Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow…
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Joel is alluding here to a coming judgment, in which the results of men's sins would appear, and each would reap as he had sown. Our Lord's parable of the tares, which points us onward to a future harvest, very fitly illustrates these words. The harvest of each year is fraught with instruction to us, reminding us as it does of the bounty which supplies our needs, the fidelity which remembers our toil, and the certainty of retribution and reward being apportioned to the careless and to the faithful. To the disciple of the Lord Jesus no phase of nature should be a blank. Each contains lessons which are as truly written with the finger of God as were the laws on tables of stone. Asking the aid of him who can lead us into all truth, let us see what truths appear in every harvest-field.
I. THE HARVEST REVEALS THE RESULTS OF MAN'S LABOUR. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." Both in kind and in quantity, every harvest is proportioned to our sowing.
1. We see this in social life. The nation which allows its children to grow up in hovels where decency is impossible, and under conditions in which knowledge and virtue are out of reach, will have to reap as it has sown - in jails and penitentiaries, in abject misery and festering vice.
2. In our intellectual life, as every man in due time discovers for himself; e.g. the indolence and the studiousness of school-days have their certain results.
3. In the occupations we follow we sow as we reap. Wealth or fame depends upon our choice and persistence.
4. In the moral and religious sphere the same law holds good, so that the worldly need not complain if they are hopeless of heaven, and the religious need not be indignant if the wealth of this world is not theirs. Yet we must remember the injunction, "Judge nothing before the time." God's Word points us on to a future in which alone we shall be able accurately to estimate the full issues of our present life. We look for a distant day when he shall say to his angels, "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe."
II. THE HARVEST PROCLAIMS THE SUPREMACY OF DIVINE LAW.
1. Science has demon-strafed the constancy and regularity of the laws of nature. Amongst them is this: "Seed-time and harvest... shall not cease." If it had not been for the fidelity of our God in fulfilling this promise, husbandry would have been discouraged, many of the race would have perished, and the world would only be peopled by a wandering race of starving fishermen and hunters. It is the stability of law which preserves humanity. If, then, we trust God in nature, ought we not to trust him in the higher sphere where he reigns as certainly? We are confident that he will be true to himself in all the physical laws he has ordained, so that we dare not trifle with them, knowing that retribution is certain. Then let us not forget his words, "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption."
2. The thought that our God rules in every sphere should give sanctity to all our employments, and to all the relationships which they necessitate. The Christian who does a menial service, and is treated with indifference or with unkindness, may be encouraged by the reflection that he can "therein abide with God." On the other hand, employers will feel their responsibilities, and, even at the risk of their interference being resented, will give counsel and warning and encouragement (as well as wage) to the weak and unwary.
3. Most of all, in the broad fields of Christian service, we should work as those who are under the eye of "the Lord of the harvest. He will give us the seed of truth to sow; he will prepare the soil of human hearts; he will water what we have sown, and let it appear first as the blade, then as the ear, and afterward as the full corn in the ear."
III. THE HARVEST WITNESSES TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD'S PURPOSE.
1. He has a purpose about everything, but with him there is no haste. In proportion as we are co-workers with him, we must experience the Divine slowness. A farmer cannot hasten his harvest, but must wait for the due season. He can do little more than watch it; for as he sleeps and rises night and day, the seed springs up, he knows not how. He must wait and trust.
2. Let us not be discouraged about ourselves, though the new life within us does seem immature. Let us not fear the storms of temptation, weak though we are in ourselves; for God can care for the feeble blade as well as for the mighty oak. Nor should we, in our impatience, try to force spiritual growth by unwholesome excitement. "In due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
1. Even in this life the law of retribution and reward makes itself felt. The old proverb truly says, "He that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him." Haman plotted his own destruction. His vaulting ambition overleaped itself. The men of Babel meant to form a social combination which should bid defiance to God, but only brought about their scattering. The Pharisees crucified the Son of God, but they made his cross the pivot of the world's history. Our own observation and experience can give many examples of folly and sin bringing dire results even in this world. Popular proverbs embody this universal expectation: e.g. "Ashes fly in the face of him that throws them;" "Harm watch, harm catch;" "He that sows thorns, let him not walk barefoot;" "Even as I have seen, they that plough iniquity and sow wickedness reap the same."
2. The law of retribution, of which we see glimpses here, will be revealed in the experience of all men hereafter. On earth we see, as it were, an ear or two ripening to show what the crop will be like; but the harvest is yet to come, and none can hinder it or alter it. Let us not delay the sowing of good seed until the mandate is heard, "Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe." - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.