Posted by: rcottrill | April 8, 2013

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Words: Henry Alford (b. Oct. 7, 1810; d. Jan. 12, 1871)
Music: St. George’s Windsor, by George Job Elvey (b. Mar. 27, 1816; d. Dec. 9, 1873)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Alford called his hymn “After Harvest.” It originally had seven stanzas, of which four are now used. The tune, St. George’s Windsor, was named after the chapel royal at Windsor Castle. “Harvest Home,” as the phrase suggests, has to do with bringing in the harvest. Recognized mainly in Britain, it is a festival celebrating the end of harvest time, often including a feast.

CH-1) Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

The first stanza of Dean Alford’s 1844 hymn has to do with the literal harvest time, and a call to the people of God to praise Him for His faithfulness.

After the devastating flood of Noah’s day, the Lord had promised the regularity of the rolling seasons: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). When the Mosaic Law was instituted, there were several of religious festivals (or “feasts,” NKJV) particularly relating to the harvest.

¤ The Feast of Firstfruits came at the beginning of the barley harvest (the first grain to be brought in). It was marked by the presentation of a sheaf of grain to the priest, showing both gratitude to God, and the confidence that there was more to come (Lev. 23:10).

¤ The Feast of Harvest (also known as the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost) was celebrated at the beginning of the wheat harvest (Exod. 23:16a).

¤ The Feast of Ingathering (also called the Feast of Tabernacles), involving a week of celebration, came around mid-September to mid-October, at the end of the agricultural year (Exod. 23:16b).

Of course Christians should be thankful to God every day, in all circumstances (I Thess. 5:10; Heb. 13:15), but it’s also appropriate that we set aside a special day for showing our gratitude to God. North Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. In Canada, this day falls on the second Monday in October; in the United States it comes on the fourth Thursday in November.

There are only two of about three dozen parables the Lord Jesus told for which a full explanation is given. To His disciples, the Lord apparently gave more information (Mk. 4:34), but only the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-23), and the parable of the tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) are given full explanations in Scripture.

In the stanzas that follow CH-1, Henry Alford uses the harvest as a metaphor for the harvest of souls that will come at Christ’s return, basing his thoughts on the latter parable.

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” The servants said to him, “Do you want us then to go and gather them up?” But he said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13:24-30).

The “tares” are likely a weed called darnel, which looks a lot like wheat in the early stages of its growth. That’s significant to the meaning of the parable, that the Lord later explains (vs. 36-43).

Christ identified Himself as the sower in the parable (vs. 37). His field is the world, and the good seed represents believers, loyal subjects of His kingdom (vs. 38a). The tares picture those who belong to Satan, unbelievers (vs. 38b), though they may be religious, and make a profession of being followers of Christ. The point being made is that not everyone who is part of what can be broadly called Christendom is actually a born again child of God.

At the end, when Christ returns to reign, there will be a harvest. It’s then that the wheat will be separated from the tares. The unsaved will be condemned to eternal judgment (vs. 40), while believers will enter eternal blessing (vs. 43).

CH-2) All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

CH-3) For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

1) When was the last time you heard a message on eternal judgment (hell)?

2) What makes the difference whether a person belongs to the tares or the wheat (Jn. 3:16)?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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