“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves; we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves” (Shaw, 1874). I remember singing this hymn as a child at Northside Church of the Nazarene, my church home from birth until my early teen years. I’ll be honest; this was a great little tune, but I didn’t have a clue what it meant. Veggie Tales weren’t around then to explain it, either. Perhaps a cucumber, tomato, broccoli, and celery could have helped me then so I didn’t have to wait for years to understand. I digress.
I’ve been reading and studying the story of Ruth this week, as it’s one of my favorites. Ruth is out “gleaning” in the fields (another term I’ve only learned about in recent years), and Boaz “just happens” upon her. We all know that this was part of God’s Divine Plan, but I’m sure it was surreal for her at the time.
I want to provide you an illustration of the primitive farming and harvesting technique that create the imagery for “bringing in the sheaves” and “gleaning.” Sometime in the spring, probably about mid-April, the barley crop was ready for harvest. The Massey-Ferguson tractor was still a few thousand years from being discovered, so this was a very manual process. The men would go into the fields with sickles and scythes, and cut the stalks of grain. They left them in piles along the edge of the fields.
These piles, or “sheaves,” of grain were tied into bundles to make them ready for transport. So let’s do a quick review here…”we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.” Really? We’re singing about liking manual labor? YES! I realize now, centuries later, that this chorus is an anthem to God’s great faithfulness for a fruitful harvest. “We shall come rejoicing” because God again proves himself as a Provider. Our basic needs are fulfilled—through storms, drought, and night—we get a harvest of plenty.
The final step in the process, after the sheaves are tied, is “gleaning.” To me, this is the equivalent to “trimming” after mowing your lawn. The gleaners are those who would go into the fields after the cutting and removal of the sheaves, and get the “leftovers.” Any stalks that didn’t get cut during the initial work were allowed to be harvested by the public—often the poor or widowed.
Here enters Ruth…she’s not part of those rejoicing and bringing in the sheaves; she’s trying to get enough food for herself and her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, to survive. She was the true definition of servant.
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up
the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Ruth’s husband and father-in-law had both died. Naomi sent Ruth’s sisters-in-law back to their respective parents. Ruth refused to go. She was dedicated to serving Naomi and providing whatever she could to help. It was while she was picking up the leftovers that Boaz saw her, assigned her to go to his private plot, and she was able to glean what is estimated to be about four gallons of grain—-more than enough for her and Naomi to survive.
Isn’t God’s provision amazing? I find it even more intriguing that although it was thousands of years ago, the story of Ruth is one we can visualize today. Finding joy in the provision. Remember today, as you bring in your “sheaves,” to thank Him for your provision!