"Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
Matthew 9:38 NASB
"And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Luke 10:2 NASB
A couple of nights ago I was driving home after dark from a friend's house. It was around 9pm and, as I drove, I had to be stay aware of a good amount of farm equipment still on the roads. Harvest season has officially begun.
There are two times of the year you don't expect too much from farmers in the way of non-farm activities and commitments. Spring planting and fall harvest. Why? Because the window of time for both is relatively short so they have to make the most of the time they have. If they don't, they won't have a crop nor a source of income for the next year.
When it comes to the harvest season, farmers are trying to balance several things. If they go too early, there is too much moisture in the crop and it won't harvest well in addition to needing extra time and resources to dry it so won't rot in storage. If they go too late, the crop will rot in the field, or be too brittle and fall to the ground before it gets swept up in the combine. They have to work around rainy weather adding moisture to both the crop and the ground and watch as local wildlife eats the crop they can't get to fast enough.
So in the balancing act of farming, when the conditions are just right for harvest, farmers put in long hours with few breaks. And if they trust you with a specific step in the harvest process, they are praying you will take the time to come and help.
This week we have two very similar verses, one from Matthew and one from Luke. They are both from the same story being told from different points of view. Both of these verses speak of the need for more people who are willing to share the message of grace and forgiveness Jesus is preaching.
My favorite word in these verses is beseech. It's a word we don't use a lot in today's world. Webster's dictionary defines beseech as "to beg for urgently or anxiously." If you have spent much time around a young child, you have seen what it is to beseech someone for something. My oldest niece is six years old and this past August, my mom and I got to spend some time with her and her family. If there was an Olympic sport for beseeching, she would most certainly be a contender. "Pleeeeeeeaaaaaase Auntie Sara," was heard more than once a day. Partly because, well, she is six years old. And partly because she has learned that Auntie Sara gives in more easily than mom and dad (and Grandma Kris gives in even easier than Auntie Sara!).
What makes my niece's pleas so effective is the persistence with which they are uttered. She doesn't ask just once and then let it go. She asks repeatedly. She seems to let it go and then comes back and tries again the next day. She gets her three year old sister in on the action. And when her request is granted, she is elated. In that moment, her world is awesomely perfect and wonderfully exciting.
The disciples are on the verge of a time of being sent out by Jesus to teach and preach. It is a bit of a reality check for them. They won’t always spend their time learning from Jesus, they also have to put what they are learning into action and pass it along to others. It is time to see how they do when the proverbial training wheels are taken off.
Those moments in life where the training wheels come off make all of us a bit nervous and I'm sure the disciples were no exception. I imagine the conversations when Jesus told them of their task included statements such as:
"Are you crazy? I'm not ready to speak in front of people."
"What if I mess up and say something wrong?"
"Let's just practice for a little bit longer."
"How do you expect me to do this?"
So Jesus gives them some advice: "Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send laborers."
Jesus is essentially saying to the disciples, 'Hey, you can't do this all by yourselves. Too many people are ready to hear the truth. We need more help. So pray urgently and do your part to go out and find those who will help us share about who God really is.' It is a beautiful, balanced reminder that while it is the Lord's job to send the workers, we also must also be willing to become workers ourselves.
The main thing I love about the word beseech is the urgency it conveys. It's not just making a request, it is making a request which needs to be answered quickly. The person doing the beseeching is wanting an immediate answer. Jesus command to "Beseech the Lord of the harvest" tells the disciples to not pray for fellow workers casually, but with intention and purpose.
Jesus is aware that with each passing day, more and more people perish without knowing the truth of God's love and mercy. He is aware that people are yearning to experience grace and forgiveness. The timing of Jesus' ministry on earth wasn't accidental or by coincidence. It was exactly when humanity most needed the Messiah. He knows he won't be on earth forever and so more workers are needed to share God's truth.
The urgency remains today. We don't know the day or hour of Jesus' return but while we wait we have been commanded to go and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19) We don't know how much time we have left on this earth but when we stand before God we do know we will be asked to account for our time on earth. (Romans 14:12) And with each day we fail to share the message of Christ, more people perish without knowing the truth of who God is.
For even still today, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are too few.
1. How are you helping bring in the Lord's harvest in this season of your life? Are you sharing about His grace and forgiveness? You don't need to be a preacher or public speaker to do so. In fact, your actions will often speak so much louder than any words you might say.
2. The disciples were sent out in pairs of two. You are not called to do this work of harvest all alone. Partner up with a friend or mentor. Seek out a group to get involved with. Help others and accept help yourself.
3. Know a farmer? Consider blessing them in this busy time of year. Offer to bring a meal by or run an errand. If they have kids, offer to help with free child care so they have one less thing to worry about when the weather is good for being in the field. Even letting them know you are praying for them and their safety is helpful as they put in some long hours this time of year.
4. Want to see from farmers with a great sense of humor? Check out the great music video parody stylings of the Peterson Farm Brothers.