TO CHEW ON: "For surely I will command,
And I will sift the house of Israel among all nations
As Grain is sifted in a sieve;
Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground." Amos 9:9
My earliest memories of sifting are from when I was a little girl and learning to bake. Mom taught me to make sure I always sifted the flour before putting it into anything. That was because beetles sometimes got into the large kitchen bin where we kept the 100 lb. quantities of flour we bought. I'm sure if I found beetles in my flour now, I'd throw out the whole lot. But not then. We'd simply remove the wriggling black interlopers and carry on, mixing the bread, cookies or whatever.
The act of sifting ("To pass through a sieve in order to separate the fine parts from the coarse") is referred to in the Bible at various times. It is God's way of revealing the covered or hidden things that shouldn't be there (e.g. Proverbs 20:26). The intention is to get rid of them.
However, the purpose of sifting is also to separate out and preserve what is good. Unlike the Ethiopians, Philistines and Syrians, which God says He will destroy, He will sift Israel so that he can preserve the "house of Jacob" (Amos 9:7-9). He'll separate out the bad stuff to preserve all that is good (down to the "smallest grain").
The process of sifting, when it affects our lives, is never fun. Just as the physical act of sifting disturbs every bit of the sifted product, so God's sifting of us is uncomfortable, painful, even life-shaking. Job is one man I think of when I think of the sifting of a life. Nothing he had was left untouched.
In the New Testament, Jesus refers to Satan asking to sift Peter. Though at first Peter failed the sifting test, Jesus told him that the sifting would eventually work toward him strengthening others (Luke 22:31-32).
Are you being sifted? All kinds of things can serve as sifters, from the normal tensions of work and family life to the unusual stresses of accidents, crimes, natural disasters, disease, unemployment, etc. If you feel like you are being sifted, remember the purpose of the process—to reveal what shouldn't be there so you can deal with it now, and to separate out what is worth preserving.
Peter speaks of the end result of such a purifying and separating process in 1 Peter 1:6-7 (using the metaphor of purifying gold in fire). "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to realize that problems in my life may be part of Your sifting and purifying process in me. Help me to endure so my life will glorify You. Amen.
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