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Eyes to See and Ears to Hear

Eyes to See and Ears to Hear

May 29 , 2007

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest

Background on the Greek Culture of the Time:  

The gods of ancient Greece are not thought to inhabit the natural world but to control over them. Greek divinities looked as divine powers that caused the natural phenomena. The “power over nature” and relationship of divine beings to the natural world is present in the following examples and representations:i

  • Zeus power over it
  • Apollo power over the sun
  • Poseidon power to arouse storms and to calm it
  • Athena symbol of the olive as power to heal and wisdom
  • Hermes power in stone heap

Greek ideals in society and way of life:          

  • The individual has no security of life or property over against the polis (city) and its interests
  • He owes military service
  • Pride of citizenship
  • Right to own land related to veneration of the hearth and graves 
  • Ancestor worship gave right of inheritance
  • The establishment of a polis (city) was the great and decisive experience in the whole existence of the tribeii
  • The Greeks wanted autonomy, a “Greek way of life”. 

The Lord of the harvest:

All four Gospel writers include some mention of harvest. Matthew and Luke include the same sequence that Jesus gives to His disciples about missions. Mark and John relate harvest more toward an end time scenario, yet applicable in the present of every age.  The apostle John uses the word fields are “white” unto harvest. 

In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus instructs the disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray (beseech) the Lord of the harvest to send (thrust) out laborers into His harvest.” 

  • Prayer can spring forth from Matthew 9:37-38 as the subject in these verses is the “plentiful harvest”. The problem results from the laborers are few. So what is the solution?  Beseech (ask) the Lord Jesus.  Ask for what?  Ask for Him to “send out” laborers into His harvest.
  • The words here “send out” are actually the one Greek word ekballo. The sense one gets from rereading these verses is Jesus actually thrusts out laborers into His harvest. The harvest is His harvest.

Mark captures the Greek word ekballei in Mark 1:12 describing the movement of Jesus after the Jordan River infilling by the Holy Spirit. This gospel writer says He (Jesus) was impelled or thrusted into the wilderness by the Spirit now in Him.  The other gospel writers do not use this strong action verb. Mark in Mark 1:12 describes this event as “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

The word “drove” is translated from the Greek word ekballo, which is a strong Greek verb usually reserved for Jesus driving out demons. This word consists of ek meaning “out” and ballo meaning “to cast”. The full meaning seems to be “to cast out” or “drive out”.  The filling of the Holy Spirit preceded this event. It is interesting this is highlighted before the instructions Jesus gives to Nicodemus regarding those born of the Spirit, John 3:8-9.

Important distinction:

Many of the translations use the word “pray” in this verse when actually the word beseech is found in the Greek. The word for pray is proseuche and this word beseech is deomai.  What is the difference?  The Greek word for prayer is proseuche and is best understood in the context of Romans 8. Here we see Paul illustrating the role of the Spirit in prayer. Prayer according to the New Testament is more a ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit intercedes with moans and groans for us. Here in Matthew 9:38 a different word, deomai is used meaning, “desire” or “request.” The use of this word leaves us with the impression to just ask or request in words. We do not necessarily need the Spirit to ask for us we need to be obedient ourselves to go and ask others to go with us.  If this takes place the Lord literally thrusts us out into His harvest. And His own prophetic words to Nicodemus come true, “the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:8).

In summary the key thoughts from Matthew 9:37-38 are:                                                                              

  • True disciples are the target
  • The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few
  • Jesus is the One who thrusts the laborers out into His harvest
  • If we are willing, we will ask the Lord to send us


i Wild page 67
ii Jacob Burckhardt, The History of Greek Culture, page 9

This writing is taken from chapter 7 of The Matthew Principles written by director Lawrence R. Yoder. Copies of the book can be requested via mail to Nehemiah’s Call P.O. Box 95 Broadway, VA 22815.

Written by

Lawrence R. Yoder - Director
Harrisonburg, VA

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