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What does it mean that God is the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:38)?

Lord of the harvest

In Matthew 9:35–38, Jesus travels throughout Galilee, teaching the good news of the kingdom of God and preparing His disciples to carry on His ministry. He looks at the crowds in their confused and vulnerable state and is filled with compassion. Because the spiritual needs were so great, Jesus asks His disciples to pray for more workers to evangelize the world: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37–38).

The harvest is a familiar biblical metaphor related to the kingdom of God (Isaiah 27:12; Joel 3:13; Amos 9:13; Matthew 7:16–19; 9:37; 13:24–30; Luke 10:2; Revelation 14:14–16). The lost and hurting people that Jesus sees and we see all around us are like ripe pieces of fruit ready to be plucked and gathered into God’s kingdom.

God is the Lord of the harvest means God is the One who controls the times and seasons of the harvest (Jeremiah 5:24; Amos 4:7). The harvesting of souls is God’s work, not man’s (Colossians 2:13). Salvation—acceptance into God’s kingdom—is a gift of God, through the grace He pours out on us (Ephesians 2:8–9). God chooses us (John 6:44; Romans 8:28–30; 9:15; Ephesians 1:4–5), regenerates us (Titus 3:3–6), gives us the faith to believe in Jesus Christ (Romans 12:3; Philippians 3:9), and seals us with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22).

God is the Lord of the harvest means the harvest’s success depends on Him (Psalm 107:37–38). It is not by human might or wisdom that lost souls are gathered into God’s kingdom but by His Spirit working in people’s hearts to complete the harvest.

Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3–9; Mark 4:2–9; Luke 8:4–8) shows that God prepares human hearts to receive Him. Many individuals’ hearts are like trampled, rocky, or thorny soil in which the Word of God cannot take root (see Matthew 13:18–22; Mark 4:13–19; and Luke 8:11–14). But some people have hearts tilled by the Lord of the harvest into good, fertile soil ready to receive God’s Word. When they hear it, they accept it and then continue maturing and bearing abundant fruit (Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15).

The workers can’t change the nature of the soil in the field. That job belongs to God—the Lord of the harvest. He is the One who puts “a new heart, and a new spirit” within His people and removes “the heart of stone” (Ezekiel 11:19–20; 36:26). As laborers in God’s field, we are called to participate with Him, faithfully sowing, reaping, and praying, but the results of our labor are in God’s hands. He is the Lord of the harvest.

Sometimes a crop takes years to yield its fruit, with different workers sowing, tending, and gathering in God’s field (John 4:35–38;1 Corinthians 3:6–9). God oversees the whole process. The phrase translated as “Lord of the harvest” means “Master of the yield” or “Chief of the harvest” in the original language. God Himself is the Commander-in-chief of the harvest. He is infinitely concerned about the mission, with every aspect of its implementation under His sovereign control. The laborers can trust Him with the outcome, even if they never see the fruit of the work.

Immediately after Jesus tells His disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers, He summons the twelve and commissions them to go “to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 10:6–7, NLT). This mission would eventually expand to encompass all God’s servants, sending them to every nation and all the world’s people to make disciples until He returns (Matthew 28:19–20).

Today, the harvest is still in great supply, and there are still too few workers. May we all do as Jesus asks and pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into His field.

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What does it mean that God is the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:38)?
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This page last updated: February 27, 2024