The Harvest is the end of the age (Mark 13:39).
“Work while it is yet day, for the night is coming when no man can work.” My dear friend Marty Shoub heard these words in a dream one night when he was here in Israel working on team at Tents of Mercy. You’ve likely heard them too, because Yeshua made this statement about Himself, in John 9:4. He was anticipating the “night” of His vicious execution on our behalf. But, along with many others, I’ve always applied this verse to our generation, hearing in “night” a reference to the end times.
At a January Bible conference on last days’ prophecy, we spent long and fascinating hours poring over numerous passages to discern the signs. What must happen before Yeshua comes back? How does today’s geo-political landscape compare with Ezekiel 38 and 39? I liked what the study leader, popular author Joel Rosenberg, said. Rosenberg has sold 1.5 million thriller novels, all set in the end times and interwoven with biblical prophetic elements. At the end of all the discussions (filed as 25 pages of notes in my laptop!), he said “So what?” If we are nearing the end of this world’s systems, what should we do about it, personally? With all due respect to the scholars and experts, that was exactly what preoccupied my thoughts during the sessions: “How then shall we live?” That’s the question Peter asks in his second epistle, referring to the fact that “all these things will be dissolved” (2 Peter 3:11).
What should be my priorities, if indeed the end is near? And even if end time pundits are off a bit and Yeshua does not return for another hundred years, my biological clock is running. I am now in my 70s. I know, it’s hard to believe, but tempus fugit (time flies). So, I’m facing the “m” word … mortality. It’s gone by so fast; I hope to have another 15, 20 years but I heard about a childhood friend that passed away in his 50’s. None of us knows our own day or hour of departure. “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). What am I doing with the limited days allotted me to do good on the earth?
He who Reaps Gathers for Eternal Life
Yeshua’s conversation with the woman at the well comes to mind. “Look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest. And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:35,36). These verses have gripped me ever since I was a brand new believer, still doing the hippie farming thing in the mountains of New Mexico. We worked hard from the spring thaw on through until the ground itself began absorbing the frost. First, we cleared the fields of rock and scrub oak, then plowed, disced, and harrowed the earth. Seed planting was followed by months of irrigating, mulching, weeding and cultivating. Finally, as long as a freak hail storm or some weird bug infestation hadn’t destroyed our crops first, there came the long awaited harvest. Experiencing a harvest after all that, helps me grasp God’s picturing the end of the age as a final harvest.
“Gathering fruit for eternal life“, “Rescue those who are perishing“, “Those who turn many to righteousness (will shine) like the stars forever and ever“, “At the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up“. All of these Scriptures point to the everlasting reward and satisfaction of having used our time here on earth to bring people to a saving knowledge of Yeshua. So why don’t I spend more time doing it?
I’m busy. I’m “putting out fires.” I’m trying to catch up on undone tasks. People are not always receptive. It’s an entirely new concept for Israeli Jews, so it’s awkward to engage. Momentum carries me away from sharing my faith with new people, not toward it. These factors are all true, but they do not justify my neglect of the harvest, especially when there is “ripe fruit” all around me, dropping to the ground – about to spoil.
How can I Prepare for the Harvest?
So, what can we do to smash the idol of indifference and re-orient for harvest? We need much transformation in order to fully enter the fields which God is already ripening. A great harvest is foretold by Israel’s prophets, timed to occur following our return from exile in the latter days. These are those days, but that harvest has barely begun. That is why I believe God’s focus is Preparation for the Harvest. Here are four keys to that preparation, as I understand their importance.
1 Priestly Intercession
It is one of Heaven’s paradoxes that reaching out to the lost begins by reaching in to God. If I am to bring life to others, I need a personal revival, drawing me to the throne of God, where His passionate love for the lost is found. “Let the priests who minister to the Lord, weep … and let them say ‘Spare your people, O God‘” (Joel 2:17). “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy” (Psalm 126:5).
2 Relief to the Poor and Needy
“Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). How can Israeli society, or any society, know that we really “have the goods”? “By their fruit you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). We have got to bring relief to the painful lives of the poor and the outcast. Throughout Israel, wherever Messianic believers (usually with substantial aid from believers in the nations) are assisting those in poverty, prostitution, bondage to drugs and alcohol – hearts are opening and the stigmas about Yeshua are falling away.
3 Release of the Spirit’s Gifts and Power
“You shall receive power when the Spirit comes upon you and you shall be witnesses” (Acts 1:8). This vital dimension – God’s Kingdom breaking through – is exactly what He promises Israel at the end of the age. Why? Because history and modern skepticism have erected a thick wall between the Redeemer and His own nation. If the apostles’ generation needed signs and wonders to open Israel’s eyes to Yeshua’s credentials as Messiah, how much more does our generation!
4 Involvement with People Outside the Believing Community
We need much broader involvement in society, both in Israel and wherever we live. It’s time to break down the “Messianic ghetto” walls that separate us from the rest of our people. What will that look like? It will include opening our home to spend time with neighbors, taking time to enjoy conversation with shop-keepers, pausing while walking along the street to ask if someone needs help. It will entail joining clubs or attending school and community functions with a readiness to serve. In this way relationships will unfold, creating a bridge with the community around us. Yeshua described us this way: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). It’s time to shine.
Marty was fired up to pray, the morning after his “the night is coming” dream. His passion for the harvest was catching. As we cried out to the Lord of the Harvest in early morning prayer, something was happening in our hearts. Our busy-ness, distractions, and preoccupation with inessentials were being washed away in the river of His persistent compassion and unrelenting mercy. I long for this to continue. May the anointing of the Ruach rest upon us, to radiate Yeshua’s life and draw people to Him wherever we go.