When I was a boy my Grandpa Bjerkaas kept a small part of his farm, probably somewhere between a quarter and a third of an acre, as a hay field. Although it had been years since the barn had been used for livestock, every farmer knows that hay bales are kind of like duct tape – lots of uses from barn insulation to water management! Many farms one drives by in the upper Midwest have their hay lots.
Hay has been considered an essential crop throughout history. In ancient Israel, it would have been stacked rather than baled, and it would have been primarily used as fodder for livestock during the winter months. But this principal use would have made hay even more invaluable to the Israelite than it is to his modern day Minnesotan counterpart. His livelihood depended upon his animals maintaining their health during the lean months. If his animals died, it would set him back years. And there was no such thing as farmers’ insurance.
Hay was and is an important crop, but it is also an unusual one. It is essentially grass. And it can be “mown” whenever the farmer deems it tall enough to make the effort of mowing it worthwhile. Generally, Grandpa found it expedient to do so when grandsons were about! Hay doesn’t ripen like corn. And it doesn’t produce just one crop like wheat. In fact, the minute a hay field is mown, it is beginning its next harvest cycle without any additional cultivating or sowing. The grass just keeps growing from its now reduced height. This means that a hay field can produce as many harvests in one growing season as rain and sunshine permit.
But the wise farmer knows that every mowing courts at least a small measure of risk. If the grass is cut too short and the days following the mowing are hot and dry, the field can be burnt and the grass can die. Suburbanites today often learn this the hard way despite the drought and heat resistant grasses sold at the local hardware store. If this happened to an ancient Israelite, it required quite a bit of time and energy to restore a field to its previous productivity. So if there was one thing the ancient or modern farmer hopes for after a field is mown, it is a cool, soaking rain that will give the cut grass all that it needs to add the growth that will secure the next harvest.
This is what would have gone through the Israelite’s mind when he heard or sung the words of Psalm 72:6:
He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
Like showers watering the earth.
But who will be like this, and in what way will they be like this highly desired blessing? Psalm 72 is the final Psalm of the second major division, or book, of the Psalms. It is ascribed to Solomon and is widely regarded as a messianic Psalm; a psalm that prophetically points to the promised king who would, as this Psalm states, judge with righteousness, bring prosperity, defend the afflicted, save the children of the needy, and crush oppressors. He will endure forever, and his reign will be universal. In short, he will be like the longed for blessing that comes at just the right time and secures the future against all that you fear. He will be like rain on a mown field.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ did in fact come at just the right time (Galatians 4:4). And we believe as well that in God’s perfect timing, the bringing of his Word to light occurs in each of our lives at the appointed, “just right,” time. (Titus 1:3). So live in faith, and, in the familiar words of God’s servants, “fear not.” If God has in Christ so wonderfully choreographed the work of Christ in you, he will continue to provide himself as the rain that keeps your soul from being parched and burnt throughout the hot and dry seasons of your life. And new growth will come.
Note: the picture is “Rain on a Wheat Field” by Vincent van Gogh