The Law of the Harvest

The flood had done its work and the earth had been devastated. The ark had rested upon the mountain and Noah and his family stepped out to see the devastated wilderness before them wondering what lay ahead. The Lord spoke to them in Genesis 8:21 and 22 NKJV saying, “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. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.’ ”

The first principle of the law of the harvest is the principle of faith. Imagine how much faith it took for Noah to believe what God said. Every living thing, man and beast, had gone out of the ark, but there was still something very precious remaining in the ark: seed. What would they do with that seed? If they decided to eat it, they would survive for a while. If they planted it and it did not grow, the human race would come to its end right at that point. Would they believe God and bury that precious seed in the earth and believe that it would grow and provide food for the family, just as God said?

Seed was the most precious thing in the ark. Have you considered that no seed is sown in knowledge, but rather in faith? Today, the most precious thing in all the storage houses and warehouses of America is still seed. Automobile factories could close and all of the lots be emptied of cars; steel mills and textile factories could close down. In fact, all industries could cease to produce, and we’d still get along. But if there is no seed, then mankind is finished. The most precious thing in all America today is seed; without it, there would be no food.

Remember, seed is sown in faith, not knowledge, so every time you plant a seed you are expressing your faith that seedtime and harvest will not cease. California grows one-third of all the fruit and one-fourth of all the vegetables that are eaten in the whole of America. The state also grows one-fourth of all the vegetables that are eaten in the 50 states. Ninety percent of the apricots, dates, figs, grapes, lemons, plums, dried prunes, walnuts, broccoli, avocadoes, nectarines, olives and almonds are grown in California.

What would happen to America if the farmers of California lost faith in sowing seed? What if they thought seed was too expensive, not worth the investment unless they know it was going to grow? The government would get itself together, all the way up to the president, who would call the governor asking what is going on in California. The governor would tell the president that the farmers have lost faith in whether the seed will grow, so they won’t plant until they know for sure. The president would insist that the governor find a way to get the farmers to plant the seed. But just how do you prove that a seed will grow? There is absolutely no way to prove it.

Every seed that has ever been planted, has been planted in faith that seedtime and harvest will not cease. Early pioneers carried seed in their wagons across the country so they could plant it when they reached their new home. One man, an apple producer from the East, wanted to move out West. He had developed some excellent apples, so he took a wagon, covered the whole bed with dirt and planted the apple seedlings in the dirt. He nurtured them all the way across the plains, finally settling close to Portland, Oregon, where he started the apple industry in the Northwest that still thrives there today.

The second principle is brought to view in Psalms 126:5, 6 NKJV: “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.” This is the principle of inconvenience. What this means is there is no easy way, no easy time, no easy place to sow a seed. If you’re not willing to accept the inconvenience, there will be no harvest. Seed sowing is not easy. Ask anyone who was raised on a farm and they’ll testify to that.

I remember well springtime on the farm. The tractor was used to work the fields, but the garden plot was too small for the tractor, so the soil had to be turned with a shovel or spade. Once the soil was turned, a rake was used to make it smooth, then you would use the hoe to make furrows in the ground. For tiny seeds the furrow would be shallow and once planted, the furrow would be closed by hand, with just a little dirt; otherwise, it would kill the seeds. The same process was followed for the larger seeds, but as you pull the hoe down the row, the furrows are deeper. Once these seeds are planted down the row, the hoe is used to pull the dirt back over to cover the seeds.

To plant potatoes, the potato is cut into sections with at least one growing eye sprout on each section. The sections are loaded into a bucket or a bag and carried down the row. To dig the hole for the potato section, you used a spade pushing it deep into the soil and rocking it back and forth. A section of potato is dropped into the resulting hole, the spade removed, and the dirt packed down over the potato. This is repeated for every potato section planted.

All that digging and turning the soil and dragging the hoe back and forth from one end of the garden plot to the other begins to make you feel all twisted around and makes your muscles ache. And burying that spade deep into the soil and rocking it back and forth and packing it back down with your foot only adds to the ache.

Planting tomatoes is harder. Tomato plants are delicate and must be handled with great care. If you were planting a whole field of tomatoes, you could use a tractor or a team to create the furrow, but you would still have to handle the plants by hand. Once the furrow has been made, the tomato plant is placed carefully into the soil, gently gathering earth around it with your hands. You then move on placing one plant after another into the ground.

It doesn’t take long to begin to feel that all this bending and standing is hard on the back and maybe a waste of time and energy, so you stay bent over until finally even that begins to cause an ache and you end up on your hands and knees crawling down each row until you just have to go to the rag box in the house and find rags to tie around your knees. Can you imagine the amount of crawling you can do working on a farm? Miles and miles on your hands and knees. There’s just no easy way to sow a seed. If you do not accept the principle of inconvenience, you will never have a harvest.

The third principle of the law of the harvest is brought to view in 2 Corinthians 9:6 KJV – the principle of apparent waste. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.

While teaching at Atlantic Union College, I decided to look for a small church not far from the college to do some seed sowing. I found one about 50 miles away in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It was a small church with seven elderly members. I took some students with me to the Haverhill Church to see if we could get something going. We gathered the members together and laid out our plan to do outreach in the community, maybe pass out some literature. But the members said they had tried to hand out literature about ten years before and it didn’t work.

Let me ask you, how much success would a farmer have if he sowed seed once in ten years? All nature testifies with a resounding voice on this subject. If you could ask an oak how many acorns it drops in one year to make sure another oak tree grows, what do you suppose would be its response? That tree might say 10,000 every year.  Friends, “He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth abundantly shall reap also abundantly.”

My wife had a rose bush in our front yard. I asked her how many roses she thought that bush typically produced. She said probably 100 three or four times a year. Let’s do some calculating. The rose bush produces four or five hundred flowers each year and every flower becomes a seed pod with at least 30 or 40 seeds in it. How many seeds is this one rose bush producing every year to make sure that another rose bush grows?

Count the seeds in an apple. I’ve been told there are eight. I talked to a man who had an apple tree in his yard. He gave it very tender care and said that in one year he got 52 bushels of apples off that one tree. If there are about 40 apples in a bushel, that’s more than 2,000 apples and 2,000 apples multiplied by eight seeds will make 16,000 seeds from that one apple tree just to make sure that the apple trees don’t die out. All nature testifies with a single voice and the principle of apparent waste dictates that you must sow many, many, many seeds.

There is a difference in seed sowing in the ground and seed sowing in human hearts. The ground stays there. You put seeds in the ground, and you can watch what happens. But you can’t do that when you’re sowing seed in human hearts. You can put a seed in someone’s heart today, but they may not stay put; in fact, you might never see them again. But that doesn’t invalidate seed sowing. Remember, the principle is of apparent waste, not of actual waste. It’s not wasteful to sow that many seeds because the seeds are being watched over by the Holy Spirit and the Lord has promised that seedtime and harvest will not cease.

The final principle is found in Matthew 13:1–8 KJV, where we read the well-known parable of the sower who went forth to sow. “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”

One day at Princeton University a little white-haired man went to the blackboard and carefully wrote down, “E=mc2.” And he stood back and looked at that for a while and he said, I think that’s it. That formula produced the hydrogen bomb, the atom bomb and nuclear fission. Powerful, formula. I’d like to suggest that Matthew 13:1–8 contains a formula greater than that, the One=3030.

We will use the lowest factor that Jesus gave, the thirtyfold. Jesus said, the one seed that grows will produce thirtyfold. Take a piece of paper and lay it on a large table. In the center of that piece of paper make a dot to represent the one seed that grew. Around that dot make thirty more dots and that’s the principle of one equals thirty. But remember, this is to the 30th power because every one of those 30 seeds is a good seed. We’re ignoring the ones that are wasted because you scattered your seed like the seeds of autumn and so you have one good seed in every one of those 30 positions. Make 30 dots around each of those 30 dots. Now you have 900. And then you make 30 dots around every one of the 900 dots; now you have 27,000. Then you make 30 dots around every one of those 27,000 dots and you come up with something like 810,000. That is the principle of enormous power.

You may not see it because man doesn’t stay in one place all the time, so you have to go by faith; you have to believe that the Lord of the harvest has guaranteed that when the seed is sown there will be wonderful fruit. For example –

A Seventh-day Adventist lady had some tracts and while shopping at the little grocery store in the small town where she lived she said to the grocer, “You might like to read this” and she lay the tract on the counter. The grocer glanced at it, but wasn’t interested. When the next customer came by with her bag of groceries, he picked up the tract and put it in her bag. She got home and emptied the bag and said, “Where did that thing come from? Well, it’s some kind of a religious tract. I’m not interested in it, but my neighbor across the fence is a religious man.” He was out working in his backyard, so she went out and leaned across the fence, “Would you like to have this, neighbor? It’s a religious tract of some kind.”

“Sure, sure, I’d like to have it.” He read it. Long story short, he was converted by that tract and subsequently, not only did he become a Seventh-day Adventist, but he also became a Seventh-day Adventist minister. His name was Leo Wheeler and through his ministry W.H. Smith and another man named Ashton, came into the faith and they also became Seventh-day Adventist ministers. Through their preaching, a man named Charles Longacre came into the faith and became a Seventh-day Adventist minister. For years he was the Secretary of Religious Liberty in the General Conference relating to the congressmen on questions of religious liberty. Under his preaching two other men became Seventh-day Adventists and became union presidents and one of the men became the president of the Inter-American Division, and he brought in others, seven ministers, two union presidents, one division president and one general conference secretary that we know about, and many, many others we don’t know anything about. That’s what one tract did, just one good seed.

Some years ago, in Colorado on the western slope hill country, two young Seventh-day Adventist ministers went into a small town, pitched a tent and held evangelistic meetings. Attendance was poor. Nobody decided to be baptized. There were only a couple of interested ladies left behind when they left. As they made their way down the mountain, they felt defeated and discouraged even discussing going into other lines of work. They left that small town, but the Holy Spirit stayed back to nurture the seeds sown.

One of the interested ladies was Mrs. Johns. She had two sons, Varner and Alger. Those two sons went on to pastor some of our largest churches for many years.

A gentleman in the town was concerned about Mrs. Johns after she began to keep the Sabbath. So he took his Bible one Sunday afternoon and went to her house to straighten her out. It wasn’t long before he was keeping the Sabbath. He sold his lumber yard, got what training he could get and became a Seventh-day Adventist minister. His name was Vandeman. He had a son named George, George Vandeman. All of that came from what appeared to be apparent waste up in the hills of Colorado.

I had the opportunity at a northern California camp meeting to talk to Alger Johns. I wanted to verify this tent meeting story. Alger Johns told me I didn’t know the half of it. Between him and George Vandeman they were able to name 14 individuals who through the influence of that little tent meeting became Seventh-day Adventist ministers. You see the principle of enormous power goes on and on.

On a smaller scale, I am reminded of my own mother’s experience. She married my father, who was superintendent of a logging camp in Falls City, Oregon. One Sabbath afternoon, two boys about 12 years old, came to their door passing out tracts about the Sabbath. My mother took one. Being a very devout Methodist, she instantly recognized that it was mistaken and sat down with her Bible to prove it wrong. Before very long she was keeping the Sabbath and while that didn’t make very much difference for a while, by the time she died at 88 years of age, there were 30 of her family keeping the Sabbath. And because of her, through my evangelistic work, a few more than 5,000 people were brought to the truth. Some of them became pastors and have spread the message. All from two little boys handing out tracts in a small town in Oregon.

“The good seed sown may lie some time in a cold, worldly, selfish heart, without evidencing that it has taken root; but frequently the Spirit of God operates upon that heart, and waters it with the dew of heaven, and the long-hidden seed springs up and finally bears fruit to the glory of God.” Evangelism, 64.

Years ago, I was doing evangelistic work in the Hawaiian Islands. We pitched a tent on the Makaha shore. There were probably 35 persons baptized as a result of that series. But there was a young college student spending the summer out on the islands. He came to the meetings, talked to us a great deal and asked a lot of questions. I really wanted to see this young man serving the Lord. But he disappeared, apparently back to the States. I assumed I would never see him again.

Twelve years later found me teaching in the Bible department at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. There was an evangelist in Vermont whom I knew slightly. It was near Christmas one year when he walked into my office and asked me if I remembered a young fellow who had come to the meetings in Makaha, Hawaii. I did remember him, I said. The evangelist told me the young man was now a Doctor of Science at the University of Vermont. The evangelist related that as he talked with the man, he asked if this was his first exposure to the truth. The man replied, “No, twelve years ago I spent a summer in the Hawaiian Islands and there was a fellow named Larson who was preaching in a tent on the Makaha Reef and that’s where I first heard the Adventist message.” It took twelve years for that seed to grow. But that young man, his wife and their 12-year-old daughter were all baptized together.

By faith, we must accept the fact that God is doing something we cannot see, but one day we will see the whole harvest and we will be astonished.

We read in Christ’s Object Lessons, 38: “A sower from a higher world, Christ came to sow the seeds of truth.” A humbling work for the King of the universe to come to sow seeds in the hearts of men.

“Christ had come, not as a king, but as a sower; not for the overthrow of kingdoms, but for the scattering of seed; not to point His followers to earthly triumphs and national greatness, but to a harvest to be gathered after patient toil and through losses and disappointments.” Ibid., 35.

“The same laws that govern earthly seed sowing govern the sowing of the seeds of truth.” Ibid., 33.

Remember the four principles of the harvest:

  • Act in faith. No seed is ever planted in knowledge; it’s always done with faith in the word of the Lord.
  • There is no easy way, no easy time, no easy place to sow a seed.
  • Apparent waste. All nature says with a single voice, scatter the seed everywhere, the harvest is sure.
  • Enormous power. The Holy Spirit nurtures the seeds planted and they grow exponentially.

Dr. Ralph Larson completed forty years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist church, as pastor, evangelist, departmental secretary, and college and seminary teacher. His last assignment before retiring was chairman of the Church and Ministry Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary Far East. Upon retirement, he continued his service, diligently working with and giving counsel to those within the historic movement.