The annual celebration of the Harvest Homecoming Festival allows the community to enjoy several important milestones. This year the event helps take one step closer to a sense of normalcy in the midst of pandemic chaos. The COVID-19 virus and its effects may still be present, but the gathering of people in our streets shines lights of recovery in its shadows.
Harvest Homecoming also closes the chapter of summer and opens the colorful, crisp pages of autumn. Words like amber and russet push their way into our vocabulary. The sweat of summer turns into sweater weather in the fall. Ice cream and popsicles give way to hot chocolate and pumpkin pie.
Searching for a topic for the next few weeks, it seemed natural to talk a bit about the Bible verses that use the word “autumn.” This series could direct our thoughts until Thanksgiving occupies our minds. Skimming through an online-concordance only uncovered one occurrence of the word “autumn” in the Bible. Surely autumn comes up more than once.
The truth is it depends upon which version of the Bible you use. In the King James Version (and the New King James) the only one instance of the word is found. Most versions use the word four or five times, while the New Living Translation has the most occurrences with 17. To be fair, many of the versions also speak of the time of harvest without actually using the word “autumn.”
Let’s look at some of the verses that speak about autumn. See if you uncover a theme running through all of the Scriptures.
Jeremiah 5:24 (ESV): They do not say in their hearts, “Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps us for the weeks appointed for the harvest.”
Deuteronomy 11:14 (NIV): Then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.
Psalm 84:6 (NLT): When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
Joel 2:23 (NIV): Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
James 5:7 (NIV): Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.
Each of the verses speak about rain in the fall. But we don’t associate autumn with lots of rain. Many outdoor weddings are scheduled in October because it is considered a dry month. In the area of the Mediterranean, where the Bible was written, there is virtually no rain from the end of May through October. The heat of the summer is so oppressive that most people rest under cover during the middle of the day.
So what is the Bible trying to teach us about the rain in autumn? Maybe the emphasis is upon how refreshing it is when they come. When a shower comes to cool things off during the heat of summer, can you picture how good it feels? The air is a little crisper and lighter. Even its smell is invigorating.
And in the verses above, the teaching is apparent that God sends the rain. My father’s favorite translation of the Bible was the Amplified Version. He enjoyed its abundance of adjectives and descriptive phrases. It took him twice as long to read a verse as anyone else, but he didn’t mind. Listen to how the Amplified Bible translates Jeremiah 14:22:
Are there any among the idols of the nations who can send rain? Or can the heavens [of their own will] give showers? Is it not You, O Lord our God? Therefore we will wait and hope [confidently] in You, for You are the one who has made all these things [the heavens and the rain].
God is not only concerned about the effects of physical heat and lack of rain upon the land and our physical bodies, He is aware that the spiritual body can be affected by spiritual heat. Parched, desert-like conditions are symbolic for our need to quench our spiritual thirst. Perhaps that is why Jesus encouraged us to turn to Him for living water that never runs dry.
The Feast of Booths (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles) is the seventh and final feast on the Jewish calendar. Few of the feasts of the Old Testament were as joyful and celebrative as the Feast of Booths. It was a time set aside to thank God for the year’s blessing and to pray for a good rainy season to follow. The feast was held at the end of the agricultural year when grapes and olives were harvested.
But the main reason for the feast was to remind them of their journey out of Egypt when they lived in booths. The time in the wilderness of the desert would eventually give way to a real home in Canaan, the Promised Land. God takes us from spiritual deserts to an oasis of promised rest and refreshment.
When Jesus spoke of living water (John 7:37-39), he made the connection between His presence and the water that was being remembered as a refreshing gift from God. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the “wells of salvation.” Spring up, oh well.
Over the next few weeks, let’s look at other passages of Scripture that encourage us to remember the refreshing nature of the God of Creation.