Biblical Agriculture: The Preparation

29 05 2012

If asked what were the steps before planting the seed, I would have confidently answered plowing the soil. This is only partially correct. The is much need preparation before the plow even hits the dirt.

Do not mistake the planning and preparation of the soil as a sure sign that the crop will grow. A great sign that we serve a merciful Lord is the rain that falls. All is in vain if the rain does not fall. It’s important to have a good understanding of rain to interpret the importance of the preparation.

Some useful Scripture on Rain:

Joel 2:23- “Rejoice…For He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, the early and latter rain as before.

Matthew 5:45-”…For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” IMPORTANT NOTE: I have always heard this verse in an example of a negative connotation, but rain is a good thing. This is God’s mercy on both the just and the unjust. This is stated right before Jesus mentions how we should love our enemies. What a great example of the love we should have for everyone. As God sends his mercy on the deserving and the undeserving that is how we are to love.

Also look up Deuteronomy 11:10-17.

How the Rain Relates to Preparation:

When looking into agriculture and how rain related to the plan it is key to note what the former (Autumn) and latter (Spring) rains were.  It is simple. It would rain in the Autumn and the Spring. This kept the soil fertile and agriculture possible in Israel.

The cycle started during October and November when the Former (Autumn) Rains came in and softened the soil. This allowed the soil to be worked, as the sun would bake the ground making it impossible to plow. Look at Jeremiah 14:4, “Because the ground is cracked, For there has been no rain on the land; The farmers have been put to shame, They have covered their heads.”

Preparing the soil during this time was hard work.  The rains were heavy, cold, and was tempting to wait for warmer days. Retaining walls had to be built to prevent erosion and removal of the covering soil. Weeds had to be hoed out from november to February. It would be very hard work to do it all manually. This sheds light on Proverbs 20:4, “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing.”

Take note of the sluggard that does not work after the autumn. Think of ways we can relate this to the believer’s life today. We are a blessed society in which most Americans get to clock out and go to a comfortable home. It is easy to get lazy. Think of ways that you can work for the Lord, so you will not be hungry in the harvest.





Biblical Agriculture: The Plan

29 05 2012

 

Planning the seed to plant and knowing when to plant it is the first step of the process. There are several different crops but I’m going to be referring primarily to the grain crops. Through studying grain crops I believe we can have an adequate understanding of agriculture in scripture.
There are two main grain crops:

Wheat

Wheat grows in the Coastal Philistine Plain, the Jordan Valley, and the Valley of Jezreel. Wheat was consider the finest of the grain crops. It was the filet mignon of the grain crops. David mentions it in Psalm 81:16a, “I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,” and in Psalm 147:14b, “He satisfies you with the finest of the wheat.” David was a king, and he had a high view of the value of wheat.
John records Jesus mentioning it in John 12:24, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Knowing the value that wheat had in that culture the verse begins to go a lot deeper. Even the most important and finest grain crop in all the land if it does not die it remains alone and produces no fruit.

Barley

If Wheat is the filet mignon, barley would be considered the chuck eye steak. It paled in comparison to wheat. It could be grown on poorer soil and took less time to grow, this is why it was such a popular grain crop for the majority of Israel and in Egypt. It was used to feed the animals, the poor, and slaves.
Knowing the role barley played in the culture of Israel, I think it is something special to read in John 6 about  how Jesus used the Barley loaves and fish to feed the five thousand. This states the financial status of the people he was speaking to, the giving heart of the boy, and Jesus’ working a miracle with a poor grain. Surely men could justify that wheat deserved to be the grain crop used in this miraculous event. But no! What a mighty God we serve!
Other verses to look at after reading a little about the seed and how it relates to agriculture:
Exodus 9:27-32
Numbers 5:15
John 6:5 and 13
Finally we’ll look at the means of which the planning took place:

The Gezer Calendar

This will lead into the next segment of Biblical Agriculture: The Preparation. This was the calendar by which the planting occurred. The Gezer Calendar was written by a school boy to record how the farmers had done for centuries. This was all  common cultural knowledge in those days, but it helps us to see at what time of year each crop is to be planted and harvested. Using this calendar the plan of planting can easily be seen.
Below is the calendar broke down:
Sept./Oct.- Olive Harvest
Nov./Dec.- Planting Grain
Jan./Feb.- Late Planting
March- Hoeing up of Flax
April- Barley Harvest
May- Harvest and Festivity
June/July- Vine Tending
August- Summer Fruit

 





Biblical Agriculture: An Introduction

29 05 2012

Agriculture in Bible times has always been an interesting subject to me. However, it wasn’t until I started to do research that I realized how deep the subject actually was. It has been a subject that has been on my mind for several years now.

The interest was sparked in Matthew 3:12:

“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

I’ve read that verse several times, but after I knew what it actually meant it took on a whole new meaning. My goal is to educate the reader with as much passion as this was received to me.

My next few blogs will be on the process of agriculture in Bible times and what it means to us as believers.

It will be broken up into six sections:

- The Plan

- The Preparation

- The Plow

- The Planting

- The Pay Day

- The Storage

Trust me the P’s were not intentional, I promise. But I can’t say after I realized it I didn’t think of a synonym for storage that started with a P. Packaging just didn’t sound right.

This is done for God‘s glory and if it seems to be a little off the topic of scripture, there is a purpose.  It is only to better understand key historical practices to help shed some more light on God’s magnificent word!

Below are a few tools that I will discuss over the next few blogs.





Broken Cisterns for the Forsaken God (Jeremiah 2:13)

23 05 2012

“For My people have committed two evils:
         They have forsaken Me,
         The fountain of living waters,
         To hew for themselves cisterns,
         Broken cisterns
         That can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2:13

Two evils are being committed: they were forsaking God, and they were making themselves cisterns that could not hold any water. It does not make much sense as to why someone would ignore the mercies of God and fashion themselves their own means of survival when God is the fountain of living waters which will never run dry. No man will come to His everlasting river and go thirsty. It is absolutely foolish to have the knowledge of God and His unending mercies, and ignore it. If this statement is true, I am the chief of this foolishness.

The Lord has taught me so much in my life but I have thrown it away for myself. How many times have I lied to make myself sound better or seem more godly? How many times have I leaned on my own understanding in one of life’s tough situations? How many times will I have to learn things the hard way? How many times will I take God’s grace for granted? How many times will I forsake the Father and create for myself a broken cistern to quench my thirst? I have always like Gatorade’s slogan; it’s a drink that claims to be the ultimate thirst quencher with the slogan, “Is IT in you?” I am not proclaiming public marketing as Scripture- it has just always reminded me of when Jesus was at the Feast of Booths and loudly proclaims in John 7:37, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” If I were truly drinking from the living waters… What a glorious life that would be.

It has truly been a life I have been pursuing with all my heart this past year. Radically removing things from my life, stepping out of my comfort zone, living for God’s glory, and thanking God for his grace and His Son with every step of the way. The Lord has blessed me immensely as well. Within the past year the Lord has truly given me the desires of my heart. What was it? What changed? For me, Jeremiah 2:13 says it in a way that needs little clarification. The answer is a two-part answer: I focused on God, and trashed the cisterns I had made for myself. The Lord’s grace is amazing particularly in the category of Biblical application!

What are these cisterns? I could probably name thirty or so, but what mattered was the end result: Broken. For me the three biggest cistern’s that I had fashioned for myself was Church, the doctrine of Calvinism, and my own prideful nature. Don’t quit on me yet, let me explain.

*All of these below are from my point of view and my struggles that the Lord has brought to my heart. Prayerfully consider each option before applying it to your own life.

CHURCH

And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”

Matthew 21:13

The Church had lost its reverent feeling from me. I treated it like any other activity; it was a hobby I did once a week. Learning about the Lord is a great honor and should be considered as such. What an amazing opportunity we have in America to worship freely. Thank You Lord!

If we view church as an evangelistic outreach opportunity we are all sadly mistaken. Instead of telling about (or showing) someone the love that God had shared for me, I would just invite him to church. What a weak man I had become. I was lazy, and sadly a different person at church. Church is our homestead to fellowship with believers, grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, and love others. It is not our primary means of evangelism. I had become dependent on Church and could not feed myself.

DOCTRINE

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Colossians 2:8


Doctrine is a great tool when learning about the Lord, but take note that it is not Scripture. The Word of God is all we need. There is nothing wrong with honoring God through reading or teaching doctrine, but as long as it in no way takes the prominence in our conversations, time, and heart. The Word is the Word.

I guess you could say I was a claimed Calvinist for about a month before it just felt wrong. I was claiming hold to a man that wasn’t Christ. It is my desire to, when people look at me, see Christ; not John Calvin. John Calvin was merely a man, and this man had become in my life the equivalent of Mary for the Catholic Church; an idol. I can not speak for all men, but take caution, brother, when we claim any titles other than Christ. Let us preach the Word.

MY PRIDE

A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Proverbs 29:23

This was the deadliest and most disgraceful one yet. For years I had struggled a little with depression. At first I chalked it up to, “It’s just one of those things, everyone deals with something.” But it was much more than that. I thought I had a depression issue, but it wasn’t until about 2 months ago that I realized it wasn’t depression at all. Before, I would speak at prison, a church, or in the youth group, and shortly after I would leave the pulpit or stage, go on my way home, and then start to feel the depression. I assumed it was the enemy attacking me because I had done such a great work for the Kingdom of God.

It wasn’t until I started to ask God to reveal any unrepented sin in my life until this problem began to show its true face. It wasn’t the enemy’s fault at all. I realized that the reason I would feel down at times was because of my pride- “No one on this planet loved my god like I did”… NO ONE! But instead of feeling defensive I felt self pity because I quickly realized, my god was myself; everything I did was for my glory. God got my leftovers. I had loved myself more than I had loved anything. That was my biggest cistern. I wasn’t drinking from the “Fountain of Living waters.” I was drinking from a broken cistern, and complaining to God that I wasn’t being fulfilled.

The sin of pride in my life has led to deceit, boastful, slander, and lying as well. Because I wanted everyone to experience how awesome I was, I would lie about myself or someone else to make myself look better. Deceit and lying became my primary language. It had gotten so bad at one point I couldn’t distinguish the true stories and the false ones. Saying all of this hurts right now, but the Lord has shown me the only way to eliminate sin is to expose it into the Light. There is hope for those who are in Christ. There is Grace! Seek Him friends and don’t let the sun go down on your unrepented sin.





The Voice of the Shepherd (John 10:27)

10 05 2012

Last night my wife and I were watching the kids in the nursery. I noticed something last night that I’ve never noticed before. There is one particular child that follows me everywhere. I would like to say he looks up to me but he probably views us as the same age. We were playing with the jack in the box (that thing still scares me) which is one of his favorite toys. Out of no where he started whining asking for his Mom. A few seconds pass and his mom popped her head in the door. He did this two other times throughout the evening. It was truly an amazing thing to witness. He was perfectly content, cutting up and laughing, but the moment he heard the sound of his mother he immediately realized his need for her.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;” John 10:27

Jesus was referring to a similar experience. There were several people who walked by, but they were voices of strangers, not the one he knew. Immediately that verse came to mind. But what would the life truly look like if someone followed the voice of Jesus. Even though it is an elementary example I believe that it would look like the child I was watching. He was having a good time, but the moment the voice was heard he left it all. Have you been following Jesus? You can tell by examining the fruits of your life (Galatians 5). Are you in God’s word or do you find yourself too busy? Are you obeying His commandments(John 14:15)?





The Lion and The Frog (Matthew 4:1-11)

20 04 2012

 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”  5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” 8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.  (Matthew 4:1-11)

Temptation is a topic that needs to be on the front of every believers minds. Too often we get bogged down with the stresses of life and Satan slowly fades into the background of our reality and in the pulpit. Satan is real and his hatred toward us and God is real. Satan is crafty and knows the desires of our flesh very well.  Anytime he gets our attention he is winning. As long as we are not focused on God he is successful. Some may be distracted with greed, lust, gluttony,  and pride. While others aren’t as obvious like family, social drama, church, friends, and jobs. But rest assured if you are a Christian you are being attacked.

Take the life of Peter for instance. In Matthew 14:22-33 Peter walked on water, but the moment he took his eyes off Christ he began to sink. Peter was also the disciple that was rebuked for not being able to stay awake during Jesus’ last hours in Matthew 26:40. It’s amazing how great the difference is in someone’s life when they are focused on Christ. Focused on Christ, Peter could walk on water. When he lost the focus he couldn’t even stay awake for Jesus. Peter continued to show where his focused was when he denied Christ three times in the latter part of Matthew 26. A life not aimed at Christ is not a life at all. Fortunately, After the crucifixion of Christ Peter became very solid in his walk with the Lord. He learned the God’s grace how to handle the temptation that would face him.

However when Jesus was tempted, Satan tried his best by tempting him in three ways. The first was tempting his flesh by focusing on his current weakness, hunger. It wasn’t until the text shows his weakness that you see Satan come into the picture. Take note that if you are in a vulnerable state that is when the predator attacks. Satan is compared to a lion in 1 Peter. When a lion attacks it’s prey they will intentionally hunt the weakest in the pack by attacking the one that’s at the back of the herd.

The second temptation was through manipulating the word of God. Satan knows the word and sometimes he can use the very word to tempt us by taking it out of context. Whenever the end result leads to sin Satan is the author of that. Like leaning on Paul’s emphasis on I do what I don’t want to do, I don’t do what I do want to do in Romans 7:15. Previously I would think of that scripture and Satan would use that and manipulate it to play on my weakness. I would think, “If Paul can’t do it, who am I to think that I can do what is right?” But I was right, I couldn’t do anything good. But with God, nothing is impossible.

The third and final way he was tempted was through wanting his praise. Satan would have gotten his praise had Jesus not kept His eyes on the father. But Jesus knew what was at stake. He knew His purpose, to turn his attention on another mission would have been a sin, and there would have been no perfect sacrifice for His chosen. Thank you Jesus for withstanding the temptation!

Temptation comes in all shapes and sizes, it does not discriminate on any level. From Adam to Jesus, from Jesus to you, Satan has been at work. Take note of Peters warning about Satan, because he was a man who knew the ramification of sin and the weakness of his flesh “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9. The devil wants you dead and is waiting for the opportune moment to strike, be on the alert. Take note that you are not alone in your temptation for everyman has faced it. How will you respond?

I was eating dinner with an elder at the church I attend and I began to tell him my current interest in temptation by telling him a story about how at various times in my life I have been tempted with seemingly good things, but all of them ended the same way, distracted and focused on something other than the Lord. He then began to tell me a story: “Temptation is like the bull frog. If you try to boil a bull frog by throwing it in boiling water he’ll jump out. But if you put the frog in cool water and slowly turn the heat up, the frog will become lethargic, fall asleep, and die in the boiling water.” Very interesting story to take into consideration when looking at temptation in our daily lives. Are we asleep and completely unaware of the dangerous environment we are in? Remember the Lion and the frog.





The Tree and The Chaff. (Psalm 1)

11 04 2012

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

2But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.

3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

4The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1 NASB)

Verse 1 and 2:

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

2But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.

Is the man blessed because he is not walking to the wicked for advice? Is he blessed because he is not standing in the path that sinners constantly travel to heed the evil desires of their dark bondage?(*Proverbs 26:11) Or is that man simply blessed because he is not sitting in the seat of those who are mock? I would say all the above, but the source for the answer is found in verse 2. He’s blessed and can resist these things because he is delighting himself in the law of the LORD! He’s blessed because he has been given the desires of his heart (*Psalm 37:4). He’s not inclined to give an ear for instruction to a non-Christian about parenting, marriage, or career moves. The ways of the Lord are not the ways of man (*Isaiah 55:8); this man knows this. Because this man feels no need to listen to the advice of the wicked, he certainly does not apply what they say, and is not found standing in the path of sinners. Obviously, he is not going to feel comfortable enough in sin to actually sit down and partake in it…BECAUSE HE DELIGHTS IN THE LAW OF THE LORD! Since he delights in the law of the Lord, he delights in the Divine source, the LORD! If he delights in the LORD, the LORD will give him the desires of his heart. Therefore, that man is blessed! Oh, and because he delights in it he meditates on it day and night! What an important scripture for showing our ever-increasing need for our LORD and HIS great Word!

*Proverbs 26:11,”Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.”

*Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

*Isaiah 55:8, “”For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.”

Verse 3:

3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water.  So now, here’s a man who has the desire’s of his heart and he’s compared to a piece of wood; this must be some tree. The tree being planted by the streams of water will always have rich soil to drain nutrients from. The best place for a tree. Spurgeon writes in Treasury of David, “not a wild tree, but “a tree planted,” chosen, considered as property, cultivated and secured from the last terrible uprooting, for “every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up:” Matthew 15:13. “By the rivers of water;” so that even if one river should fail, he hath another. The rivers of pardon and the rivers of grace, the rivers of the promise and the rivers of communion with Christ, are never-failing sources of supply.”

The tree is firmly rooted, planned, has a great environment, and has a never-ending source. This tree is set up for success. In its season it will produce fruit. It has to, look at everything surrounding the tree. It is impossible not to bear fruit at this point. But what I want to focus on is the leaf. Immediately when reading the word “wither”, I thought of the reference in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” So for this leaf not to wither it either disproves the Bible, or the leaf has the word of God in it.  When reading this I think that the man is so deeply rooted into the word of God, that from the root to the leaf, the strongest part to the weakest part, the word of God is etched into it. Everything about that tree shines the law of the LORD, and brings glory to the Divine Author, GOD. This is the prayer of my life, and I feel it should be the prayer for every Christian.

Another interesting note to make of the tree is the length of time it takes it to grow. I remember my dad told me , “Christians are like trees, we can’t always feel the growth when we know we’re in the word and doing good things for God’s glory but it’s there.” The next time you feel frustrated at life, not sure where the Lord is taking you look at a tree and think and quote Psalm 1:3.

Verse 4 and 5:

4The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

We’ve heard about the righteous man now let’s analyze the wicked. Obviously, none of the above apply to the wicked. The wicked is compared to Chaff. Chaff is worthless matter separated from the wheat during threshing. A winnowing fork is used to toss-up both the wheat and the chaff. The wheat, having substance, falls back down. But the chaff’s weight makes it very easy for the wind to blow it away. The chaff is then gathered and used to fuel the furnaces as was custom in the culture of Bible times. Luke 3:17 explains ,””His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”” As the chaff can not stand with wheat, neither can the sinner stand with the righteous.

6For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

The Lord knows the ways of the righteous, but the wicked will perish. What a gracious God we serve! If it were not for the grace of God all men would perish, but the Lord has accredited the one’s whom he has chosen with righteousness! PLEASE Right now if you are a Christian thank the LORD for His Grace, Mercy, and Love! Thank the Lord for Jesus Christ! Then thank Jesus Christ for living a life that you can call your own! Now that’s what I call Love!

Challenge: Memorize Psalm 1. Get in the word. Live for God’s glory not your own.








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