Premature Harvesting
by Pastor George Van Alstine

“The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:7-11)

In Biblical times, farmers recognized two critical periods of rain in the relatively arid climate of Palestine. They anxiously waited for the “early rains” of October to mark the end of the dry season. This would mean that they could sow their crop seeds in the softened soil. Soon after, they would see the sprouts that should signal the beginning of a good harvest. It might be tempting to pick some of the early ripening wheat, barley or herbal crops, but they learned from experience that when they did this they would risk trampling some of the younger growth. The best policy was patience. Let the “later rains” through the winter do their work, and they’d be sure to have a better crop and maximize the profit they could make in the market.

In making life’s important decisions, we are like those farmers. We plant the seed of an idea when we feel that the climate is right, and we enjoy seeing it sprout into something promising. But then our impatience takes over. We barge in prematurely, or we blurt out some inappropriate words. And poof! An idea that might have resulted in something special turns into a failed harvest. If we would hold our tongue, take a deep breath, sleep on it, wait just a little longer, the “later rains” might bring out the best in us and we might enjoy the harvest of our lives.

As James points out, the true evaluation of all of our life’s planting, cultivating and harvesting will only be clear at “the coming of the Lord.” But in this life we need to learn to develop a sense of timing, an understanding that “for everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3). James gives three Biblical illustrations. The first is the Old Testament “prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord,” who in many cases proclaimed God’s warnings to Israel for decades without any positive response. Some of them died seeing no harvest from their life’s work. James’ second example is the legendary character Job, who gained everything through his reading of the times and seasons, wise harvests and clever investments; then lost everything for no logical reason; then gained even more by the grace of God. His wife had said “Curse God and die!” But Job trusted God through the good times and the bad, and his celebrated patience paid great dividends.

James’ third illustration is surprising. It is God himself:

“You have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

In the “early rains” of your life, he has planted a seed of faith in you! You have sprouted, withered, recovered and feebly sprouted again. Instead of quickly harvesting the poor crop of your life of faith, he has patiently waited for the “later rains” of life experience to bring you to this point of mature harvest. Aren’t you glad that he isn’t impatient the way you are?