Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness!”
When I was little, I used to love watching the enormous combine harvesters cutting the wheat in the fields around my home. I say when I was little – the truth is I still do! They’re such fascinating machines, combine harvesters; enormous great things with giant rollers on the front that draw the ears of corn towards the rolling blade. After the harvester has cut the wheat, it almost magically extracts the grain, and then periodically dumps a load into a trailer pulled by a tractor. I really could watch all day!
Things have changed since the days of Joel the prophet, and also since Jesus told the parable of the sower. In those times, grain was cut by hand using a sickle. In this passage, Joel is prophesying of the “end times,” when the living and the dead will be judged. At the judgement, the harvest will be made, and all those who have followed Jesus will be part of a new creation, whilst all those who have not will die. In this particular passage, we have an image of a full winepress, and vats that are overflowing as a consequence of the large numbers of people who have turned from Christ, and dedicated their lives to following their own wicked ways. This is a powerful reminder of the need to ensure that we dedicate ourselves to God’s teaching, renounce evil, and seek to live our lives in a way that honours Jesus. If we do, then we will bear fruit, and be part of the great harvest. If, instead, we prefer to dedicate our lives to following money, pleasure, and the evil ways of the world, then the winepress and eternal death waits for us.
I don’t know how you feel about this, but I reckon that’s a pretty good reason to ensure that we commit ourselves completely to God. Less selfishly, I think it’s also a spur to personal evangelism. As I’m sure you do, I have some very dear friends who are not Christians, who are destined for the winepress and the overflowing vats. I don’t want to see them there. I think it’s time I focused on praying for them and sharing my faith with them.