This morning I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. It was the last bit of cereal in the box and as I was pouring the cereal out, there in the bottom of the box was the dregs, the chaff. If you eat something like frosted mini wheats, there is a lot of sugar and loose pieces of cereal in the bottom. The same is true for Frosted flakes, raisin bran…even in the bottom of the cook on the stove oatmeal carton there is chaff. By definition chaff is worthless things, trash. I don’t know about you, but I cannot pour all that chaff in my cereal bowl. I throw it away.
Chaff began as an agricultural term. It is the husks and waste that comes off grain when it is threshed. It is the loose outer covering on wheat and other grains that is separated in the process of threshing and winnowing at harvest. In Biblical times grain was threshed, or trampled, beaten, or crushed on an outdoor ‘threshing floor’. The inedible part was called chaff. It is lighter in weight than the grain so people would build their threshing floors on higher ground. The harvested grain was dumped on the floor and often animals were used to stomp on the grain. In the late afternoon and evening a light breeze would come up and the farmers would take the grain by winnowing forks and toss it up in the air. The lightweight chaff would blow away, and the heavier grain would fall to the ground. Sometimes the lightweight chaff would be collected and used for fuel for their fires.
This process was common in ancient times. And the imagery painted a vivid picture of the separation of good and evil. The Book of Psalms begins with a psalm about the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. The righteous one is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in due season. But the wicked are not like that. The psalmist tells us that the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away. In Isaiah 33 the righteous people are shown to survive judgement while the wicked nations are consumed, like chaff in a fire. In fact, Isaiah tells the Assyrians they are so wicked they conceive chaff and give birth to straw. And Hosea reminds us that God’s way of dealing with idolaters in Israel was to remove them like chaff swirls away in the wind. Hosea 13.
In the book of Daniel, the giant statue King Nebuchadnezzar sees, the one made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron is broken to pieces and became like chaff, scattered in the wind. When we get to the New Testament John the Baptist portrays Jesus like the winnower or harvester of grain. Matthew 3:11-12. John tells us Jesus’ winnowing fork is in His hand and He is going to clear His threshing floor. Jesus will gather His grain into the barn and the chaff…Jesus will burn it with unquenchable fire. This is the separation of those who repent and those who do not.
You see, Jesus came the first time to save. The second time He comes will be to judge the world with righteousness. And the chaff…the wicked, the ungodly, the faithless, the unbelieving, the unfruitful… Jesus will separate from the godly. They will be consigned to a horrible fate. All of this sounds like awful news. These are not encouraging words it seems. Except they are. Those of us who believe have been washed clean in the blood of Christ. We have been made righteous. We are right before God. That does not give us license to do whatever we please. It means when God looks at us, He sees people who are made clean. Not by our own accord but by Jesus. It also means those who have not yet taken Jesus as their Lord and Savior still have a chance. And part of our call as those who bear Christ’s name is to share Him with others.
The good news is that we know chaff is trash. And the things that lead us away from the Lord are like chaff. We have time…today…to sift through the things in our lives and remove the chaff, the things that threaten to separate us from the Lord. We have time today to share Jesus with someone who does not know. We have time today, to draw closer to Jesus ourselves.
Whenever I eat cereal, I hear Jesus words, “and the chaff I will burn with unquenchable fire.” And it makes me ask myself, what chaff will I remove from my life today? What can I do today, to move even closer to my Lord and Savior? What will you remove…today?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W