Missions: The heart of God

What's the hurry?

Commentary on John 4

"Don't you have a saying, It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest" -- John 4:35

Across the years, Jesus' references to harvest-ready fields have sparked passion for world evangelism. Sermons and songs have frequently featured the harvest idea. Robin Mark's 1994 "Days of Elijah," for example, proclaims: "These are the days of harvest. The fields are as white in the world."

In exhortations recorded in Matthew 9 and Luke 10, Jesus spoke of the need for workers to gather the harvest. In John 4, our Lord's words spotlight the urgency of the task. Delay in harvesting a ripened crop usually ends in spoilage and a sense that hours of soil preparation, planting, fertilizing, weed control and watering have been in vain.

Verses 4-42 of John 4 occur at a 2,000-year-old well. Jesus and his disciples had stopped there during a trip northward from Jerusalem to Galilee. On this particular journey they went through Samaria, a region whose inhabitants were shunned by the Jews as "half-breeds."

When they came to Sychar, the disciples left Jesus at the ancient water source and went to buy food. While they were gone, a woman came to draw water. To the Samaritan woman's surprise, the Jewish man at the well asked her for a drink. Then, He talked to her about a kind of water which could satisfy thirst forever.

When the disciples showed up with lunch, the woman hurried away to call townspeople to come meet someone who just might be the Promised Messiah. As people from Sychar "made their way toward Him," Jesus urged His disciples to open their eyes and look at the ripening fields. Since people were the "fields" Jesus had in mind that day, it's easy to imagine Him gesturing at the approaching Samaritans -- whom most Jews despised -- as He said, "Open your eyes and look . . ."

Jesus referred to a common catchphrase of that time: "It's still four months until harvest." I have never heard anyone use that saying today. However, it would fit well in the same contexts in which we exclaim, "What's the big hurry?" and "Where's the fire?" To those with such a what's-the-big-hurry attitude regarding Gospel proclamation, Jesus said, "Look at the fields! They are ripe."

In using the harvest metaphor, Jesus was saying, "This is urgent!" Talking about global outreach as a harvest indicates that we face windows of opportunity which open and close. Harvesting cannot be postponed until a more convenient time. When crops mature, they must be harvested right away.

Each day, tens of thousands of people go out into eternity each day never having heard about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Isn't that a ripened harvest going to waste? Oh, when will we feel the urgency?

    -- Howard Culbertson

This 500-word mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage magazine.

Harvest themed songs about Great Commission fulfillment

"Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe." -- Joel 3:1

"Harvest" excerpt from "Days of Elijah" by Robin Mark

Other songs with harvest motif

The Battle Is the Lord's - E. Margaret Clarkson and Meyer Lyon
"The harvest fields are white: How few the reaping hands appear, their strength how slight! Yet victory is sure."
[ printed music and words from 1962 Christian and Missionary Alliance hymnal ]
Bringing in the Sheaves - Knowles Shaw and George Minor
"Sowing in the morning . . . Waiting for the harvest and the time of reaping, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."
1874 [ YouTube ] [ printed music ] [ "Great Hymns of the Faith" hymnal ]
The Call for Reapers - J.O. Thompson and J.B.O. Clemm (also called "Far and Near")
"Far and near the fields are teeming with waves of ripened grain. . . Lord of the harvest, send for reapers!"
[ printed music ] [ Great Hymns of the Faith hymnal ] Also published in Hymns of Glorious Praise
Come, Labor On! - Jane Borthwick and J. Buchanan MacMillan
"Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain while all around him waves the golden grain?"
1962 (Music), Christian Publications [ printed music and words from 1962 Christian and Missionary Alliance hymnal ] [ lyrics and audio file ]
Disciple the Nations - Dan Whittemore
"The harvest is plenty, the workers are few. With each daily victory, there's much more to do."
1976, Lillenas
Faithful Men - Twila Paris
Come and join the reapers . . . Come and share the harvest, Help to light the darkness"
1985, Straightway Music / Mountain Spring [ YouTube ] [ sheet music ] [ recorded on CD: "Perennial: Songs for the Seasons of Life" ] [ downloadable digital ]
Hark! The Voice of Jesus Calling - Daniel March and Louis von Esch ( also known as "Hear the Voice of Jesus Calling")
"Who will go and work today? Fields are white, the harvest waiting. Who will bear the sheaves away?"
1868 [ printed music ] [ found in Hymnas for the Family of God hymnal as "Hear the Voice of Jesus Calling" ]
Harvest Bells - William Penn and J.M. Hunt
"The harvest field is white, and many souls are sinking into eternal night. The harvest bells are ringing."
1882
Harvest Time - Paul Rader and Lance Latham
"The harvest fields are bending with precious ripened grain; More reapers now are needed."
1921
Harvest Time - Wanda Smith
The grain is falling; the Savior's calling. Oh, do not wait! It's growing late. Behold, the fields are white; it's harvest time."
1949, Aim High Music Group / BMG Music Publishing [ printed in "Sing His Praise" hymnal ]
Here I Am, Send Me - Melody Green-Severeid and Wendell Burton
"Lord, you said the harvest was great, but Lord, looks like the workers are late. It's getting hard to understand how they ignore your great command."
1979 and 1987, Birdwing Music / Cross Purpose Music / Ears to Hear [ recorded on CD "Keith Green: The Ministry Years, Vol. 1" ] [ down loadable digital ]Isto
I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go - Mary Brown and Carrie Rounsefell
"There's surely somewhere a lowly place in earth's harvest fields so wide where I may labor through life's short day for Jesus the Crucified."
1899 [ YouTube ] [ printed music ] [ "Great Hymns of the Faith" hymnal ] [ "Hymns of Glorious Praise" hymnal" ] [ Midi audio file and lyrics ]
Labor On - Christopher R. Blackall and W. Howard Doane
"In the harvest field there is work to do, For the grain is ripe, and the reapers few"
[ sheet music with words ]
Lift Jesus High - Scott Wesley Brown
"The season of harvest is now. Rise up and take up your plow. Work while there's still light, night draweth nigh. Enter the nations, lift up your banner high."
1995, Integrity's Hosanna! Music [ accompaniment tracks ] [ recording on CD "Mission of Praise" ]
Lord of the Harvest - Bill O'Brien and Dick Anthony
"Lord of the harvest, the laborers are so few . . . We go now as we ought."
1977, Lillenas [ printed in "Hear the Call" songbook] [ printed music ]
Lord of the Living Harvest - John S. B. Monsell and Lowell Mason
"Lord of the living harvest that whitens o'er the plain . . . Accept these hands to labor, these hearts to trust and love."
1866 [ printed music ]
Seedtime and Harvest - Bill O'Brien and Dick Anthony
Seedtime and harvest, fields full of grain. . . Use me, Lord Jesus."
1977, Lillenas


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