We Plow the Fields and Scatter

Harvest is here, and so begins our season of thanksgiving to the Lord of the harvest Himself!  Sights of combines, grain trucks, and emptying fields can direct our minds toward God and His love and care for us in so many different ways.

Consider this small sample of the many verses of Holy Scripture related to the harvest of grain:

  • And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. - Genesis 1:11-13

  • [God said to Noah after the Flood:] "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” - Genesis 8:22

  • "The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God." - Exodus 23:19

  • For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; - Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

  • [Jesus said, concerning the parable of the wheat and the tares]: “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." - Matthew 13:37-43

  • He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. - 2 Corinthians 9:10

Creation. God's providence. Offering thanksgiving to God. Judgement Day. The good fruit produced by the Word.  These are just a few of the doctrines the Holy Spirit teaches us in Scripture through the imagery and experience of the yearly harvest.

Not only does harvest time bring to our minds many great passages and teachings of Scripture; harvest also brings to our lips many great hymns of the Church!  There are four great hymns in our Lutheran Service Book in the "Harvest and Thanksgiving" section that you can be singing in the combine or as you watch the hoppers fill up from afar.  These are:
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come 
Sing to the Lord of Harvest 
For the Fruits of His Creation 
Now Thank We All Our God

I also want to share a few harvest hymns that risk becoming forgotten treasures of Lutheran history.  The first is the hymn To Thee, O Lord, Our Hearts We Raise, #573 in The Lutheran Hymnal.  This hymn moves beautifully from thanksgiving over the harvest of corn in front of us, to the firstfruits of the harvest of resurrection in Jesus Christ the Bread of Life, to the great harvest field of the New Creation on the Last Day.  Here are the lyrics:
To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise
     In hymns of adoration;
To thee bring sacrifice of praise
     With shouts of exultation.
Bright robes of gold the fields adorn,
     The hills with joy are ringing,
The valleys stand so thick with corn
     That even they are singing.

And now, on this our festal day,
     Thy bounteous hand confessing,
Upon thine altar, Lord, we lay
     The first-fruits of thy blessing;
By thee the souls of men are fed
     With gifts of grace supernal;
Thou who dost give us daily bread,
     Give us the bread eternal.

We bear the burden of the day,
     And often toil seems dreary;
But labor ends with sunset ray,
     And rest is for the weary;
May we, the angel-reaping o'er,
     Stand at the last accepted,
Christ's golden sheaves for evermore
     To garners bright elected.

O blessed is that land of God,
     Where saints abide for ever;
Where golden fields spread fair and broad,
     Where flows the crystal river:
The strains of all its holy throng
     With ours today are blending;
Thrice blessed is that harvest-song
     Which never hath an ending.

Next I want to share with you hymn 571 from TLH, What Our Father Does Is Well.  This harvest hymn is unique in that it is a hymn of thanksgiving set in the context of a disappointing harvest season.  The hymn reminds us that even when the Lord causes a year of low yields, He is still worthy of all honor, praise, and trust.  Here are the lyrics:
What our Father does is well:
     Blessed truth His children tell!
Tho' He send, for plenty, want,
     Tho' the harvest store be scant,
Yet we rest upon His love,
     Seeking better things above.

What our Father does is well.
     Shall the wilful heart rebel
If a blessing He withhold
     In the field or in the fold?
Is He not Himself to be
     All our store eternally?

What our Father does is well.
     Tho' He sadden hill and dell,
Upward yet our praises rise
     For the strength His Word supplies.
He has called us sons of God;
     Can we murmur at His rod?

What our Father does is well;
     May the tho't within us dwell!
Tho' nor milk nor honey flow
     In our barren Canaan now,
God can save us in our need,
     God can bless us, God can feed.

Therefore unto Him we raise
     Hymns of glory, songs of praise.
To the Father and the Son
     And the Spirit, Three in One,
Honor, might, and glory be
     Now and through eternity.

Lastly I'd like to share a hymn found outside of our Synod's hymnals, yet a popular song throughout the Christian Church.  That hymn is We Plow the Fields and Scatter.  I was first introduced to this hymn at the funeral service of Marv Hackbarth, a long-time agricultural worker and man of God.  This hymn confesses with simplicity and wisdom that the harvest we see before us is a direct result of God's almighty and loving hand working to sustain us and His creation.  Here are those lyrics:
We plow the fields and scatter
     the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
     by God’s almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
     the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes, and the sunshine,
     and soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us are sent from heav’n above.
     Then thank the Lord, oh, thank the Lord, for all His love.

He only is the Maker
     of all things near and far.
He paints the wayside flower,
     He lights the evening star.
The winds and waves obey Him,
     by Him the birds are fed;
much more to us, His children,
     He gives our daily bread. [Refrain]

We thank Thee, then, O Father,
     for all things bright and good,
the seed-time, and the harvest,
     our life, our health, our food.
Accept the gifts we offer
     for all Thy love imparts,
and what Thou most desirest:
     our humble, thankful hearts. [Refrain]

God be with you as you pray, praise, and give thanks to the Lord of the harvest this fall.  May God bless our farmers with a safe and bounteous harvest, and may God bless us all with faith in Jesus Christ so that we would be found worthy to join Him at the eternal harvest feast which shall have no end.

Pastor Thomas Cowell
+ Autumn, Anno Domini 2021 +
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Thomas Cowell