Growing up in Indiana, autumn was my favorite season. Autumn meant beautiful colors of changing leaves, raking those leaves into a pile and jumping in them, return to school and football season, and jacket weather. It meant the smells of wet leaves, of burning leaves, of new books, and of apple cider. Now that I live in northern Minnesota, I still love autumn, but I have to admit that it has a different context. Autumn now portends the arrival of a long winter. Autumn in Minnesota seems so short, and everyone knows that winter is just around the corner.
Every year when the fall solstice comes around, I think of a verse in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a book about a prophet begging and pleading with his nation to see what they are doing and repent of their ways. He recounts in Jeremiah 8 all of the things that God was doing to get their attention: sending armies, wild beasts, and famine. He then laments in verse 20: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Most agricultural areas understand the idea of sowing and reaping, of times of planting and harvest. Spring is a time for clearing the fields, breaking up the ground, and putting in seed. All summer the farmer tends to his crops, keeping out beasts, weeds, and disease. He watches his store get lower and lower all summer, but he knows that he will be able to replenish in the autumn. Then comes the time for harvest. It was always a time of celebration and joy.
Most of the time. For some, there were years that the rain was not abundant. A swarm of locusts decimated their crops. Marauding bands came through with their cattle and ate their produce. Disease shriveled their stalks into nothing. A farmer might look at his field at that point and say, “The harvest is past. The summer is ended. All my hopes were pinned on this moment, and now I know that we will not be saved.”
There is a time for planting, for watering, and for harvesting. The good times are for rejoicing, and using our energies to advance and get ahead. The worst thing to do when things are good is to relax and bask. There will be time for basking later, in harvest. There will be lean times when you will have nothing to do, and those are the times you can rest. Now, we must work. What a sad statement to come to the end of summer and realize that the best and most productive days are behind you, and now all that is left is the fruit of your labors. For Judah, the fruit of their labors was death for their wickedness.
America is in danger of reaping death for our wickedness. Our churches are in danger of reaping persecution for our apathy toward sin, of reaping rejection by culture for rejecting Spirit-led worship and preaching, of reaping hostility for our lack of love for one another. Physically, yes, summer is past. We are entering a time we are limited in what we can do. But while we still have our freedoms, still have the Word of God, and still can reach people, let us do so. Jesus said in John 9:4 “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Let work while it is day, while is summer, before the harvest is past.