Knysna Methodist Church

31 October 2021

KMC – 31.10.2021 – Notes

Harvest Festival: A Celebration of the Goodness of God
God Himself inaugurated Harvest Festival. In Exodus He gave clear instructions to Moses to pass on to the Hebrews about how they were to handle the harvest and give thanks to Him for His provision.

Leviticus 23:14
You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. When God gave these instructions to the Hebrews they were still in the desert, but He described the Promised Land for them, together with the crops they would produce when they were settled there:

Deuteronomy 8:7-8
For the LORD our God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated the first harvest of the year in the month of Aviv (March/April), when the barley was just beginning to ripen. God instructed people they should not eat any of the current year’s crops until they had offered the first fruits of it to Him. According to one commentary, this festival is no longer celebrated in Rabbinic Judaism.

Exodus 12:17-20
“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” God told the people they should leave the edges of the fields and anything that had been forgotten for poor people who would follow the harvesters and glean what they could find. (This is what Ruth was doing in a field belong to Boaz as she worked behind the harvesters.)

Leviticus 23:22
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.

The Feast of Harvest which is also known as Pentecost (50 days) follows in the month of Sivan (May/June) is still commemorated for the spring harvests. It celebrates the first fruits of the harvest of grain, mainly barley and wheat and commemorates the origin of the people of Israel when Yahweh gave the Covenant to Moses. For Christians, Pentecost is known as the birth date of the Church and celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit and the New Covenant.

Exodus 23:16-17
“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
The third festival is the Festival of In-gathering which is celebrated in the month of Tishri (September / October) and focuses on the harvest of fruit – especially grapes and olives.

Leviticus 23:33-39
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work. (These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing food offerings to the LORD—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.) ‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest. In addition, the people were instructed to build temporary shelters at this time, which they were to live in for the seven-day duration of the feast in memory of the time when they lived in temporary shelters in the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

Exodus 23:17b
Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD. Every Jewish adult male who lived within 24 kilometres of Jerusalem was obliged to travel to the city to celebrate these three festivals. This accounts for the number of people gathered in Jerusalem over Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and the Church came into being. Jesus Himself used the harvest as a symbol of His call to people to spread the Gospel. He spoke to the disciples about the urgency of gathering in the harvest. His comments are mentioned by three of the four Gospel writers. This is Matthew’s version of the teaching.

Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The practice of the Harvest Festival in the Christian Church was mentioned by Origen and Tertullian, who were theologians in the third century. The gift of the Holy Spirit was considered to be the first fruits of the New Covenant between Jesus and His Church. The format was adapted over the centuries, and the current day practice seems to have been inaugurated in Cornwall in 1843 by a local minister who invited his congregation to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest. It is the practice to bring fresh produce (often purchased rather than home grown these days) to the church and decorate the altar with fruit and vegetables. Today tins and bottles are included in this offering and the produce collected is passed on to people in need. As in the early days of this practice the goal is to give thanks to God for His provision and to remind us that not everyone has as much as we might have.

Points to Ponder
• How relevant do you believe the Old Testament is in today’s world?
• Do we need to obey God’s commands to give thanks and to share what we have with those less fortunate as ourselves, as laid down in the Old Testament? Why/why not?
• What are you grateful for at this point in time? How do you thank God for these blessings?
• Jesus spoke of the fields being ‘white unto harvest’. What does this mean to you today?
• Who is your harvest? How are you harvesting it?
• What does Harvest Festival mean to you? Briefly share a Harvest Festival service you remember if you have attended one before.
• What did God say to you at this week’s Harvest Festival service? How has it impacted your life?
• What action is God calling you to take as a result of the service this week?

Harvest Seasons of Ancient Israel

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