Posted by: rcottrill | October 11, 2017

What Shall the Harvest Be?

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Words: Emily Sullivan Oakey (b. Oct. 8, 1829; d. May 11, 1883)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: American author Emily Oakey taught languages and English literature at the Albany Female Academy (in Albany, New York). Physically frail, Oakey only lived to the age of fifty-four, and it’s said she never enjoyed a single day of good health. She wrote a great deal for various newspapers and magazines, but she also authored this interesting gospel song.

T here are some big payoffs in gambling. Many millions of dollars. But there are big losses too–which is another kind of payoff. And, by its very nature, gambling always produces far more losers than winners. One Australian media tycoon lost twenty-eight million dollars during a three week span.

However, the word “payoff” can be used in a more general way, to speak of the consequences or the outcome of some decision or action. It can be applied to the return on an investment, whether it’s an investment of money, or of time and effort. An autumn harvest is a kind of payoff for all the work involved in farming, so is a college degree that follows several years of hard study.

In the Bible, sowing and reaping is used as a picture of sharing the Scriptures with others, especially as that relates to the gospel, the good news that Christ died on the cross to pay our debt of sin (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 1:16). The Parable of the Sower, told by the Lord Jesus, pictures the Word of God being sown in various kinds of soil. Each represents the condition of a human heart and its receptivity to the Word (Lk. 8:4-15). And though human beings pass on the message, it’s God Himself who causes the seed to take root and grow (cf. I Cor. 3:6).

Emily Oakey’s song, based in part on the Parable of the Sower, says:

CH-1) Sowing the seed by the daylight fair
Sowing the seed by the noonday glare,
Sowing the seed by the fading light,
Sowing the seed in the solemn night:
O what shall the harvest be?

Sown in the darkness or sown in the light,
Sown in our weakness or sown in our might,
Gathered in time or eternity,
Sure, ah, sure will the harvest be.

CH-2) Sowing the seed by the wayside high,
Sowing the seed on the rocks to die.
Sowing the seed where the thorns will spoil,
Sowing the seed in the fertile soil:
O what shall the harvest be?

Now, consider one life touched by this song. Walter O. Lattimore learned to drink in the army, and by 1876 he had become a confirmed drunkard, separated from his wife and child, and enslaved by alcohol. Some words of Shakespeare come to mind: “Oh, that men should put a thief into their mouths to steal away their brains!” But that was his state one evening when, somewhat intoxicated, he went through a wrong door, by mistake, and found himself in the Moody Tabernacle, in Chicago.

Dwight L. Moody was an evangelist greatly used of God on both sides of the Atlantic. Though not gifted in music himself, he made good use of it in his meetings. On the occasion described, Moody’s soloist Ira Sankey was singing when Mr. Lattimore accidentally entered the building–singing the words of Emily Oakey’s song.

When he turned to leave, Lattimore was arrested by Sankey’s words. They seemed to describe his miserable condition, and their message penetrated his darkened soul. (This is a stanza not currently found on the Cyber Hymnal.)

3) Sowing the seed of a lingering pain,
Sowing the seed of a maddened brain,
Sowing the seed of a tarnished name,
Sowing the seed of eternal shame:
O what shall the harvest be?

The man headed for the nearby saloon, as he’d intended, but those words echoed in his brain, and finally brought him back to the Tabernacle, where he put his faith in the Saviour. The Lord broke the shackles that bound him, and his life was transformed.

Lattimore was later reunited with his family, and began helping Moody in his meetings. Then, encouraged to study for the ministry, he eventually served twenty years as the pastor of a church in Evanston, Illinois. Lattimore also wrote a number of gospel songs himself. One of them is a kind of testimony to his own experience.

CH 1) Long in darkness we have waited,
For the shining of the light;
Long have felt the things we hated,
Sink us still in deeper night.

Blessèd Jesus, loving Saviour!
Tender, faithful, strong and true,
Break the fetters that have bound us,
Make us in Thyself anew.

God’s Word had borne abundant fruit in his life. What a payoff! (For more of this hymn and a lengthy–and sometimes quite amazing–biography of Walter Lattimore, see here.)

1) What have you done in past years that has borne significant fruit (good or bad) in your life now?

2) What are you investing your time and energy in, now, that you hope will bear good fruit in the future?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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