Exodus 23:16

A. INTRODUCTION

Harvest time is an opportunity to consider the variety of God’s provision. It’s a chance to thank God for his abundant goodness to us—for some of the basic things he provides for us for daily living and our continued well-being. It’s also a chance to acknowledge just some of the things God provides for our daily needs.

And yet fruit and vegetables and cereals are only one thing that he provides. We also have so many other things of which to be thankful:

As the creator, God has given us life, the land we walk on, and the air we breathe. He has given us companionship—family, friends, and neighbours. He has given us the sun to keep us warm and the rain to help things grow. He has given us animals, flowers, and plants to care for and delight in. He has given us everything we can see and touch—the visible and the tangible—and even things we can’t see or touch as well.

As the preserver, God continues to show that he is concerned with our continued existence. He looks after our physical and spiritual well-being. And he is constantly walking with us through the good times and the bad. He hasn’t just created the world and abandoned us but wants to be with us, involved in every facet of our living.

And as our redeemer, God has shown that he will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that we have a good and healthy relationship with him. He always tries to keep the lines of communication open. And his concern is so great that he even let his son die in our place, just so that this could be possible.

All in all, no matter what our dreams and ambitions, no matter where we are in our walk with him, God has demonstrated time after time that he does care, that he wants to look after all our needs, and that he continues to provide for us, far more than we could ever imagine or ask. Indeed, we have much to be thankful for.

The question that we can ask ourselves today, then, is: “Do we always accept that God wants to look after our needs? And are we always thankful for the things that God provides?”

B. TRUST?

Well in terms of us accepting that God wants to look after all our needs and the trust that we have that God will provide, which of these biblical stories do we identify with the most?

1. The Exodus
In the story of the Exodus, God’s people were freed by God from slavery in Egypt. And yet at each sign of things going wrong in their lives, they forgot the lessons of the past where God had come to their rescue. And they moaned, and they called out to Moses “Why did you bring us here, we were better off where we were.” God’s people didn’t show much faith in God at all.

2. Return from Exile
Hundreds of years later, the people returned from exile in Babylon. They’d been rescued again but they were still moaning. They’d still forgotten all the things God had done for them. And they didn’t show much trust in God either.

3. The Reaction to A Healing (Mark 5:1-21)
And when Jesus cured the man who had been demon possessed—and the now demon-possessed pigs ran down a bank into the lake and were drowned—did the surrounding people put their trust in Jesus? No! They were more concerned about their farms and what he might do to their own livelihoods. And they simply told Jesus to go away.

4. Comment
When it comes to the matter of accepting that God wants to look after our needs, then, God’s people have not always had a very good track record. Now of course, these were just some of the more negative examples of lack of trust. However there are some more positive ones too.

5. Job (Job 1:21)
Because Job was tested by Satan to renounce his faith (and some terrible things happened to him). But despite everything, his response was, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return. God Almighty has given and God Almighty has taken away. May the name of God Almighty be praised.”

6. Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-29)
And the Apostle Paul, who for his faith faced prison, being flogged, was near to death on a number of occasions, was given thirty-nine lashes, was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, left cast in the sea, went without sleep food and drink on many occasions, and was continually putting his life on the line. And yet despite everything his trust in God remained firm.

7. Comment
So, the first question we should ask ourselves is: “With all these examples, good and bad, when it comes to a matter of trusting in God, which of the stories do we identify with the most?”

C. THANKFULNESS?

But that’s only half of the equation. Because it’s not just a matter of accepting that God will come to our rescue, the others side of it is whether we are thankful for what God provides as well.

And, again, which stories do we identify with the most?

1.Adam (Gen 4:24)
Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was told that he could eat of any tree, except one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And yet what did he do? He wasn’t content with what he had been given, he wanted something else. And so he ate of the forbidden fruit. Of course, for his pains he was kicked out of the garden—the garden that had supplied all his needs—and from then on, he had to labour hard for his basic needs.

2. Naaman (2 Kings 5)
Naaman, a commander of the army of King of Aram, had leprosy. Now he was sent to the prophet Elisha to be healed. But when Elisha told him to dip himself seven times in the river Jordan, he walked away in disgust. He was expecting a miracle—certainly something more spectacular than just dipping himself seven times in the Jordan. And it was only when his servants indicated to him how silly he was being, that he went down to the Jordan, did as he was told, and was cured.

3. The Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
Jesus, returning from one of his trips to Jerusalem, met ten lepers. And he indicated to them that if they had the faith they would be healed. He told them that they should go to a priest so that their healing could be verified. And so they went on their way. But when they discovered that they were healed, were they thankful? Well we don’t know. But we do know that only one of them returned to Jesus to give thanks.

4. Comment
So, when it comes to a matter of thankfulness, God’s people have had a very chequered history too. However, again, not all of God’s people have shown such a spirit of ingratitude.

5. David (Psalm 7)
King David, on the run from his enemies—and recognising that he had made some terrible mistakes and that his dilemma was at least partially self-inflicted—set aside time to be with his God (even on the run). He recognised that God had helped him in the past. And even though he could not see the end to his current dilemma, he not only trusted God to resolve the issue, but gave thanks to God for whatever solution would be coming his way before it had even happened.

6. Peter (Luke 5:1-11)
And Peter, the fisherman, who had just spent all night trying to catch fish—and had returned home unsuccessful—well, he was taken out fishing by Jesus again (and to the most unlikely place and at the most unlikely time of day). But as a consequence of his obedience, Peter caught far more fish than his boat could possibly carry. And Peter’s reaction to God? Well it even went beyond just being thankful. Because Peter actually broke down as he considered himself unworthy to be in the presence of his Lord and God.

7. Comment
So the second question we should ask ourselves today then, is: “With all the examples of thanksgiving, the good and the bad, when it comes to a matter of thanking God, which story do we identify with the most?”

D. IMPLICATIONS

Because harvest times can be reminders that not only should we trust God to meet our needs, but that we should also be thankful for all that he provides as well. God might not always deliver in the way we would like, or even understand. But he does deliver.

And the more positive examples of response to God, do show that not only can we depend upon God for our needs, but if we do that then he will bless us abundantly too.

1. Job
After all, Job lost his children, his servants, his flocks, and he was stricken down with a painful skin disease. In addition he was surrounded by his wife and (so-called) friends who called on him to curse God for his situation. But Job refused. Job remained steadfast; he remained loyal to his God. And he was determined that despite everything God would minister to his needs.

And that is exactly what happened. When the rhetoric of his friends had grown old, and Job had shown that he was determined to remain loyal to his God, God appeared to Job. And God not only met his basic needs but blessed him with riches, far more that he had ever had before and probably more than he could ever have dreamed of.

2. Paul
The Apostle Paul, despite all that had occurred to him up to that point, was determined to go on. Not only was he determined to remain loyal to his God, but he was determined to spread the word about the Christian faith wherever God would allow.

However, as an itinerant speaker, he was totally dependent upon God for his day to day needs. He hoped that he might get to Rome so that he could tell the Romans about Jesus, but he was never certain he would actually get there.

And yet that is exactly what happened. God not only provided his basic needs—as he continued his missionary journeys—but he blessed Paul with a trip to Rome as well. Now Paul may have been there under house arrest, but that didn’t matter because he was able to use that house freely and for the sharing of the gospel too.

3. David
David’s dependence upon God—and his thanking God in advance (despite being still on the run)—also bore fruit. God rescued David from his pursuers, and many years and enemies and blessings from God later he died in bed in old man.

4. Peter
And Peter… Well after Jesus picked him up off the beach, and even after many mistakes, including some real blunders, Peter, for his faith became one of the great leaders of the early Christian Church.

5. Comment
And these things happened to all of them because of two things: Firstly, because all four acknowledged that God wanted to provide for their needs. And, secondly, because all four were thankful for what God provided. God’s provision may not have always been in the way they had wanted or expected, but they accepted that God often knew better in that regard—and better than they could possibly imagine.

And if those four people were blessed by God because of their trust in God and their willingness to give thanks, then imagine what the same response would do for us too.

E. CONCLUSION

Today we can thank God for the harvest. (And, in a sense, this is minor league in terms of the things we need to be thankful about). However it is a very healthy practice none the less. Because it gets us in the habit of examining ourselves and reminding us of the need not only to trust in God to meet our needs, but to appreciate and give thanks for the things that he provides.

So, if we ever get to the stage of doubting, of wondering whether God is real, or questioning the adequacy of God’s response to our needs, then I suggest we should remember people like Job, Paul, David, and Peter. Because we can remind ourselves just what God has done for people who do trust in him, and what he has done for people who are truly thankful.



Posted: 8th August 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis
www.brianacurtis.com.au