Sowing in a season of famine


Part 2 of an article on Sowing and Reaping

WE saw last week how God set in motion laws that govern the universe.
We also saw how God set the seasons in place and how they affect the cycles of sowing and reaping. We sow in the season for sowing in our region, and we reap in the appropriate season. That’s the schedule God made, and people all over the world stick to their particular cycles. They plant and harvest accordingly.

Isaac sowed during the famine and God gave him a hundred-fold harvest (Gen 26:1-13).

But what happens when a drought causes famine to come upon the land? When there is no rain and the land is parched, what can we do? In the past, our people knew of certain trees, shrubs and roots that were edible. Wild yams (taitukava), sago and even seeds of mangroves (gavera) were around when most of the ‘proper’ food crops perished. Our people survived on these foods during the harsh conditions. It was foolish to plant a garden in a drought as the seeds would die in the dry and arid soil. The people waited until the right weather and season before they began replanting.
However, the Bible teaches us that it is not impossible to sow in a time of famine. We will see in the following stories that when we obey God’s instructions by faith, He will show Himself truly as the Lord of the Harvest and sovereign over all seasons!
In Genesis 26, we read of Isaac in the land of the Philistines. Verse 1 to 3a read: “There was another famine in the land besides the earlier one during the time of Abraham. Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, at Gerar. The LORD had appeared to Isaac and had said, “Do not go to Egypt; stay in this land, where I tell you to stay. Live here, and I will be with you and bless you”.
After certain incidences take place, we pick the story up again in verses 12 and 13. It says, “Isaac sowed crops in that land, and that year he harvested a hundred times as much as he had sown, because the LORD blessed him. He continued to prosper and became a very rich man.”
Isaac found himself in the land of the Philistines when the famine occurred. The practice in those days was that God’s people would leave the place of famine and sojourn in a gentile land while awaiting the situation to change. Abraham moved to Egypt (Gen 12: 10), and Isaac to Gerar of the Philistines (Gen 26). The children of Israel ended up in Egypt in the time of Joseph due to a famine (Gen 42: 1ff). In the time of Ruth, rather than staying on, Elimelech sought refuge outside of the covenant land in Moab (Ruth 1:1ff). Paying the price for his rash decision, he and his two sons died, leaving his wife Naomi and daughter in law Ruth to return when the famine was over. However, as God does many times, He overlooks our foolishness and graciously steps in to turn things around. Here, the gentile Moabite woman, Ruth, became an ancestor to the Messiah (Matt 1: 5ff)!
But the point is, the move has to be upon God’s instructions. For instance, when the brook dried up and the ravens stopped bringing Elijah bread, God instructed him to move to Zarephath where the widow would be his next source (1 Kings 17). Elijah repositioned on God’s instruction. In Isaac’s case, it was the opposite. God told him to stay: “Do not go to Egypt; stay in this land, where I tell you to stay” (verse 2). Despite the famine, he obeyed God and stayed. Then, he did what looked foolish – he sowed seeds during the famine! As a result, God gave him in return hundred times more than what he planted, proving God is Lord of the harvest. Isaac thus became a very rich man.
So what lessons can we deduce from this story? Firstly, what signifies a famine? A famine is a time of lack. It is a time when there is no growth no progress, a time of stagnation and inactivity. We read it was not the first famine (verse 1). That means, there are many different kinds of famines. You can have a famine situation in your employment, finances, health or family life. Things are not working out and you’ve hit a brick wall. You feel the best thing to do is to move and go somewhere else. As a Christian, you must pray and seek God. If it is His will to move and reposition, obey Him. Otherwise, buckle down where you are and trust God.

The widow of Zarephath and her son were blessed because of her obedience to God via His servant, Elijah (1 Kings 17).

The next thing Isaac did was he sowed seeds – despite the famine. Seed in our context refers to money. (The ‘hows and whys’ of tithing were outlined in last week’s article so that will not be repeated here). In a time of difficulty and lack, one is tempted to stop giving to God, or even to ‘skip’ church altogether. “I will go back to church and start giving again after my situation improves”, one argues. Or, “when I get a pay rise, I’ll get back to giving my tithe to God. In the meantime, giving a few kina will do!”
No, it will not do. I would choose to encourage you differently. Despite the ‘famine’ of hard times you are going through, take God at His word and keep sowing your seed. Keep sowing by faith (Heb 11:6), keep sowing gladly (2 Cor 9: 7) and keep trusting Him. As we saw last week, He even challenges us: “Put me to the test” (Mal 3: 10)! So test Him and as you sow your seed, expect Him to rebuke the devourer and make you fruitful! Remember there are 2 things you can do with your seed in your difficult time – sow it or eat it! You will only reap if you sow it.
Let’s look at another story that illustrates the truth. This is found in 1 Kings 17. Elijah had relocated to Zarephath at God’s command. He met up with the old widow and asked her for some water. As she went to get it, he then asked for bread. The widow could help with water but not with bread. “All I have is a handful of flour in a bowl and a bit of olive oil in a jar. I came here to gather some firewood to take back home and prepare what little I have for my son and me. That will be our last meal, and then we will starve to death”, she said (verse 12). But Elijah continued to press for her faith and loyalty. “Don’t worry’, Elijah said to her. “Go on and prepare your meal. But first make a small loaf from what you have and bring it to me, and then prepare the rest for you and your son” (verse 13). She had to put God first! That was going to be tough as they were in a desperate situation. But Elijah promised her that God would sustain her miraculously until the famine was over, if she obeyed. The widow obeyed and she was blessed to see God do as He promised. The miracle was that the flour and oil didn’t run out until the rains began to fall again (verse 15).
Again, the situation you are going through might not be favourable in the natural. Your finances are scarce, or your health issues are pressing. Maybe due to Covid you have been laid off from work, or your business is not doing too well. Regardless, for whatever income you receive, keep tithing on it and keep trusting God. Continue faithfully giving God’s tenth while He sustains you and your family with your remaining 90 per cent. He most certainly will do it.
I have personally seen the hand of God come through during my ‘drought’ periods over the years. This is especially true when I kept giving for His Kingdom purposes. No, I will not promise you a thousand kina or a brand new Cadillac when you give. That is what we are promised by certain preachers on television. I will only say that the way one can break out of financial bondage is to be faithful in giving God’s money via the ‘storehouse’ (Mal 3: 10). As I taught previously, the storehouse refers to your local church, not to some flaky prophet who wants to make a profit from the gullible!
George Barna’s research tells us that “the average Christian gives no more than two per cent of his income to the church or other ministries”. That tells us that God’s people are giving as little as possible, and they are giving without joy. We can change that in PNG. Give God’s money by faith and see what He will do on your behalf.
We see today how times are getting tougher with the effects of Covid. The worldwide financial situation at times looks bleak. As we approach the imminent return of Messiah Yeshua, we can be assured that the church of God will be tested to the limit.
We must remain steadfast and strong in our love for Him. Our love for the Lord can only be measured by our giving. Indeed, God’s economy is not the same as man’s economy. In God’s Kingdom, we give by faith for the purposes of the King, which is our investment that will bring eternal rewards!
As we sow in this difficult season, let us do so with patience for God’s word says, “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up!” (Gal 6: 9).

  • Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.

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