Have you ever seen your convictions or ministry or trust in someone ground up and blown to…
Well… so did the Apostle Peter.
On the threshing floor of decision, God used Satan to “sift” Peter’s ego from his ambitions. (Luke 22)
A tribulum was a sled constructed with shards of rock or iron driven into the sled’s heavy wooden bottom. Oxen or other livestock dragged the tribulum repeatedly across sheaves of wheat to detach chaff from the grain. Example at this address: https://vimeo.com/77179927
Peter’s tribulum experience began when he crowed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” It was his heartfelt, noble promise to Jesus at the Last Supper.
But hours after this brave declaration, Peter sat by a bonfire, mortified that his Messiah was being abused by guards in the high priest’s courtyard. Peter camouflaged his anguish, until a servant girl recognized him as a follower of Jesus. Peter, The Rock, denied that he even knew him. Discouragement and confusion dragged the tribulum over Peter’s self- confidence like oxen treading wheat.
After the tribulum, laborers in the Middle East winnowed (separated) the chaff from the wheat by tossing the broken, crushed stalks repeatedly in the air with large wooden pitch forks. An evening breeze blew this chaff away, leaving the wheat kernels (along with pebbles and stems) on the threshing floor. Women gathered this winnowed mixture for the final sifting.
Remorse, self-pity and confusion lay upon the threshing floor of Peter’s soul—as well as his courage.
Could Peter’s faith survive the second phase of sifting—the winnowing?
Should he try to rescue Jesus? Should he declare his loyalty? Should he welcome a cat-o-nine-tail scourge, and die with Jesus?
Instead Peter renounced him.
At the bonfire, another servant accused Peter of being a Jesus follower, and he declared emphatically, “Man, I am not!”
It was painstaking, tedious work separating the debris (like tiny rocks and dirt) from the wheat grain by hand. Women sat on the ground with a woven sieve that allowed the debris to drop through the apertures. Then with care she picked out every visible speck of sediment left among the kernels before pouring the grain into containers for storing.
It was harder for Peter to refute the third allegation. Someone heard him speak and declared: “You must be one of them [Jesus’ disciple]. We can tell by your Galilean accent!”
Peter panicked and damned himself to hell to add weight to his words: “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” (Matt. 26:74)
On cue from on high, a rooster gave voice, and Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Peter glanced at Jesus, who turned and locked eyes upon Peter. Peter should have taken comfort in Jesus’ other prophetic words to him:
“But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
No matter how weak and wretched Simon Peter acted and felt, Jesus Christ’s intercession was saving him from irreparable spiritual ruin.
To any rational person observing Peter at the palace courtyard, his faith had failed:
- Peter’s actions spoke louder than words.
- Peter did not walk the talk.
- Peter’s testimony blew away like chaff.
- Peter, The Rock, abandoned the Son of God. (Matt. 26:75)
But God was allowing Peter’s ego to be sifted so that He could use Peter to be his gospel-bearer to the Gentiles. God used the Big Fisherman to nurture God’s family, the church, with the Staff of Life until the day of his own crucifixion.
You may ask: “WILL MY FAITH FAIL when I am sifted?”
A better question is: “Can anything oppose the mandate of your all-powerful, loving Savior and intercessor?”
Jesus recognizes our longings to serve God. None of our cowardly denials can alter his mandate to fulfill his purposes. Our hope may be buried in selfish debris, but God will use the tribulum, the winnowing forks, and the sieve to show up our frailties.
God chose you to be his child, and his plans cannot be sifted out of your life. Nothing can oppose God’s will.
Paul the Apostle says:
- … I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)
The Apostle John says:
- My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. (I John 2:1 NLT)
The writer of Hebrews says:
- So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Heb. 4:14-16 NLT)
- Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him [Jesus]. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. (Heb.7:25 NLT)