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GLEANING, A DIVINE ORDINANCE
Deuteronomy 24:19-22. When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive-tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember, that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing [Note: If this be a Charity Sermon, the triple repetition of “the Stranger, the Fatherless, and the Widow,” must, of course, be more largely insisted on.].
IT is surprising to see to what minute things Jehovah condescends in his legislation to the Jews. In no other community under heaven were such things accounted worthy of distinct and authoritative enactments. People must not yoke together in a plough an ox and an ass. They must not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk. In taking a bird’s nest, they must not take the dam with her young. But “God, their great Lawgiver, is love:” and all his laws breathed love, not to men only, but to the whole creation: and by them he has shewn, that he desired all his people to live under the influence of this divine principle; and, in the smallest matters no less than in the greatest, to bring it into exercise. Hence he appointed, that, when they gathered in the fruits of the earth, they should guard against selfishness, and manifest a spirit of love towards their more indigent and afflicted brethren. In the very words which I have just read, the threefold repetition of them shews what tenderness there is in the bosom of Almighty God towards the poor and afflicted, and how desirous he is that all his people should resemble him: and for this end he commands, that, in the season of their own prosperity, they should be especially mindful of “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” The manner in which he enforces this command respecting gleaning, will lead me to consider,
The privilege of gleaning, as accorded to the Jews—
The Jews had been brought out from Egypt from the sorest bondage—
[By mighty signs and wonders had God brought them out: and had throughout all their generations caused them to enjoy blessings for which they had not laboured, and to reap an harvest which they had never sown. For the space of forty years in the wilderness they had no occasion for agricultural labours; but from day to day did they glean around their tents the food which the Great Proprietor of all caused to be scattered for their use. And when they came into the promised land, “they found there great and goodly cities which they had never built, and houses filled with all manner of good things which they had never filled, and wells which they had never digged [Note: Deuteronomy 6:10-11.].” Like gleaners, they had only to enter on the field, and to appropriate every thing which they found to their own use — — —]
From this consideration they were enjoined to give somewhat of a like advantage to their poorer brethren—
[”Freely they had received; and freely they were to give.” They were to bear in mind the misery from which their forefathers had been delivered; and from a sense of gratitude to their Heavenly Benefactor, they were to shew love to their brethren, and liberality to the poor. They were not to be exact even in the reaping of their crops, but to leave the corners of their fields standing [Note: Leviticus 19:9.] for the benefit of “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow:” and, after having gathered in their corn, or their grapes, or olives, they were not to be going over their ground or their trees again, but to leave the remaining produce for those whose necessities called for such aid: yea, and to rejoice in seeing the wants of others supplied, though at their expense. And surely this was reasonable in the highest degree, since the whole land itself had been originally the gift of God, as was also the produce of it in every successive year. What could their own labours effect without the fruitful showers and the genial warmth of the sun? On God they depended, notwithstanding their own efforts: and God gave them an assurance, that on a cheerful and liberal discharge of their duty towards their brethren, they should receive his blessing on their own labours.]
But let me proceed to mark,
The far higher grounds of this privilege as existing amongst us—
True, the Jewish law does not extend to us: nor does the law of this land accord in this respect with the Jewish law. The matter has been tried, and authoritatively decided. But, so general is the sense of propriety which exists in this kingdom, that the privilege of gleaning is conceded to the poor, as much as if it were a right established by law: and I suppose that for every thousand pounds that are paid in rent to the proprietor of the soil, not less than one hundred pounds, and perhaps too hundred, are gratuitously left to be gathered by the poor in the way of gleaning. And this is as it should be. For—
Let it be recollected from what misery we have been redeemed—
[Not an Egyptian bondage merely was ours, but a bondage to sin and Satan, death and hell. And what has the Great Proprietor of heaven and earth done for us? He has, by the blood of his only dear Son, brought us out from this bondage: and in the field of his Gospel has strewed a rich profusion of food, of which all of us may eat, and live for ever. Take the inspired volume: there is the field, into which all may enter. and gather for themselves. The promises there scattered, and standing, as it were, in every corner [Note: Leviticus 19:9.] of the Bible, are sufficient for the whole world. All that is required is, that we go in, and glean for ourselves. The manna in the wilderness nourished those only who gathered it for their daily use: and, if the poor will avail themselves of the bounty scattered in our fields, they must go out and gather it. Were all the harvest left upon the field, it would benefit none, unless it were reaped and appropriated to our use: so all the promises of salvation will have been given to us in vain, if we do not exert ourselves, from day to day, to appropriate them to ourselves, for our own personal benefit. But, if we will “labour thus for the meat that endureth unto eternal life, the Son of Man will give it us” according to the utmost extent of our necessities. Then shall we gather all the blessings, both of grace and glory; for no one of which have we any other claim, than as gratuitous largesses, bestowed by the Lord of the harvest on his necessitous and dependent vassals.]
And can we have any stronger argument than this for liberality to the poor?
[Methinks, “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,” should be made to share our temporal blessings, when we are so richly and gratuitously nourished with those which are spiritual and eternal. We are taught to “love one another, as Christ has loved us [Note: Ephesians 5:2.].” And when St. Paul was urging the Corinthian Church to liberality, he could find no stronger argument than this; “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.].” Say, Brethren, whether this consideration be not amply sufficient to animate us to the most enlarged liberality for his sake? Yes, truly; instead of grudging to others the remnants of our harvest, we should be ready to say with Zacchζus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor [Note: Luke 19:8.].” Indeed, even for our own sakes we might practise this divine lesson: for “if we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord; and whatsoever we lay out, he will pay us again.” In truth, to “honour the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase, is the way, the surest way, to fill our barns with plenty, and to make our presses burst out with new wine [Note: Proverbs 3:9-10.].” But I rather dwell on the other motive only; because the “love of Christ,” if duly felt in our hearts, “will constrain us” to every possible exercise of love to him, and to the poor for his sake [Note: Matthew 25:45.].]
Let me now, then, address you all—
As Gleaners, avail yourselves of your privilege—
[I say again, the whole field is open before you: and, as God’s servant, I have been commissioned to “scatter handfuls for you,” that you may not labour in vain: yea, I have invited you to “come, even amongst the sheaves;” and, so far from “reproaching you” for your boldness, have encouraged you [Note: Ruth 2:16.] by the strongest assurances of the unbounded liberality of my Divine Master. Bear in mind, that you are gleaners. You must indeed labour with diligence: but the whole that you gather is a gift: you never raised by your own personal labour one single grain of what you gather: all your labour consists in gathering up what the Great Proprietor, your Lord and Saviour, has strewed for you. Whilst you, then, have all the benefit, let him have all the glory.]
As Proprietors, perform the duty that is here enjoined you—
[Cultivate, every one of you, a spirit of liberality. Let “the stranger” share your bounty; and let “the fatherless and widows” be the special objects of your care and tender compassion. If you comply not readily with this injunction, what pretensions can you have to call yourselves followers of Christ? “If any man see his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him [Note: 1 John 3:17.]?” “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” On the other hand, “abound in the riches of liberality;” and “so shall your light break forth as the morning [Note: Isaiah 58:7-8.],” and “a recompence be given you at the resurrection of the just [Note: Luke 14:14.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 24". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19