Sharing the Gleanings

Remember the story of Ruth, an Old Testament typology or foreshadowing of salvation in Christ.  Within the story was an example of the Jewish practice of sharing the gleanings of the field.  This was the benevolent practice of not harvesting all of the crop but leaving some for those less fortunate or foreigners who had not established themselves in order to make a living.  Not only was it charitable, it was required by the law.  Leviticus 23:22 stated,  “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Leave some for the poor and alien.”  Interestingly enough, the context of this law was ceremonial. Moses was laying out the specifics for the Feast of Weeks.  During this festival of harvest, the Church was to sacrifice to God by offering their best livestock, wine and grain.  God was reminding them that all their bounty was His to share.  I suppose this was kind of like the Aynor Harvest Hoe Down. [A reference to a festival held at the end of tobacco growing season in the community I live in, but yet have never attended.  I’m not the festive type, but it sounds festive.]

These historical farmers were to give others some of what God had given to them.  These farmers were given land to cultivate, knowledge of farming practices, and God’s hand of providence in bringing the crop to maturity.  Not selling all of his product was a true sacrifice.  Ask any farmer today and he will tell you that his profit margin is thin.  Leaving a single ear of corn in the field is not a prudent practice.  If modern farmers did this, they would soon be finding new careers.   I am fairly certain that Boaz did not have government subsidies nor federal crop insurance.  To be fair,  he also probably did not have price controls either, but I digress.  Regardless, it would hurt the bottom line.  I doubt many farmers are reading my blog, but since I live in the midst of nothing but farmers, I am not advocating leaving a row or two in the field.  Your taxes take care of the poor and most of you take pretty good care of your aliens.  Excuse my lack of PC, I meant undocumented workers.

These ceremonial sacrifices were never intended to be used to pardon sin or earn God’s favor.  David knew this when, having been made aware of his sins of adultery and murder, he says to God, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite (sorry) heart, oh God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16,17)

I love to read the books of old dead guys.  I also love to tell what I have learned from them.  Just ask my family who receive the bulk of my pontification.  However, reading for comprehension is very hard for me,  retrieving information and then communicating it to others is even harder.  If anyone could have been diagnosed as a child with ADD, it would have been me.[Don’t think they were smart enough to know about ADD back then, right?]  My college education consisted in my parents paying for me to meet the minimum requirements of a degree, while I learned, and I use that term lightly, very little useful information over a four year hiatus from reality.  Finally, a few thousand others and I dressed up as wise men and received, well they mailed it,  the diploma.  Throwing the hats was fun.

I was trained to do nothing in particular, but according to my high school guidance counselor and the rest of the educational industrial complex, I was better off than those who had been learning to actually do something and getting paid for it for the last four years.  Go figure. I admit I did learn how to do laundry very well.  I also learned that I had a hard time sitting still or focusing on anything for very long.  Maybe if I would have had some of those agonists or antagonists,  I would have been a PhD.  Who knows?

Please don’t stop reading!  I’m getting to the point and, no, I’m not having a pity party.  What I’m trying to say is my blog is my attempt to share the gleanings of my harvest, and it is no walk in the park for this dead head. What is great about this forum is you don’t have to listen.  You don’t have to sit in a classroom or church pew and pretend you’re interested.  No head nodding nor amens required.  You don’t have to worry about hurting the teachers feelings or having to participate in one of those poolings of  the ignorant (you’ve been there “Does anyone have any comments or anything to share?”) Although, you’re welcome to comment.  In the words of Pink Floyd, “Is there anybody out there? Is there anyone at all?”  No not Arthur Pink.

God in his infinite wisdom, in times past, raised up men who were given extraordinary insight into His word.  He then blessed their efforts by causing their insights to be preserved in works of literature which have survived the trial of generations of the Church.  Particularly, I speak of the post- reformation preachers of the 16th-18th centuries.  Most of these men were poor parish pastors, some of whom went on to teach at seminaries but received little for their efforts while they lived.  They were persecuted, imprisoned, banished, even killed by the churches and governments they served.  The only inheritances they left were there writings, some not discovered until years later.  Modern church history rarely acknowledges them.  We hear more about those who went to Asia or Africa where the dangers were obvious.  These men faced dangers in their hometowns and their own congregations.  Usually there was nowhere to run.  The truth of their teaching stung the ears of the wicked and shook the foundations of the establishment.  Why now should we not look to them for the answers to our questions since God has preserved their works for us?

There are some hurdles to overcome if you want to enjoy the Protestant Reformers from this period.  The language from several hundred years ago can be difficult but many works have been translated into more modern English.  They were quite long winded, but lets face it they had more to say and no one had ESPN.  You can even find this stuff on the internet.  I still prefer books.

Finding time to read these works will be impossible for some of you so I intend to help.  For some years now I have been given, like the farmers of Ruth, a harvest to share.  In fact I am commanded to share, “to whom much is given” and all.  I’m not saying I have been given knowledge, but I have been given time.   Some of this time has been used for this very purpose.  When I post something here I will assure you someone else, probably quite dead, has already said it.  My thoughts are not my novel ideas.  God does not “speak” to me nor does he reveal anything new to me in scripture that he has not already revealed to many saints before me.  I just want to share with you what I have learned from them.

This is my sacrifice which I hope will be pleasing and acceptable both to you and to God.  Unlike the gleanings of the field, it really costs me nothing tangible  and does not come from a pure heart.  Remember even our “best works are as filthy rags.”  So here old friend, have some of my dirty rags.  That reminds me,  I have laundry to do.

In the following posts I hope to bring you some insight from one of my favorite preachers, Thomas Boston.  Boston was an 18th century parish preacher in Scotland.  In his work “Human Nature in Its Fourfold State,” Boston strikes deeply at our understanding of who we think we are or can be apart from God’s redeeming work.  Boston helps me to have a broken and contrite heart and I hope he breaks yours too.  Sounds like fun, right.

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