I know nothing about farming or planting or plowing or tilling (that’s a thing, right?). I know I love irises and roses are okay. I know I use cumin in Amber’s guacamole recipe and I think there’s some wheat in the bread on my sandwich, but that’s about all I’ve got with plants and crops and such.

Probably this is why I never paid much attention to Isaiah 28:24-29 until this past week when God guided my focus to it:

“Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting? Does he not finally plant his seeds–black cumin, cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat–each in its proper way, and each in its proper place? …A heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cumin; rather, it is beaten with a light stick. A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin; instead, it is beaten lightly with a flail. Grain for bread is easily crushed, so he doesn’t keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but he doesn’t pulverize it. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom.”

This time God stopped me and pointed out several key ideas in the passage:

1. God knows how we need to be threshed. A farmer would know, courtesy of God, how to handle each seed. He would know where to plant it, in just the right time and place, for maximum growth. He would know how to cultivate it for the greatest possible return. Like a good farmer, God knows how to plant us. He knows where to plant us and in what time to plant us. We can rest in knowing if we’re here in 2012 it’s because God wanted us to be alive here in 2012. He also knows how to cultivate us and thresh us for the greatest possible return. He knows when we will be tried and tested and broken, and he knows how that cultivation will grow us for him.

2. Threshing doesn’t always feel very good. Several times since walking with Christ, I’ve hit major roadblocks. I’m talking about specific moments amidst life-changing events when I had to consciously decide whether I was going to let God take over or keep trying on my own. Times like those, the threshing hurts. It feels like he’s pulverizing me or pounding me and crushing me under the weight of the world. But all along, he knows exactly how much weight and what method of cultivation I need at just that moment to strengthen my faith in him.

3. God knows how others need to be threshed. God may use a heavy sledge on me when he’s using a light stick on you. He may roll the threshing wheel on you while taking it easy on me. He may show mercy to me while he’s chastising you, and he may stop me while he allows you to move freely forward. In moments like the roadblocks mentioned above it’s hard not to look at others’ lives and be envious or angry or even smug. But who is the wheat to ask the farmer why he’s not threshing it the way he threshes the cumin?

4. Threshing is necessary. The process of threshing is to remove the necessary and useful part of the seed from the no longer useful covering and other parts of the seed. As long as we’re on this earth, we’re going to have some unnecessary parts and distractions that need to be pulled away from us so we can focus on God. This isn’t the only time God’s people are compared to crops in the Bible. Remember the slightly more famous analogy in Matthew 3:12? “He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork.” God is constantly threshing us, constantly separating us from the chaff and pulling away sins and distractions in our lives so we can grow stronger in him.

How has God threshed you recently? How has God’s threshing caused you pain? How has God’s threshing brought you joy?