Online Worship for Harvest Festival, Sunday October 24, 2021
Sermon for Trinity Twenty-One – Harvest Festival 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises... (2 Peter 1:2-4a).
Genesis 8:20–22 (NKJV)
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. 22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
It happened on May 14th, 2003, and some of you witnessed the devastation. On that day that the earthen fuse plug spillway of the dam failed, releasing 8-9 billion gallons of water from the Silver Lake Basin into the Dead River, forcing the evacuation of 1,800 people. While no fatalities were reported, the damage was in excess of 100 million dollars.
We have all seen pictures and video of the devastation that can be caused by water. Tsunamis, Flashfloods and Hurricanes can wipe the works of humankind away leaving nothing but death, debris and mud. When we see the damage caused by these things we wonder where does one begin cleaning up such a mess?
We can’t even begin to imagine what Noah witnessed when he disembarked the Ark on the heights of Mount Ararat. If tsunamis and localized flooding can wipe away years of human effort, the devastation left behind by a world-wide flood must have defied description. There must have been mud and devastation everywhere.
So here we sit, more than 6,000 years later in our little church built on a rock near the Great Lake called Superior. Today we celebrate the Harvest of the fruits of the earth, certain that this won’t be the Last Harvest.
How can we be so sure? Our certainty springs from the unchanging promises of our God in His unchanging Word. Therefore, like Noah, we offer up our thanks to Him in Faith. We treasure His Promises as we look forward to the final harvest.
May God the Holy Spirit bless our study of this Scripture so that when the ‘doomsayers’ of our modern age suggest that this world is going to come to a cataclysmic end because of climate change caused by humankind we may dismiss it. The end of this world will come as the result of an act of God, not because of an act of humankind or nature.
Sanctify us by the Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth. Amen.
It’s not a pleasant thought, but let’s imagine for a moment that your home burns to the ground this evening. Everyone gets out alive and the fire department arrives and puts out the blaze but everything is lost. Every picture album. Every bit of clothing but your pajamas.
What is the first thing you’d do? We’d probably call the kids and let them know that we are ok. We might make our way to a local hotel to spend the night. We might even awaken our insurance agent and break the news.
Would we fall to our knees a safe distance from the smoldering embers and give thanks to God for all the years and all the good times we’d spent in the home? Would we sing praise to Him for preserving our lives from the fire?
I’d like to think that would be my first reaction, but I know I’m kidding myself. I would be an emotional wreck, because I’m human. It would take me some time for me to come to my senses, to gain the proper perspective and then to give thanks to God.
Which is why the actions of Noah upon leaving the Ark are so...amazing. The FIRST thing that Noah did upon disembarking the Ark was to build an altar to the LORD. There was no command of God. There were no specifications given by the Almighty...like with the Ark and its dimensions.
It isn’t only the altar, it’s what Noah then offered up to God in a devastated world. The Spirit of God reveals to us the details, because there was no newspaper or television reporter to document it. There were only eight living human beings left on the face of the earth.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Noah’s first response was not to fall to his knees and kiss the dry ground. He did not instruct his sons to hurry off and survey the surrounding region.
Noah prepared to give thanks to God. He built the first altar in recorded human history. He then took one of every clean species of animal and bird and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD on the altar.
Let me say that again. In a devastated and depopulated world, Noah did what seems positively INSANE to us. He took from his own food, from the VERY LIMITED food source left on the face of a devastated earth and burnt it up. He offered it as an offering, a gift of thanksgiving to God.
Noah wasn’t a nut. Noah’s gift was a gift of faith. Human reason says that if you want to survive, then you better ration what little you have. Noah trusted in the LORD to continue to provide. He gave back to GOD because He confidently believed that the same God who delivered him from certain death...would still preserve his life.
The Israelites would do a similar thing at the beginning of very harvest. After planting seed and praying for rain and watching the seed germinate and grow and produce fruit...they didn’t hoard the first ripe fruits for themselves and hide them away for the winter. They took of the First-fruits, the first ripe fruit and grain, and gave it back to the LORD. It was to be a statement of both thanksgiving and faith. They gave thanks for the harvest and trusted that God would also give them the rest of the harvest.
While God doesn’t require ‘first-fruits’ or ‘tithing’ of us, the principle still stands that when God blesses us, we first give back to Him. We thank Him for his gifts and we trust him to continue providing what we need to live. It’s fitting that we should gather the fruits of the earth and place them here before the Altar on this Harvest Festival.
Whenever we bring our offerings to Him, we do so according to the principles set down in His Word. We are to give in thanksgiving for our God’s loving rescue of us. All our offerings are to be an act of faith, a gift of love prompted by what God has done for us in Christ, as it is written (1 Corinthians 16:2):
2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
We are not to be ‘scrooge-like’ in our giving or tight-fisted. Rather, we are to give cheerfully in faith, as it is written (2 Corinthians 9:7):
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
After all, it wasn’t what Noah gave, but that He gave it in faith (like Abel) that made it pleasing to God.
21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
The LORD accepted Noah’s gift – not because of its lavish nature – but because it was given in faith. He also accepts our gifts for Jesus’ sake when they are given in faith. Whether we view them as large or small matters not; what matters is that we give them in faith, trusting in the LORD Jesus.
God graciously accepted Noah’s gift. He wasn’t required to accept it or to offer further blessing...but He did. The Promises that God made to Noah in these words aren’t only for Noah, but also for us. We are certain that there will never again be a world-wide flood that will destroy every living thing. We can be sure of it, not because of Noah’s offering, but because of God’s Promise.
A world-wide flood didn’t eradicate the problem of sin. Even though the Scripture declares that Noah was ‘righteous’ he wasn’t righteous because of his own actions, but because God accounted him as righteous by faith. Noah, his wife and family were still sinful human beings. They were still descended of a fallen Adam. The imagination of the heart of humankind is wicked from youth, indeed from conception.
Don’t misunderstand these words -- Noah’s offering didn’t change God’s heart. God always was gracious (He saved the sinner, Noah and his family). It was pure grace, a quality in God that moved him to have mercy on sinners, to be patient with us and to make plans to save us from the sin that infects us and the punishment we have earned and deserved.
God has mercy on us because He is gracious. He doesn’t do it because of what we put in those bags and take to the bank. He doesn’t do it because of our potential. He does it because He is merciful.
This won’t be the Last Harvest Festival, because God promises that He will continue to provide our needs. As long as he keeps this world spinning, He promises to continue providing until that great and final harvest.
22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat,
Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”
How long will this earth remain? People have been asking that question since the dawn of time, but God hasn’t fixed a date for curious humanity. Instead, He calls upon us to be ready for it every day. We are assured that there will be a Final Harvest, an end for this broken earth.
We are sure of it because we are told and can see it happening today (2 Peter 3:3-7, 10):
“...scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Even as God once judged the world by means of the Flood, so God will once more Judge this world by fire, on the Day His Son returns from Heaven, in His Time. While the earth keeps on spinning at His command, God has promised that seasons will continue until He ends it, until His Son, our Lord Jesus returns on the clouds of heaven to retrieve all those who have trusted in Him.
He comes to judge the world and retrieve his people. But until then this world will keep on spinning, this final verse literally says so. Moreover:
There will be a time for seeds to be planted, and a time for their fruits to be harvested.
There will be times of cold and heat, of winter and summer.
The sun will continue to rise and set.
The end of this world will be an act of God, a decision of God in His Time to fulfill His purposes and His promises. There will be no earth destroying asteroid. The earth will not be flooded by melting icecaps. The earth will remain as long as the Creator supports it, so that His Gospel may go out into the world and save sinners (Matthew 24:14) ...and then the end will come.
In a day when so many suggest that humankind is in control of this world and its future, we are reminded that all things remain in the capable hands of our Creator. He has plans for us and this earth. We need to keep His plans and His Word in mind in this age of doomsayers.
We know what’s going to happen. We need not live-in fear, but instead ought to treasure His Promises (2 Peter 3:11-13):
11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Unless Christ returns, this won’t be the Last Harvest or the Last Harvest Festival. We therefore offer up our thanks to Him each day in faith and treasure His Promises looking forward to the Great and Final Harvest (Psalm 67:5-7):
“Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us, And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.”