We are bombarded with messages. Personal words, corporate words, words we speak over ourselves, and words we read online. We probably receive more messages than any other generations before us. A few days ago, the word “chaff” kept coming up, and I was seeing pictures of wheat everywhere. As I searched the Word for it, I felt particularly drawn to Jeremiah 23. I felt a distinct invitation to us from the Lord to let Him help us sift the prophetic words that we plant in our lives. As we invite Him to help us sift, we’ll find the seeds (the wheat) meant for this season, and we’ll discover the chaff that we need to let go of that is either not from the Lord or not for us in this season.
Chaff, I found, has multiple definitions. It is the husky shell of the grain, as we have come to know it in the Bible, but it’s also a military term. When “chaff” is used in warfare, it’s metal bits released from enemy aircraft specifically for the purpose of scrambling the other plane’s radar. The metal fragments disburse, all flagging on the radar, making it difficult to see what’s really the enemy plane and making aiming next to impossible. If you’re in a season of feeling “scrambled” or like you’re not quite sure where to aim next, take this as a confirmation that the Lord wants an encounter with you to remind you of His words over your life. Like those bits of metal confusing plane radar, when we get “chaff” mixed in with what we’re hearing from the Lord, it makes it difficult to know where the Lord wants us to aim, and often we end up expending energy and effort in the wrong directions.
If you’re in that season where the words are many but the moments of clarity are few, here is some encouragement. Separating wheat and chaff comes at a time of maturity. It’s only when there’s something of use that’s arrived at its time of readiness. When the fruit of your season is coming to maturity, and God’s getting it ready to be used, there’s often a threshing that happens. The purpose, though, in letting Him sift the prophetic word we are believing and receiving is to separate the usable and true from the empty or ill-fitting.
If you were to see chaff and grain in a big mixed-up pile, it would take some seriously close inspection to sift which was which. They can seem very similar. Just like in hearing many “words” it can be hard to distinguish what God is really speaking over your season. Some words may be empty shells- like chaff- with the appearance of good but nothing of use inside. Just as a distraction. Other words may be good words and may match up with what the Lord is saying over someone else’s season, but it’s not what God is speaking over you. Just like chaff is the shell of the former season, sometimes either others can speak over us out of their own past season in a way that’s not “on” with God’s word or timing in our lives. Sometimes we even prophesy over ourselves from our own logic based on our past seasons. This is also well-intentioned but “off” from where the Lord is pointing us.
The words God is speaking over you are going to be a lot more like seeds. They won’t look or sound like the past season, but they come as a mysterious invitation to grow something with the Lord. Much like a seed in nature, their fullness is far more intricate and beautiful than could ever be predicted by looking at the seed.
In Jeremiah 23:28-29 it reads “Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”. When we invite the Lord into our hearts and mind to sift what we’re receiving, He does it like a fire and a hammer. At first, this sounds rough, but God reminded me of what each does to chaff (in this translation, “straw”) versus seed (grain). Fire destroys chaff completely. Fire, however, can ignite growth in seeds. I recalled a time year ago when a friend invited my husband and me to help with a controlled burn on their land. Painstaking preparations were made to make sure exactly the areas needed were burned. The amazing thing was that weeks later we were invited back. The first that had passed over dead things burned them up. There were certain plants, however, that were actually triggered to seed when they felt the heat of the fire. New growth and blooms were popping up all over the property! The burn did not destroy the seeds…they were catalyzed.
The hammer is not just a crushing, but it’s a targeted and specific crushing. When a stalk is struck, the grain has a weight that causes them to fall and be collected. The chaff, on the other hand, is carried away by the wind. When we invite the Lord to shake us free from the chaff, the true words from Him will be collected, and all that isn’t planted by Him will blow away (so long as we’re not grasping at it to hold on to it).
If you feel led, take this opportunity to write down all of the things you are praying about and all the words you are hearing. Go through the list and ask God again to speak His truth. This invitation is a beautiful opportunity for confirmation but also an opportunity for adjustment or the relief of letting go of something we only thought we were supposed to be growing but really wasn’t God’s word over our season. The sifting that comes from the Lord doesn’t look like doom but looks like the freedom of surrender as we come to Him open-handed, trusting that He leaves (and even causes to grow!) all that is good and blows away all that is empty.