The Word for today:
When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. (Leviticus 2:1)
Not physically so much, but in other ways.
When I was a kid, on Thanksgiving it was my job to sift the flour that my Mom would use to thicken the gravy. I would sift it and sift it (even though, straight out of the bag, it looked sifted enough already.) Then my Dad would come by, look it over, and tell me to sift it some more.
The flour had to be at the super-fine stage or it would produce lumps in the gravy. But if it were sifted enough, you couldn’t even tell there was any thickener in the gravy at all.
My personality is lumpy. It’s not smooth and balanced and even. I am very committed about some things. But about other things, that should concern me just as much, I can be very noncommittal.
The transitions in my demeanor, when shifting out of anguish (let’s say) and into anger (let’s say) are very abrupt. I am incapable of balancing what the Bible calls grace and truth (1). There’s a big lump of unsifted flour on the truth side and the grace side is running a little thin.
And I am not alone. Sin has made all of the human race lumpy, one-sided, abnormal. One part of our personalities has overdeveloped at the expense of the other parts.
Jesus was without these lumps. He didn’t overstress mercy and forget all about God’s indignation over sin. He could drive the money changers from the temple, then take the little children into his arms.
He didn’t rail against the Pharisees just because he could. He denounced them in order to sift their souls. And it worked, because amongst them were a dignified gentleman named Nicodemus and a fire-breathing younger man named Saul of Tarsus. Their theology, which stressed the “letter” over the spirit of the law, was out of whack. So Jesus sifted their spiritual pride.
Simon Peter also needed sifting. Frightfully, the job was left to Satan:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.
Jesus assured him that when the process was complete, he would be able to help many others:
But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32)
In the days when Leviticus was written, they didn’t have the mills we have. The grain had to be ground by hand with a pestle in a rock bowl. So fine flour was very rare and highly prized, which makes the grain offering a true picture of the Bread of Life (2).
He would be broken for us, but he would need no sifting.
(1) John 1:14, 17; (2) John 6:35, 48