Posted by: rcottrill | October 15, 2014

The Call for Reapers

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Words: James Oren Thompson (b. June 9, 1834; d. Sept. 28, 1917)
Music: James Bowman Overton Clemm (b. Feb. ___, 1855; d. Nov. 21, 1927)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This lovely, lilting missionary hymn, published in 1885, is the only one we have from James Thompson. James Clemm was the cousin of Virginia Clemm, the wife of author Edgar Allan Poe.

The hymn is based on two particular passages of Scripture. Particularly in the last verse, which describes the joy of workers returning with the harvest, we can see an allusion to Psalm 126:5-6.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

In the context, this psalm refers to the Jews returning to the Holy Land after the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity (vs. 1-2). There was great rejoicing in the return. However, they found the land in poor condition. The walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and their temple had been destroyed. And the fields, not cared for over many years, were a tangle of weeds. But, as they went to work, often in tears, they made progress, and eventually had the joy of seeing a crop gathered in.

A  secondary or illustrativ3e application of this text can be made to Christian workers today. Serving the Lord is not easy. There is difficult toil involved. But what a joy to see those whose lives bear fruit, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and their response to the Word of God.

A second passage, more directly relevant to service for Christ, is Matthew 9:37-38.

“Then He [Jesus] said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”

There are several things of note in that passage.

1) The Compassion of the Lord. His love for struggling humanity. Do we share His concern for the spiritual needs of those around us? It ought to motivate us to take action in His name. In another place, it says of Jesus, “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). The same should be said of us.

CH-1) Far and near the fields are teeming
With the waves of ripened grain;
Far and near their gold is gleaming
O’er the sunny slope and plain.

Lord of harvest, send forth reapers!
Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry;
Send them now the sheaves to gather
Ere the harvest time pass by.

2) The Custody of the Lord. Twice Jesus brings that to our attention. God is “the Lord of the harvest;” it is “His harvest.” It is not we who save souls, or build up believers. That is God’s work. But we are privileged to be instruments in His hands. We can be channels through whom His blessing can flow. What a privilege! As Paul says,

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase….Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers” (I Cor. 3:6-9).

3) The Command of the Lord. Christ could have directed His hearers to work in the harvest field. But they were already doing that. He had enlisted them to be His disciples. Yet they were so few. What they needed was more in the company of the committed to expand their ministry. How often do we remember, when we’re short of workers, to ask the Lord to provide them?

We have various ways we recruit workers in the church–and not every way is a good way! We may collar a willing person who is immature, or not gifted for the job (cf. I Tim. 3:6). We may try to be “lone rangers” and do it all ourselves. The need is great, and perhaps (in our view) urgent. But nothing is so urgent that we don’t have time to pray.

The Lord can prepare the workers needed, and give them a desire to be involved. Pray with the hymn writer, “Lord of harvest, send forth reapers!” Just be aware that sometimes–though not always–the Lord will call the one praying to be His servant in meeting the need. We may become part of the answer to our own prayers.

CH-2) Send them forth with morn’s first beaming,
Send them in the noontide’s glare;
When the sun’s last rays are gleaming,
Bid them gather everywhere.

CH-3) O thou, whom thy Lord is sending,
Gather now the sheaves of gold;
Heav’nward then at evening wending,
Thou shalt come with joy untold.

Questions:
1) What are the implications, since the harvest field in which we work is God’s?

2) Is there some need in your own church for which you could be praying for workers?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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