Promise of Sifting

In Luke 22:31-32,  Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  Jesus reference to Peter being “sifted” is based on the process of sifting the wheat from its chaff during harvest.  Sifting is a form of refining and distilling the good from the bad and removing impurities.  It’s also analogous to pressing grapes to extract the juice for wine.   The following are additional supporting passages.   The Hebrews 12 passage actually provides a very strong overall theme for our approach. The idea of learning from a great cloud of witnesses, identifying and throwing off things that hinder and sin, running with perseverance, and keeping our eyes on Jesus provide a great outline for how we pursue the theme.

•    Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

•    Romans 8:34-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these
things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

•    John 16:31
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

•    John 17:14-15
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

•    2 Corinthians 4:7-11
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

•    2 Corinthians 1:8-9
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. In our hearts we felt the sentence of death. This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Biblical Context for “Sifted”:  Winnowing and Threshing Floor
In Matthew 3:11-12, John the Baptist said the following about Jesus, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

In Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

The passages introduce the terms threshing floor, winnowing fork, wheat, chaff, and sifting.  The following explains these terms and their relevance in separating (or refining) good from bad.

Threshing floors were constructed in the fields, preferably in an exposed position in order to get the full benefit of the winds.   They were often clustered together close to the village for protection against thieves.  The floor is a level, circular area 25 to 40 ft. in diameter, prepared by first picking out the stones, and then wetting the ground, tamping or rolling it, and finally sweeping it.  A border of stones usually surrounded the floor to keep in the grain.

The sheaves of grain, which were brought on the backs of men, donkeys, camels, or oxen, were heaped on this area, and the process of tramping out began. Often animals were tied abreast and driven round and round the floor.  A supply of un-threshed grain was kept in the center of the floor. The un-threshed grain was pulled down from time to time into the path of the animals.  The partly threshed grain was continually being turned over with a fork. The stalks gradually become broken into short pieces and the husks about the grain are torn off.

This mixture of chaff and grain must then be winnowed.  Tossing the mixture into the air so that the wind blew away the chaff did this. When the chaff is gone then the grain is collected.  The difference in weight between the stones and grain makes separation by
this process possible.

Sifting is this process of separating the wheat from the chaff. Where John the Baptist refers to Jesus doing the sifting, Jesus refers
to Satan asking to do sifting.

As Believers, we been perfectly sifted by Christ’s blood AND we are being continually sifted to extract our chaff (sin) through the process of sanctification.  Life’s troubles and difficulties serve in some measure like the winnowing fork.