Sermon – Harvest Festival – Sunday 23-Nov-2008

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Sermon – Harvest Festival – Sunday 23-Nov-2008

Thanksgiving ceremonies and celebrations for a successful Harvest are worldwide and very ancient. Almost every culture in the world has held or do hold celebrations of thanks for a plentiful harvest.

We will not look into the boring history of the festival.  Nor will we look at how the different cultures in the world celebrate this festival.

Instead we will look only at the Biblical significance of the Harvest Festival.  I will present it into three parts:

Harvest Past – i.e. its origin

Harvest Present – i.e. the opportunities it presents

Harvest Future – i.e. its ultimate objective.

We begin with Harvest Past – its origin:

Do you know when the first Harvest Festival took place?  We may not know the precise date, but it is in the Bible.

Gen 4:3-4

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” (Gen 4:3-4)

Cain and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve.  From the very beginning we see people bring to God a portion of what He had given them.  Abel brought his ‘first born’ to say ‘thank you’ to God.

After the Flood, the first thing Noah did when he and his family and all the animals touched dry land was to give back to God a portion of what He had given him.

Gen 8:20

“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” (Genesis 8:20)

Further in Leviticus 23 we read of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Feast of Tabernacles or ‘Sukkot’ at it is called is not a “Jewish festival”, but rather a “Hebrew” festival.  It was given to all the Israelite tribes, not just Judah.  Jews observe this Festival today as Sukkot, which derives its name from the ‘sukkah’ which means a ‘temporary dwelling’.

The Israelites were instructed to bring a tenth of their harvest along with firstborn animals of their herds and flocks to a central location to rejoice with other families by feasting and sharing their harvest bounty with the needy (Deuteronomy 14:22-27).

Deuteronomy 14:22-27

22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.

1 Corinthians 10:6

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

These things are given to us as examples so that we may not do evil things as they meaning the Israelites did. Thus …

Harvest Festival began as a way of saying thank you to God.

Why do we have to thank God?

Of course there are many reasons.  But the three most important reasons that I can think of are:

1. God is the owner

Psalm 24:1

“The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

Psalm 50:10

“…. for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)

When our Rev. Apte prays on the offerings, he says  “All things come from you O Lord, and of your own do we give you.”  Of your own do we give you.  God is the Owner!

2. We are His stewards

Gen 2:15

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Dictionary defines the meaning of the word steward as:

‘a person who manages another’s property and financial affairs; one who administers everything as the agent of the person who has given him this responsibility.’

In Leviticus 25:23, we read:

“ … the land is mine and you are foreigners –  you’re my tenants.”

God is the owner and we are His tenants, his servants.  We say ‘thank you’ because He has trusted us with this responsibility.

3. Trust God to Provide

Matt 6:31-33,

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

We in our own way trust God that He will provide.  And till date He has never failed us. That is why we say ‘thank you’ at Harvest.  This, I think is the origin of Harvest.

Harvest Future – What is its final Objective

In John 7:2-8 we read how the brother of the Lord urged him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Lord was very clear when He tells his brothers: ‘the right time for Him has not yet come’.  We read this in

John 7:2-8

2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5For even his own brothers did not believe in him.   6Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; ..

Very crafty – the Lord’s brothers.  Just see how they are trying to give the Lord marketing advice.  Verse 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” they tell Him.  But that is not the part of our subject today.  We are looking at the future of the Harvest Festival.

How is that going to happen? Jesus says that he is like a farmer sowing seed in the world.  The Good News of Jesus is the seed.  In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us about the future,

Matt 13:37-39

“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. …The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.” (Matthew 13:37-39)

The world is going to be very different when Jesus returns with his angels to gather together his family. Jesus goes on to explain that when that day comes there will be a very special Harvest banquet.

People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29).

Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot Booths) is like a rehearsal looking forward to that day when the King of Kings rules His people from Jerusalem and each nation goes up to celebrate it as mentioned in Zechariah 14:16.

Zech 14:16

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

In addition to their historical legacy, these Holy Days offer “a shadow of things to come” in the plan of God (Colossians 2:16-17).

Both Paul and Peter referred to our physical human body as a “tabernacle” that we dwell in during our journey toward the promised Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:1-8, 2 Peter 1:13-14). When Jesus Christ returns to earth to establish that Kingdom of God on earth, the dead in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life and will rule with him for a thousand years (1 Corinthians 15:50-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Revelation 1:6; 2:26, 3:21; 5:10).

The Bible also speaks of a great spiritual harvest to take place at that time (Matthew 13:30). The millennial rule of Jesus Christ will result in a time of universal peace and prosperity. All nations in the world will begin keeping the Feast of Tabernacles as their annual harvest festival of thanksgiving. (Zechariah 14:16).

The earth will become a paradise again.


Harvest Present – It’s Opportunity

1 Corinthians 10:6

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

These things are given to us as examples so that we may not do evil things as they meaning the Israelites did. Thus …

Whenever we think of giving to the Lord, one verse always comes to our mind and that is Malachi 3:10

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

This is an open challenge to every one of us.  Are we prepared to take up this challenge?

In several other places we read in the scriptures:  ‘Do not test God’.

Like in Matthew 4:7

7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

Similarly in Exodus 17:1-7 we read how when the people of Israel were short of water they began to question ‘whether God was with them or not’.  This is testing God.

But here in Malachi 3:10 the Lord himself says: ‘Test me in this’.

If we accept this challenge then we have to keep our part of the contract.  And that involves three things:

Giving means giving the Best you have:

Numbers 18:29

29 You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’

Exodus 34:26

26 “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.

Giving is to be in proportion to our prosperity.

We are all familiar with I Corinthians 16:2 which reads:

“Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper … ”

II Corinthians 9:7 adds, “Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Giving should involve some sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, we have the story of David at one point in his life needing to offer sacrifices unto God. Since he was the king there were those who wanted to give him a field in which to erect an altar, and even to give him the animals that he would offer as sacrifices. It was then that he said:

2 Samuel 24:24

24 However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing ” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”   David bought the field and paid for the animals in order that his sacrifice to God might not be without cost to himself.

If we follow these three things then we can ruly experience what is told in Acts 20:35

‘ … It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Giving brings some of life’s deepest satisfactions.

Before I close I wish to highlight three things God tells to do in Deuteronomy 14.

1. Be Faithful: Set aside a tenth

Deut. 14:22

22 “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.” (Deut. 14:22)

2. Be Thankful: Have a party

Deut. 14: 23

23 “Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.” (Deut. 14: 23)

3. Be Generous: Give to those in need

Who are we to give to? Two groups:

Deut. 14:27

“And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.” (Deut. 14:27)

Who are our Levites today? Those who serve Lord in the churches. This is our first priority.

Then the passage goes on to say,

Deut. 14:28-29

“… and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied.” (Deut. 14:28-29)

“so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deut. 14:29).

So that by sharing in God’s work, we can also share in God’s blessing. What more motivation do we need? Imagine what this world would be like if every believer in Jesus practiced these Harvest principles?  The blessing of God is promised when we take Harvest seriously. And if you forget, just look at your fingers and remember why God gave you ten.

Lets pray.

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