“Grain for bread is crushed,
“Indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever.
“Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it,
“He does not thresh it longer.”
— Isaiah 28:28
Just when I think I’m starting to rise above the hurt of leaving my work behind, something comes up and reminds me that the pain is still there.
Last night, I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in several months. I think the last time I saw her was very brief, so we haven’t really spoken in perhaps a year or more. We both had a few minutes to catch up, so we talked about kids, houses, life, and the like. And then she asked me how my work was going.
I have been rather quiet about leaving my work. It was something I did as a sole proprietor, so everything was always fairly flexible. If people saw me out and about during the day, there was no reason to believe it wasn’t a work day. It was well-known that I often worked at night as well. I made no big announcement about giving everything up, so there was no reason to believe that she would have known about the change in my life.
I had to confess to her that I gave everything up, and immediately, wounds I thought were healing opened up again. In this room full of people, I had to try very hard not to dissolve into tears. She was so sympathetic and understanding and kind, and she had many wise words to offer, but still–it was a painful conversation. I left the conversation asking God, “how long, Lord? How long is this pain going to last? How long until I can talk about all of this without falling apart? How long till I can leave this behind emotionally? It’s been months since I left everything. When will I be able to move on? When will I accept that that chapter of my life is really over, really gone, really not coming back?”
My reading is in Isaiah right now, and I confess, I don’t understand most of this book. Perhaps if I knew more about the history of Israel and the Near East, I might understand the prophecies more. At this point, I’m gleaning principles from this book–principles about God’s sovereignty, His ultimate plan for redemption, His right to pronounce judgment on those nations that reject Him, etc. This morning, I came to chapter 28. Now, the last half of the chapter consists mainly of a warning for Judah and a promise that God will place a cornerstone in Zion–a Messianic prophecy, as I understand it. But . . .
I try very hard to read my Bible in context and with the understanding that I cannot take verses and promises that apply to others and make them fit my own life. I go by the principle taught at Stand to Reason: “Never read a Bible verse.” When we read something that we think is God’s direct message to us, we have to evaluate the verse in historical, textual, and cultural context. Not everything is meant as a specific promise to the modern-day follower of Christ.
Yet the last several verses of Isaiah 28 are a parable–a parable about a farmer. A parable is basically a story that illustrates a principle. Jesus used many agricultural parables when He spoke to His followers on earth, so I think it’s fair to say that when a parable illustrates a basic principle, it’s okay to apply that principle to our modern-day faith. The parable of the farmer in Isaiah 28 tells us how a Good Farmer (God) cultivates His crops. And there in verse 28 was a promise: God doesn’t thresh the wheat beyond what is necessary.
When I read that, I did cry.
I understand that perfect refinement will only come once I stand before the throne of grace, but I also understand that refinement is a continual process here on earth as well. God is saving and refining me every day. He has already cultivated the soil of my heart over these last several decades of my faith. Shoots have grown; some have withered, some have produced grain. Now that the grain is on the threshing floor, I have to believe that God knows what He’s doing. I have to trust that with each time He tosses the grain into the air, the wind blows away just a little more chaff. I have to understand that in the beginning, the chaff will be greater than the grain, but that each pass will bring more refinement.
Is it all right to take that particular verse as a promise that God will not “thresh” me longer than necessary? I don’t know. What I do know is that the parable reminded me that God is the Perfect Farmer. And as a very small and inadequate field in the Hands of a loving Cultivator, I rest in knowing that if I am faithful to do what I am programmed to do–bring glory to God through study, prayer, worship, and service to His Kingdom–then He will be faithful to produce an abundant crop in my life.
Till next we meet . . .