As fall approaches, it seems like only a natural time to talk about harvesting, but it's also where our journey through the Bible has us these days - in the growing parts of Isaiah, where the prophet has something to say on this subject. Namely, that even if you're a sinner, God will still let you plant and work the fields.
He just won't let you harvest them. (Isaiah 17)
It seems almost unfair, doesn't it? Most of us only undertake projects that we're sure about, in one way or another. None of us sets out to do evil, none of us sets out to fail. Before we even get going, we have some confidence about what we're doing; it's what inspires us to plant.
In fact, we're so certain about what we're doing that we'll even toil for it. We're willing to work the fields. We're willing to get our hands dirty. We're willing to sluck through the muck and the mud and the mire to bring about whatever it is we dream about, whatever we're envisioning.
For a lot of us, this even includes having already asked God about what we're supposed to be doing. We believe He's asked us to do something or even called us to do it, so we dive right in and go about it without checking our hearts first. Without cleansing our souls first.
For many others of us, our new ideas and projects are a way we're hoping to cleanse ourselves. We think that if we do this good work, if we throw ourselves into this good project, if God will favor what we are doing, then it will somehow wipe away our sin for us and we won't have to go through all that messy confession and repentance stuff. We can just show that we're a good person, and our minor lapses of the past will just disappear.
So we dive in, knowing that we're good people doing good things that will make us good and overshadow all of our bad. And God lets us do that.
But He doesn't let us reap the rewards of it if our hearts are not pure. If we're not clean.
What's up with that?
I think it's simple, really. I think God wants us to know what hope feels like. I think He wants to encourage us to be inspired by it. I think He wants us to understand how energizing it is, what it feels like to have something to work for, to put our hands to something, to labor for something we love. All of these are good and holy things. They aren't redeeming things; they are redeemed things. They don't save us from our sin, but they remind us what a life saved from our sin can be.
He wants us to want to do good. He wants us to get moving and contribute something to the world. He wants us to love our neighbors enough to make a difference for them. He wants us to have all of that.
He just doesn't want us to think we did it ourselves.
And that's the heart of sin - the false belief that we don't need God, that we're "good" people just fine without Him, that we can put our own plans in motion and reap the benefits of them. When God doesn't let us harvest our fields, it's because we've lost sight of the fact that our fields are His fields. That every good work comes from His hand, not ours.
But once we have this hold on hope, once we have this kick in our spirit, once we have our hands set to it and our hearts involved, He uses that to draw us back to Him. To remind us of His role in our plans...and our role in His. To bring us to that confession and repentance we so desperately try to avoid, so that we cling to Him the way the dirt clings under our fingernails.
He reminds us that our good work should also be a holy work. And when it is, would you just look at that harvest?