“The labourers are few.” So, send me. “To do what?”: Why John MacArthur thought “enough already!”

Here are a few thoughts on part of John MacArthur’s sermon on “The harvest and the laborers.”

Bible text – “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).

John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Here is MacArthur:

(Parts for discussion are italicised)

Now, I believe that when the Lord saw the multitudes, He thought of Joel’s harvest…and it’s judgment that Joel spoke of. I believe our Lord saw consummation. He saw the eternity perspective. He didn’t see people just in their current problem. He saw them as doomed to hell. In Matthew 13…the Lord, giving a parable said this. “Let both grow together…verse 30…until the harvest. And in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them. But gather the wheat into My barn.'” It is judgment, and it is judgment on the multitudes; and some will be barned and some will be burned, but it is judgment.”

Listen, beloved, Jesus ministered to people because He loved them. He ministered to people because of their terrible condition, and He ministered to people because He could see their ultimate consummation; and if you’ve lost that vision, you’ve lost a major portion of your motive. Paul said, “Knowing…2 Corinthians 5…the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. We understand hell.” Romans 12, Paul talked about the vengeance of God. Hebrews, the writer talks about it. “Men will die, and after that, the judgment.” In 2 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul painted such a vivid picture. “In the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels and flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

So easy for us to lose the sense of the imminence and inevitability of eternal judgment. There’s no way to describe hell. Nothing on earth can compare with it. No living person can really comprehend it. No madman in the wildest flights of insanity ever beheld the borders of hell. No man in delirium’s ever pictured a place so utterly terrible. No nightmare racing across a fevered mind ever produced a terror to match that of the mildest hell… and our Lord saw that…and He was moved…to reach out to people…. What are you gonna do about the condition of men and women who are trapped under those false shepherds who feed them lies that damn their souls? What are you gonna do?… How many times in the Bible do you read this? “Watch and pray.” Or this? “Be sober. Be vigilant.” Or “Be alert.” We’ve gotta know what’s going on. Can you see the signs of the times? Can you see the needs of men? Are you really discerning? Do you look through the religious facades? Can you see past the phonies? Do you know how few real laborers there really are?.. God wants His people to see, and so He explains it to the disciples. You see, the harvest is so plenteous. I mean it’ll include everybody, but the laborers are so few.”

Listen, friends, God has called us to teach His Word, to proclaim His Kingdom, to touch peoples’ lives, and to be moved to do that, because His love is in us, because we see their condition, and because we understand their consummation; and He’s asked us to analyze it, to have insight, to intercede on their behalf by asking God to send forth laborers; and then when the call comes, like Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.”…

I focus on the sections in italics:

Joel’s harvest…and it’s judgment that Joel spoke of. I believe our Lord saw consummation… He saw the eternity perspective. He didn’t see people just in their current problem. He saw them as doomed to hell…Romans 12, Paul talked about the vengeance of God. Hebrews, the writer talks about it. “Men will die, and after that, the judgment.”

Here is the reference in Joel 3:13 “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!”

The harvest is much ado about hell. Christ came to redeem “His people” (MacArthur’s words) from eternal damnation. Who are “His people?” They are – Jesus could not emphasise it enough:

But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day…Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:36-40, 44).

God wants His people to see, and so He explains it to the disciples. You see, the harvest is so plenteous. I mean it’ll include everybody…”

In the harvest, there is a distinction between “His people,” which I described earlier (and which I am certain is MacArthur’s view as well) and “everybody,” which subsumes both “His people” and the lost.

because His love is in us, because we see their condition, and because we understand their consummation; and He’s asked us to analyze it, to have insight, to intercede on their behalf by asking God to send forth laborers; and then when the call comes, like Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.”

If you are a Christian, Christ’s love is in you where the main objective of that love is to tell everybody not only of the love of God but also the terror of his majesty (Job 37:22):

מִצָּפֹון זָהָב יֶֽאֱתֶה עַל־אֱלֹוהַּ נֹורָא הֹֽוד׃

1. Mi-tzafon OUT OF THE NORTH

2. zahav GOLD/SPLENDOUR

3. ye-eteh COMES

4. al-eloha WITH/IN GOD (IS)

5. nora TERRIBLE/TERRFYING/FEARFUL

6. hod SPLENDOUR/MAJESTY/HONOUR

In an earlier part of his sermon, MacArthur says:

So easy for us to lose the sense of the imminence and inevitability of eternal judgment. There’s no way to describe hell. Nothing on earth can compare with it. No living person can really comprehend it. No madman in the wildest flights of insanity ever beheld the borders of hell. No man in delirium’s ever pictured a place so utterly terrible. No nightmare racing across a fevered mind ever produced a terror to match that of the mildest hell.”

MacArthur provides more details of the horror of hell that I won’t mention.

Now, to “send me.”

I once asked two different Christians whom I assumed had more than a nodding acquaintance with the Bible what came after (the well-known, often heard in sermons):

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

They didn’t know. So I flicked open my ipad and read it to them”

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Make the heart of this people dull,

and their ears heavy,

and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,

and hear with their ears,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said:

Until cities lie waste

without inhabitant,

and houses without people,

and the land is a desolate waste,

and the Lord removes people far away,

and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. (Isaiah 6:8-12).

Why did MacArthur not quote the verses after“send me,” which are crucial to God’s judgment at harvest time? Because he had already used up his sermon time? I don’t think so. I hope not. He was probably thinking Jewish: “Of tsorres (misfortune), enough already!”

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5 thoughts on ““The labourers are few.” So, send me. “To do what?”: Why John MacArthur thought “enough already!”

    • Thanks Dan. You are right it doesn’t say DROM (South) but TZAFON (North). What was I thinking? When has the South ever had any real clout? Now, I appreciate even what you about South Africans being topsy-turvy. I made the necessary realignment.

  1. Wow…I have not gotten the chance to look into this passage as closely as you and MacArthur did but wow, the reference to Joel puts it in perspective…because so often I hear people talk about it as if it’s a good positive thing where many are coming to Christ but lack the understanding of the shade of judgment. Thanks

    • As you intimated, SlimJim, the power of positive thinking is sinking into the church. Many will ask: “Why do you always have to spoil the love of Jesus by always harping back to the wrath of the father?” which is as gnostic and therefore as cockeyed as you can get.

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