daily bread and not Morrison’s or Sainsbury’s there is something still more important for us to hold onto. It is this:

Mt.4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."


We are privileged to live in a country where our food supplies are very stable and we should be grateful to God for his wonderful provision for us.

We must realise however that we also need food for our souls and that too God has provided for us.

You probably never want to let more than a few hours pass before you eat another meal – you don’t want to waste away after all. But are you feeding your never-dying soul? You need God’s truth to lead you to the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. You need God’s truth to teach you all about him and what he has done for you. You need to trust him but you never will if you don’t hear and heed God’s word because faith comes by hearing that word which is all about Jesus.

So the next time you’re confronted with full shelves in the supermarket and the abundant provision for your physical needs take a moment to call to mind the abundant provision for your spiritual life God has made for you in Jesus Christ: sins forgiven, inner cleansing, a new life and a new relationship with God and a sure hope of heaven. The next time you give thanks for the food on your table gives thanks to for the spiritual food that comes to you via the cross of Calvary where Jesus died for sinners.

Amen.


 
 
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