Wheat is getting an increasingly bad name in our day. Why? Generations of hybridization have engineered wheat which is more disease resistant, more pesticide resistant, more workable for baking, and generally more productive. However, the same cumulative modifications that have significantly helped reduce starvation across the globe also seem to be having adverse affects on the health of the human body.
Wheat in the Time of Christ
The wheat in the time of Jesus was quite different than what is grown today. There was no hybridization so, by and large, it served as a healthy, basic staple in the average person’s diet. The process of getting wheat from the ground to the bread loaf was a rather extensive one.
Upon harvesting, wheat was violently threshed in order to remove the actual grain from the surrounding body. The remaining mixture was then screened in order to accomplish a more complete separation. Next, the wheat grains were ground to a powder under the crushing weight of a heavy millstone. Finally, if necessary, the wheat flour was screened one last time to remove any small pieces of rock that may have broken off of the millstone.
We don’t know exactly what part (if not all) of the process Jesus was referring to when He said that Satan wanted to sift His disciples like wheat (Luke 22:31-34), but the point is clear: there were impure motives in the disciples’ hearts that needed to be removed in order to make them more fully useful for God’s purposes. This was reinforced by the fact that they had just had yet another argument about who would be the greatest in Christ’s coming kingdom.
A Modern Example of Purification
My western Pennsylvania hometown seemed to be surrounded by what we called “bony dumps.” Coal mining in the early 1900s was an especially crude process and so a lot of carbon was discarded with unusable rock and bony. These huge piles created an environmental nightmare and marred the otherwise beautiful country scenery. In recent years, companies have begun to reclaim bony dumps with the use of modern technology to separate the remaining carbon in order to generate electricity.
In a more modern coal cleaning plant, purification is achieved through the use of crushers, screens, centrifuges, etc. I know a little something about these processes having spent almost 20 years as a chemist in the coal industry. Because the coveted carbon is so closely knit with rock and other impurities, the coal cleaning process is both violent and extensive. Never is purification effortless!
Whether we speak of wheat, coal, or precious metals, the process of purification is an absolute necessity. In some cases—as with precious metals—the goal is for improved aestheticism, or overall value. In others situations, the end product becomes more useable for certain intended purposes. When God purifies a person’s motives He always seems to have multiple purposes in mind.
Sifted Like Wheat
God often allows Satan and his lackeys to “sift us like wheat” in order to make us more fruitful. Through an intense purifying process, we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and are conformed into the very image of God. This powerful transformation then enables God to use us more fully in order to touch the lives of others. Do you remember Christ’s words to Peter as recorded in Luke 22:32? “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (NET). Rarely are our adverse circumstances only about us.
The key, through it all, is that our hearts would stay soft and faith-filled as we walk with God in the midst of whatever adversities might come our way. Sadly, those who remain ignorant of God’s intentional involvement in the purification of our motives will usually react in ways that advance Satan’s purposes.
Because this issue is so important, and because so few of us seem to be aware of how these things work, I am going to present an extended blog series on the life of King David as we see how God lovingly took him through an extended developmental process in order to form him into one of the greatest kings the world has ever seen. You are going to want to stay tuned to these future posts!
God Has Good Plans for Us!
Our loving Father has good plans for every one of our lives, but His idea of good and our idea of good are sometimes very different. Even while Satan tries to sift us like wheat in order to harden us, God is purifying our motives to gain eternal fruit.
Do you see it? The times when God seems most to be absent are often the times when He is accomplishing the most in our hearts. We often recognize these things in retrospect, but it helps a whole lot to see them now through the eye of faith.