Embracing Grace: When Fire Falls

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 47 

Scripture: Matthew 3:10-12; Luke 3:15-17; Luke 9:22-24; Hebrews 12:28-29

Photo Credit: Deivis / CC BY-SA 2.0

When we want a loaf of bread, we typically go to the grocery store and buy it. If we are brave, we make freshly baked bread. If we are really dedicated, we grind the grain just before mixing the dough. Bread made from freshly ground grains, combined in special recipes using certain processes qualify for the designation of “artisan breads.”

I have made quite a few of these breads and must say that nothing in the world compares to the taste of artisan bread. When you get tired of eating cardboard in a bag, try making some of your own. You won’t be disappointed, and if you need a good recipe or two, drop me a line. I’ve been at it for over twenty years, though lately, with the demands of home schooling, I have fallen back into buying the card board that masquerades as bread.

Hmm… maybe it’s time to switch back to the good stuff.

Baking bread in ancient times was much more labor intensive than for us today. If we run out of wheat berries, a quick trip resupplies our needs. But in Bible times, not only was the family required to grow the stuff, but they had to harvest, thresh and winnow the grains.

Threshing is an ancient process that goes back thousands of years, back to the beginning of civilization. It is the removing of grain kernels from stalks, and over time many methods were employed. At its most basic level, however, it simply is the beating of the stalks, and the process could take as long as two months to complete. This was done through one of three general methods:

1. Beating the tar out it with a tool that more resembles a martial arts weapon than a farming implement, called a flail;

2. Using something called a threshing sledge (see Isaiah 41:15), which was a plank weighted with embedded stone or metal “teeth” which was dragged back and forth over the stalks to release the grains; or by

3. Harnessing animals to a central pole and having them walk repeatedly in circles over the stalks of grain to release the kernels.

After threshing, the whole lot was scooped up with a winnowing fork (something like a wooden farmers’ pitch fork) and tossed into the air over and over, until the chaff blew off to the side and only the grain remained. Alternately, a winnowing fan was used, which was more like a scoop, for the same purpose.

Winnowing was most commonly tasked at dusk or early evening when the wind would pick up. Because of this, the location of the threshing floor was important. It needed to be in an open area or hill so the wind could reach the stalks and blow both the dust and chaff away from the grain. Since the kernels were typically heavier than the chaff, they would fall back down to the ground, while the rest would blow aside. After winnowing, the grain was passed through a sieve to remove dirt before being stored in a granary or into bags for storage in a barn.

Finally, after the grain was collected, the workers would gather up the stalks and chaff and carry them to a fire and burn them. The word translated as “thoroughly clear” (Amp) or “purge” (KJV) is Greek, diakatharizō. It means to cleanse with thoroughness or thoroughly purge. The word translated as “unquenchable” is Greek, asbestos, a word which the Greeks originally applied “to a mythical stone the heat of which could not be extinguished.”1

I’ve heard a lot about the chaff being the judgment that will fall upon the unrighteous at the end of the age, and a little bit about the fire being the tongues of fire, but what sticks out to me is that John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize you (us) with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This doesn’t read like John is making a distinction between believers and nonbelievers, but is aiming it exclusively at the believer.

If you believe this to be as I see it, then what is the chaff? Anything that is not of God.

The church today is on the threshing floor. We are being winnowed, and like the threshing floor of Biblical times, we need to bear our hearts open for God to winnow the chaff away that is clinging to us. Those things in our lives that are not of God must be removed. Any chaff that remains will burn.

Jesus was the first seed to fall into the earth and die so that He would bear much fruit, and He says to us “Follow Me.” We cannot follow Jesus without going to the cross. We cannot go to the cross without dying (to self), so that we may live and bear much fruit. This is a painful process, but unless we die we cannot bear fruit that will remain.

A falling away is happening in many Christian churches, but for those who remain, God is opening eyes to see error we have for generations been walking in. This is because He desires to winnow away the chaff before the return of Jesus. He desires to create for Himself a spotless Bride.  We are going through the beginnings of birth pangs, as it were, because God desires us to bear children for the kingdom, even at our own expense.

This does not come through fancy services or new record albums, or even through community service, though God may choose to use them when a surrendered vessel leads them. But this most often comes through walking the path of death. For to this we were called, to die. This is why so many people vehemently resist anything that requires death to self, or any church service that encourages total abandon to God, even at the expense of being mocked by the “dignified.”

Self does not like to step down off its throne.

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.2

For the soul who welcomes the fire of God and abandons everything but God, for the soul who refuses to “settle down”, compromise, or embrace balance, but instead runs toward God’s furious love, heeding only His word to “Follow Me,” a greater reward awaits.

Read: Matthew 3:10-12; Luke 3:15-17; Luke 9:22-24; Hebrews 12:28-29. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, You know I don’t like to die to myself, but I know this is the way to bear fruit. Help me, Lord, to take up my cross daily, to submit to Your purging and pruning, that I may bear much fruit, that Jesus’ death may not be in vain, amen.


1 “asbestos.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 29 Mar. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/asbestos>.
2 Hebrews 12:28-29. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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