Sunday, May 25, 2008
Wheat And The Bible
Wheat is a type of grass grown all over the world for its highly nutritious and useful grain. It is one of the top three most produced crops in the world, along with corn and rice. Wheat has been cultivated for over 10,000 years and probably originates in the Fertile Crescent, along with other staple crops. It's a long stalk that terminates in a tightly formed cluster of plump kernels enclosed by a beard of bristly spikes. Wheat is an annual, which means that at the end of each year, fields must be plowed and prepared again to grow the grass.
Ancestral wheats probably looked very different, with much smaller kernels. The early domesticators of wheat obviously wanted to select for plants with particularly large kernels, since more nutrition could be eked out from each stalk. Because wheat is generally a self pollinating plant, each plant tends to produce clones of itself. When wheat is ready for harvest, the heads of the grain start to bend the stalks with the weight of the kernels. Wheat's characteristic golden color at harvest time is well known. If a flour is made solely from the endosperm, it is known as white flour. If the germ is ground as well, the product is called germ flour. Flour that uses the whole kernel is called whole wheat. When making flour that doesn't use the whole kernel, the bran and germ are processed and sold separately.
Wheat is believed to have originated in southwestern Asia. Some of the earliest remains of the crop have been found in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. Primitive relatives of present day wheat have been discovered in some of the oldest excavations of the world in eastern Iraq, which date back 9,000 years. Other archeological findings show that bread wheat was grown in the Nile Valley about 5,000 B.C. as well as in India, China, and even England at about the same time. Wheat was first grown in the United States in 1602 on an island off the Massachusetts coast.
Back before the machine age, wheat was harvested using manpower with a scythe or sickle. It looks like awfully hard work but Leo Tolstoy made it understandable in Anna Karenina:
Part 3, Chapter 4
The personal matter that absorbed Levin during his conversation with his brother was this. Once, the year previous, he had gone to look at the mowing, and being made very angry by the bailiff he had had recourse to his favorite means for regaining his temper - he had taken a scythe from a peasant and begun mowing.
He liked the work so much that he had several times tried his hand at mowing since. He had cut the whole of the meadow in front of his house, and this year, ever since the early spring, he had cherished a plan for mowing for whole days together with the peasants. Ever since his brother's arrival he had been in doubt as to whether to mow or not. He was loath to leave his brother alone all day long, and he was afraid his brother would laugh at him about it. But as he drove into the meadow, and recalled the sensations of mowing, he came near deciding that he would go mowing. After the irritating discussion with his brother, he pondered over this intention again.
`I must have physical exercise, or my temper'll certainly be ruined,' he thought, and he determined he would go mowing, however awkward he might feel about it with his brother or the peasants.
Toward evening Konstantin Levin went to his countinghouse, gave directions as to the work to be done, and sent about the village to summon the mowers for the morrow, to cut the hay in Kalinov meadow, the largest and best of his grasslands.
`And send my scythe, please, to Tit, for him to set it, and bring it round tomorrow. I may do some mowing myself, too,' he said, trying not to be embarrassed.
The bailiff smiled and said:
At tea the same evening Levin said to his brother too.
`I fancy the fine weather will last,' said he. `Tomorrow I shall start mowing.'
`I'm so fond of that form of field labor,' said Sergei Ivanovich.
`I'm awfully fond of it. I sometimes mow myself with the peasants, and tomorrow I want to try mowing the whole day.'
Sergei Ivanovich lifted his head, and looked with curiosity at his brother.
`How do you mean? Just like one of the peasants, all day long?'
`Yes, it's very pleasant,' said Levin.
`It's splendid as exercise, only you'll hardly be able to stand it,' said Sergei Ivanovich, without a shade of irony.
`I've tried it. It's hard work at first, but you get into it. I dare say I shall manage to keep it up....'
`Oh, so that's it! But tell me, how do the peasants look at it? I suppose they laugh in their sleeves at their master's being such a queer fish?'
`No, I don't think so; but it's so delightful, and at the same time such hard work, that one has no time to think about it.'
`But how will you do about dining with them? To send you a bottle of Lafitte and roast turkey out there would be a little awkward.'
Part 3, Chapter 5
After lunch Levin was not in the same place in the string of mowers as before, but stood between the old man who had accosted him jocosely, and now invited him to be his neighbor, and a young peasant, who had only been married in the autumn, and who was mowing this summer for the first time.
The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one's arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even swath of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.
Behind Levin came the lad Mishka. His comely, youthful face, with a twist of fresh grass bound round his hair, was all working with effort; but whenever anyone looked at him he smiled. He would clearly have died sooner than own it was hard work for him.
Levin kept between them. In the very heat of the day the mowing did not seem such hard work to him. The perspiration with which he was drenched cooled him, while the sun, that burned his back, his head, and his arms, bare to the elbow, gave a vigor and dogged energy to his labor; and more and more often now came those moments of unconsciousness, when it was possible not to think of what one was doing. The scythe cut of itself. These were happy moments. Still more delightful were the moments when they reached the stream where the swaths ended, and the old man rubbed his scythe with the wet, thick grass, rinsed its blade in the fresh water of the stream, ladled out a little in a whetstone case, and offered Levin a drink.
`What do you say to my kvass, eh? Good, eh?' he would say, winking.
And truly Levin had never drunk any liquor as good as this warm water with green bits floating in it, and a taste of rust from the tin whetstone case. And immediately after this came the delicious, slow saunter, with his hand on the scythe, during which he could wipe away the streaming sweat, take deep breaths of air, and look about at the long string of mowers, and at what was happening around in the forest and the field.
The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of unconsciousness in which it seemed that it was not his hands which swung the scythe, but that the scythe was moving together with itself a body full of life and consciousness of its own; and as though by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.
It was only hard work when he had to break off the motion, which had become unconscious, and to think; when he had to mow round a hummock or an unweeded tuft of sorrel. The old man did this easily. When a hummock came he changed his action, and at one time with the heel, and at another with the tip of his scythe, clipped the hummock round both sides with short strokes. And while he did this he kept looking about and watching what came into his view: at one moment he picked a wild berry and ate it or offered it to Levin, then he flung away a twig with the blade of the scythe, then he looked at a quail's nest, from which the bird flew just under the scythe, or caught a snake that crossed his path, and lifting it on the scythe as though on a fork showed it to Levin and threw it away.
For both Levin and the young peasant behind him, such changes of position were difficult. Both of them, repeating over and over again the same strained movement, were in a perfect frenzy of toil, and were incapable of shifting their position and at the same time watching what was before them.
Levin did not notice how time was passing. If he had been asked how long he had been working he would have said half an hour - yet it was getting on to dinnertime. As they were walking back over the cut grass, the old man called Levin's attention to the little girls and boys who were coming from different directions, hardly visible through the long grass, and along the road toward the mowers, carrying sacks of bread that stretched their little arms, and lugging small pitchers of kvass, stopped up with rags.
At the start of the Industrial Age, we began inventing machines that could be pulled behind horses called sickle mowers. Then they could be pulled by the tractors.
Once wheat was cut, it was gathered into sheaves for transport to a threshing floor. At the threshing floor, there were several ways the farmer could thresh (or thrash) the wheat to break the heads off the stalk.
One way was to use animals to go around and around breaking up the wheat and stalks. Sometimes the animal pulled a threshing sledge behind him. These sledges had sharp flint or metal like knives to chop up the wheat. A weight sat on the sledge.
Sometimes the wheat is beaten.
Once the wheat is broken up, it has to be sifted to let the wind blow away the chaff. The farmer had to separate the good kernel, used for food, from the waste or chaff.
Now the kernel had to be ground into a powder called "flour". At first it was using the primitive tool of a rock bowl with a grinder. Later, man used animal, wind and water to drive two grinding stones together to grind the flour at flour mills.
The flour is used to bake bread in their ancient ovens. This is an oven in a synagogue kitchen.
Once ground into a powder, that powder is very light and can be easily blown away if not carefully contained.
Now that we know a little bit about the history of wheat and it's ancient ways of producing flour from it, let's see how the Bible uses it.
It bore the Hebrew name hittah, and was extensively cultivated in Palestine. The “wheat harvest” was, in olden times, one of the regular divisions of the year; it follows the barley harvest, occurring in April, May or June, according to the altitude.
Wheat is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 30:14, "And in the days of wheat harvest Reuben (who was 4 yrs old at the time) went out and found love-apples in the field. And he brought them to his mother Leah. And Rachel said to Leah, Please give to me from the love-apples of your son." (It's uncertain what love apples were. Some say they were from the mandrake plant, others flowers, mushrooms, figs, etc. It was evidently thought to promote fertility.)
Next Wheat is mentioned in Genesis 41 when Joseph interprets Pharoah's dream about a coming famine,
Genesis 41:22-41 And I looked in my dream. And, behold, seven ears of grain were coming up on one stalk, full and good. And, behold, seven ears, withered, lean, blasted by the east wind, sprouting forth after them. And the lean ears were swallowing the seven good ears. And I spoke to the magicians, but not one is making known the meaning to me. And Joseph said to Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows, they are seven years and the seven good ears, they are seven years; it is one dream. And the seven thin and evil-appearing cows going up after them, they are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted by the east wind will be seven years of famine. This is the word that I spoke to Pharaoh: what God is about to do, He has made Pharaoh see. Behold! Seven years of great plenty are coming in all the land of Egypt. And seven years of famine will arise after them and all the plenty of the land of Egypt will be forgotten; and the famine will consume the land. And the plenty in the land will not be remembered because of that famine afterwards; for it will be very severe. And as to the dream being repeated to Pharaoh twice, the thing is settled because it is from God, and God is hastening to do it. And now let Pharaoh look for a man who is intelligent and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh act and let him appoint rulers over the land and take a fifth of the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty. And let them gather all the food of these coming good years. And let them heap up grain under Pharaoh's hand as food in the cities, and let them keep it. And let the food be for a store for the land, for the seven years of famine which will be in the land of Egypt and let not the land be cut off by famine.
And the word was good in Pharaoh's eyes, and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, Can we find any man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? And Pharaoh said to Joseph, Since God has taught you all this, there is no one wise and intelligent like you. You shall be over my house, and at your mouth all my people shall kiss the hand. Only in respect to the throne will I be greater than you. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, Behold, I have put you over all the land of Egypt.
Exodus 22:29-30 Don't fail to give me the offerings of grain and wine that belong to me. Dedicate to me your first-born sons and the first-born of your cattle and sheep. Let the animals stay with their mothers for seven days, then on the eighth day give them to me, your God.
Exodus 34:22-23 And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. Three times in the year your men shall appear before the Lord Jehovah, the God of Israel.
Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). It also celebrates the giving of the Torah, the time when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The farmers of Israel would begin their spring harvests with the barley crop at Passover. The harvest continued for seven weeks as the other crops and fruits began to ripen. As each fruit ripened, the first of each type would not be eaten but instead the farmer would tie a ribbon around the the branch. This ribbon signified that these fruits were Bikkurim, or the first fruits. At Shavuot the farmers would gather the Bikkurim into baskets and bring them to the city of Jerusalem where they would be eaten in the holy city. The farmers living close to Jerusalem would bring fresh fruits, while those who had to travel a long distance carried dried raisins and figs. This joyful occasion was celebrated with the music of fifes, timbres, and drums. As the pilgrims approached the city walls they were greeted by the inhabitants of the city. Sometimes the King himself would join the procession to the Temple Mount. The Bikkurim ritual is no longer practiced in present day Israel.
Numbers 18:12 All the best of the oil, and all the best of the new wine, and wheat, the first fruits of them which they give to Jehovah, I have given to you. (First fruit gifts to God. God says that these offerings could be used by the Priests for food.)
Judges 15:1 And it happened afterward, in the days of wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a kid. And he said, I will go in to my wife into the room. But her father would not allow him to go in.
1 Samuel 12:17-18 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call to Jehovah, and He shall send thunder and rain, so that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, that which you have done in the sight of Jehovah, in asking a king for you. And Samuel called to Jehovah, And Jehovah sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people greatly feared Jehovah and Samuel. (At Samuel's word, God sent thunder and rain, at a season of the year when, in that country, it doesn't happen. It's usually cloudless, hot, dry. This was to convince them they were wicked in asking for a king; not only because it came at an unusual time, in wheat harvest, and on a clear day, but because the prophet told them before it happened.)
1 Samuel 17:17 And Jesse said to his son David, Please take to your brothers an ephah of this roasted grain and these ten loaves, and run to the camp, to your brothers.
2 Samuel 17:27-29 And it happened as David came into Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash, from Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite, from Rogelim, brought beds, and basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and roasted grain, and beans, and lentils, and roasted grain, and honey, and curds and sheep, and cheese from the herd, for David, and for the people who were with him to eat. For they said, The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.
(When David sins...)
2 Samuel 24:11-25 And David rose up in the morning; and the Word of Jehovah came to Gad the prophet, David's seer, saying, Go and you shall speak to David, So says Jehovah, I am setting up three things for you; you choose one of them and I will do it for you. And Gad came in to David and told him, and said to him, Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee before your adversary three months, and they pursue you? Or shall three days' plague come into your land? Now consider, and see what I shall take back to Him who sent word to me. And David said, Because of this it is great distressing to me. Let us fall now into the hand of Jehovah, for many are His mercies; and do not let me fall into the hand of man. And Jehovah sent a plague on Israel from the morning even to the time appointed. And from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand of the people died. And the angel put forth his hand to Jerusalem, to destroy it. And Jehovah had pity as to the evil, and said to the angel who was destroying among the people, Enough! Now drop your hand. And the angel of Jehovah was near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. And when he saw the angel who was striking among the people, David spoke to Jehovah and said, Behold, I have sinned. Yea, I have acted perversely. And these, the flock, what have they done? Now let your hand be on me, and on my father's house. And Gad came in to David on that day and said to him, Go up, raise up an altar to Jehovah in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. And David went up according to Gad's word, as Jehovah commanded. And Araunah looked and saw the king and his servants crossing over to him. And Araunah went out and bowed himself to the king, his nose to the earth. And Araunah said, Why has my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshing-floor from you, in order to build an altar to Jehovah; and the plague will be stayed from the people. And Araunah said to David, Let my lord the king take and offer up that which is good in his eyes. Behold, the oxen for a burnt offering, and the threshing instruments, and the yokes of the oxen for wood. O king, all these Araunah gives to the king. And Araunah said to the king, May Jehovah your God accept you. And the king said to Araunah, No, for buying I will buy from you for a price, and I will not offer to Jehovah my God burnt offerings for nothing. And David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built an altar there to Jehovah, and offered burnt offering and peace offerings. And Jehovah was entreated for the land; and the plague was stayed from Israel. (This is, later, where the Temple of God was built.)
1 Kings 5:10-11 And Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees, all his desire. And Solomon gave to Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat, food for his house; and twenty measures of beaten oil. This Solomon gave to Hiram year by year.
Psalms 81:13-15 Oh if My people had listened to me! If Israel had walked in My ways, I would have subdued their enemies in a little while; and I would have turned My hand against their foes. Those hating Jehovah shall be found untrue to Him, and their time is forever. Yea, He would have caused them to eat from the fat of the wheat; and I would have satisfied you with honey out of the rock.
Psalms 147:12-14 Praise Jehovah, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For He has made strong the bars of your gates; He has blessed your sons within you. He sets up peace in your border, He satisfies you with the fat of the wheat.
Pro 27:22 Though you should pound a fool in a bowl with a bar in the midst of wheat, his foolishness will not depart from him.
Isaiah 41:13-16 For I, Jehovah your God am strengthening your right hand, who says to you, Do not fear I will help you. Fear not, worm of Jacob (totally humbled), men of Israel; I will help you, states Jehovah, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold! I have made you a new sharp threshing instrument, a master of teeth; you shall thresh mountains and beat them small, and shall make hills like the chaff. You shall winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, and the tempest will scatter them. And you shall rejoice in Jehovah; you shall glory in the Holy One of Israel.
"The Lord will help them, for he is their Redeemer. The Lord will make Jacob to become a threshing instrument. God will make him fit for use, new, and having sharp spikes. This has fulfilment in the triumphs of the gospel of Christ, and of all faithful followers of Christ, over the power of darkness." -Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary. The enemies of God's people will be totally destroyed, ground into powder and blown by the wind into nothingness. Even though we are humbled and outnumbered, God will make us to triumph gloriously!
Jeremiah 23:28-32 The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream. And he who has My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says Jehovah. Is not My Word like a fire? says Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? So Jehovah says, Behold, I am against the prophets who steal My Words each one from his neighbor. Jehovah says, Behold, I am against the prophets who use their tongues and say, He says. Jehovah says, Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams and tell them, and cause My people to go astray by their lies and by their lightness. Yet I did not send them nor command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all, says Jehovah. (The Word of God is strong enough by itself, and needs no human addition. For man's word will burn like chaff in fire and be gone. But God's Word is the fire and will last forever. It is pure. Do not reject the wheat because of the chaff mixed with it, Discriminate between false and true revelations.)
Amos 8:4-6 Hear this, you who trample the poor (crush those in need and wipe out the poor). You say to yourselves, "How much longer before the end of the New Moon Festival? When will the Sabbath be over? Our wheat is ready, and we want to sell it now. We can't wait to cheat and charge high prices for the grain we sell. We will use dishonest scales and mix (worthless chaff) in the grain. Those who are needy and poor don't have any money. We will make them our slaves for the price of a pair of sandals."
Malachi 3:1-4 Behold, I am sending My messenger, and He will clear the way before Me. And the Lord whom you are seeking shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Angel of the Covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He comes, says Jehovah of Hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap. And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them like gold and like silver, that they may be presenters of a grain offering in righteousness to Jehovah. Then the grain offering of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasing to Jehovah, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
Matthew 3:11-13 I indeed baptize you in water to repentance; but He who is coming after me is stronger than me, of whom I am not able to lift The sandals. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose fan is in His hand, and He will cleanse His floor and will gather His wheat into the storehouse. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then Jesus arrives from Galilee to the Jordan, to John, to be baptized by him.
Matthew 12:1-8 (Also in Luke 2 and Mark 6) At that time on the sabbath, Jesus went through the grain fields. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But seeing, the Pharisees said to Him, Behold, your disciples are doing what it is not lawful to do on the sabbath. But He said to them, Have you not read what David did, when he and those with him hungered? How he entered into the house of God, and he ate the Loaves of the Presentation, which it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests only? Or have you not read in the Law that on the sabbaths the priests in the temple profane the sabbath and are guiltless? But I say to you, One greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this is, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," you would not have condemned the guiltless. Hos. 6:6 For the Son of Man is also Lord of the sabbath.
The Parable of the Seed and the Sower, The Wheats and The Tares
Matthew 13:1-32 And going out from the house in that day, Jesus sat down by the sea. And great crowds were gathered to Him, so that having entered the boat, He sat down. And all the crowd stood on the shore. And He spoke to them many things in parables, saying: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And in his sowing, some fell by the roadside, and the birds came and ate them. And other fell on the stony places where they did not have much earth, and it immediately sprang up because it had no deepness of earth. And the sun rising, it was scorched; and because of having no root, it was dried up. And other fell on the thorn-bushes, and the thorn-bushes grew up and choked them. And other fell on the good ground and yielded fruit; indeed, one a hundredfold, and one sixty, and one thirty. The one having ears to hear, let him hear. And coming near, the disciples said to Him, Why do You speak to them in parables? And answering, He said to them, Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but it has not been given to those. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have overabundance. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. Because of this, I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled on them, which says, "In hearing you will hear and in no way understand, and seeing you will see yet in no way perceive. For the heart of this people has grown fat, and they heard heavily with the ears, and they have closed their eyes, that they not see with the eyes, or hear with the ears, and understand with the heart, and be converted, and I heal them." But your eyes are blessed because they see; and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you that many prophets and righteous ones desired to see what you see and did not see, and to hear what you hear and did not hear. Then hear the parable of the sower: Everyone hearing the Word of the kingdom, and not understanding, then the evil one comes and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is that sown by the roadside. And that sown on the stony places is this: the one hearing the Word, and immediately receiving it with joy, but has no root in himself, but is temporary, and tribulation, or persecution occurring because of the Word, he is at once offended. And that sown into the thorn bushes is this: the one hearing the Word, and the anxiety of this age, and the deceit of riches, choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful. But that sown on the good ground is this: the one hearing the Word, and understanding it, who indeed bears and yields fruit, one truly a hundredfold, and one sixty, and one thirty. He put before them another parable, saying: The kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man sowing good seed in his fields. But while the men were sleeping, one hostile to him came and sowed darnel in the midst of the wheat, and went away. And when the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the darnel also appeared. And coming near, the slaves of the housemaster said to him, Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Then from where does it have the darnel? And he said to them, A man, an enemy did this. And the slaves said to him, Do you desire, then, that going out we should gather them? But he said, No, lest gathering the darnel you should uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest. And in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather the darnel, and bind them into bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my granary. He put another parable before them, saying: The kingdom of Heaven is compared to a grain of mustard, which taking, a man sowed in his field; which indeed is less than all the seeds, but when it is grown it is greater than the plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and roost in its branches.
Matthew 26:26-29 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is My body. And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink all of it. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.
John 12:23-29 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. He who loves his life shall lose it. And he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also My servant shall be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. And My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this cause I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name! Then there came a voice from the heaven saying, I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.
John 6:28-58 Then they said to Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent. Therefore they said to Him, What sign do you show then, so that we may see and believe you? What do you work? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, as it is written, "He gave them bread from Heaven to eat." Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you that bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. Then they said to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you also have seen Me and do not believe. All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out. For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day. Then the Jews murmured about Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from Heaven. And they said, Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How now does this One say, I have come down from Heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said to them, Do not murmur with one another. No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God, He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me has everlasting life. I am the Bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and died. This is the Bread which comes down from Heaven, so that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he shall live forever. And truly the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Then the Jews argued with one another, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus says to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Whoever partakes of My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who partakes of My flesh and drinks My blood dwells in Me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent Me, and I live through the Father, so he who partakes of Me, even he shall live by Me. This is the Bread which came down from Heaven, not as your fathers ate the manna, and died; he who partakes of this Bread shall live forever.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary - "A corn of wheat yields no increase unless it is cast into the ground. Thus Christ might have possessed his heavenly glory alone, without becoming man. Or, after he had taken man's nature, he might have entered heaven alone, by his own perfect righteousness, without suffering or death; but then no sinner of the human race could have been saved. The salvation of souls hitherto, and henceforward to the end of time, is owing to the dying of this Corn of wheat."
The grain of wheat was Christ. He was alone. All other men are either dead or dying--under condemnation to death and reckoned of God as dead already.
Romans 5:15 But the gift that God was kind enough to give (Jesus) was very different from Adam's sin. That one sin brought death to many others. Yet in an even greater way, Jesus Christ alone brought God's gift of kindness to many people.
Mankind were all imperfect, decaying grains of wheat. Jesus alone, had life. Mankind did not have the life in him to save himself. Jesus might have continued to live, there being no cause for death in him; he was holy, harmless, undefiled. We had been given perfect, eternal life when God created Adam and Eve. But they sinned and stole that perfect life from God, cut mankind off from a relationship with their Creator. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We could not pay God back. We were all defiled with sin and death. We were forever lost. We were not only lost to hell but God had lost us too. He had lost intimate contact and relationship with His beloved Creation. But God had a plan to save us and return us to a relationship with Him. His Son, Jesus Christ, was fully man (through Mary) and, yet, fully God (through the Holy Spirit). He was perfect, sinless and had life. If He died, He would be able to buy back the life that was stolen from God. We could be redeemed, bought back, ransomed for all who died through Adam's sin. The punishment for our sins would be upon Jesus and He could handle it. We were no longer under the punishment of death and eternal hell. Jesus, being man could take on the sin and die, but being God, He could leave the sin, defeat the devil and rise again. He has triumphantly returned leading us with Him to the Father. We can have our intimate relationship with our Creator God, our Father!
1 Corinthians 15:20-22 But now Christ has risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruit of those who slept. For since death is through man, the resurrection of the dead also is through a Man (Jesus). For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive.
So Jesus was made FLESH in order that by God's favor he might taste death for mankind. He was the grain of wheat with the life to reproduce. Remember that "wheat is generally a self pollinating plant, each plant tends to produce clones of itself." (see above) The grain that is planted in death, raises a crop of wheat that is just like itself. Jesus Christ produces little Christs, Christians. He is perfect and, through Him, we are perfect before God, the Father. The Father sees our perfection because of the work that Jesus has done. We are reckoned, judged as perfect because of Jesus. He also uses the Holy Spirit within us to work the work of perfection, called sanctification. The perfecting is a process of time, the Holy Spirit and our learning to continually surrender to the sanctification process. If I die today, Jesus presents me perfect to the Father because of the work He did for me. But, until I die, the Holy Spirit lives in me and works on perfecting me to make me more and more like Him.
The grain which dies becomes forever extinct and never again is a grain of wheat, having wholly given itself to produce others of the same kind. The man Christ Jesus gave himself wholly for us in order to reproduce many more. Now, He is sitting at the right hand of God. He is no longer a Man in flesh. He has risen in his glorified body and ascended to Heaven. He died that we might live! He rose that we might live eternally with Him, and the Father, in Heaven.
The wheat is gathered, beaten, sifted and ground to powder to make the flour that is used to bake bread. Jesus was beaten, tortured, sifted and ground to death to become the Bread of Life for us. When we partake in the Lord's Supper (aka Holy Communion, Sacrament of the Lord's Supper) we are reminded of what Christ did for us. His body was broken, beaten and tortured to death for us. The fruit of the vine (wine or grape juice) is made by the pressing of the grapes. Jesus was crushed on our behalf and His blood purchased redemption for us.
We are to follow Christ in dying to ourselves. When we realize our sin and repent, we die to ourselves and accept the new life in Christ. We accept Him as our King and we should strive to die to ourselves daily. We are to be willing to follow Him, accept His Ways, obey His commands, and live for Him. This is dying to self. We are no longer living for ourselves, our ways, our will, our desires. We set ourselves aside and desire Him and His Will. Jesus was willing to suffer and die to obey the Father and bring about the desired result...saving us! We should be willing to die to ourselves in order to be a seed that produces more Christians just like Jesus did. In America, we don't often literally die for our faith. But in other countries people do literally die for their belief in Jesus and their deaths are painful to the Father, but these martyrs are not forgotten by the Father. They are seeds that are sown that will reproduce believers and, therefore, their death is not "wasted" but has a much higher purpose. How blessed they will be when they are welcomed Home by the Father! They will have their reward. But, even if we aren't called to literally and physically die for Jesus, we are called to spiritually and mentally "die" to self on a daily basis.
The Parable of the Sower used an agricultural analogy to teach us important truths.
The Master gave the sower seed to sow. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. We go to the Lord in prayer and with His Word and recieve the seed from our Master. We then go forth in the world and sow the seed. As sowers, we don't know which ground is the good ground, that ground that is plowed up and tender with conviction by the Holy Spirit. So we sow the seed wherever we go. We are responsible to recieve and sow the seed. We are not responsible for the harvest. Only God can prepare a heart to recieve the seed. We can't force someone to accept it and be saved and become a Christian. We can only sow the seed and let God do the work of new life.
There are 4 types of ground...the wayside or hearer's only, stony ground with no lasting fruit, thorns that choke it out, and the good ground that produces a harvest.
The wayside hearers hear the Word and it sounds good but there is no life change. It's like sowing seed on an asphalt highway. If a single grain of truth should fall into their heart and grow it would be as great a wonder as for wheat to grow up on a street. It may rest awhile in their thoughts but it's gone with the next thought. They forget what they heard. Their mind is like a road with much traffic that hard packs it. The mind is crowded with thoughts, always busily thinking but never on what is important. We let our mind be taken up with television, radio, books, magazines, conversations, text messages, emails, anything and everything other than the deep call of God. Never a quiet a moment to meditate on God or His call to salvation. "Satan is constantly passing over your heart with his company of blasphemies, lusts, lies, and vanities. The chariots of pride roll along it, and the feet of greedy mammon (money) tread it till it is hard as adamant. Alas! For the good seed, it finds not a moment's respite; crowds pass and repass" -C.H. Spurgeon, Farm Sermons
The word of the gospel lies upon the surface of such a heart, but never enters it. Why would any one come to church, never miss a service, and, yet, have such a wayside heart? Their heart is cold and hard as metal; the pastor might as well speak to stones as preach to them. It never changes their life. There is no tears of repentance. Maybe because it's respectable. Maybe because it makes them feel good about themselves so they can go back to their sins. It helps salve their twinge of guilt. Maybe to convince themselves or others that they are "religious".
Then the Parable says birds can pluck it up. There are plenty of evil people who love to make fun of Christianity and the Word of God. They can scoff, mock, ridicule, belittle, argue, debate...and the Word is snatched up. Satan, is the Prince of the Air, so he wants to snatch that Word away. And he has many he can use to do just that.
Next is the stony heart. The Word of salvation falls onto ground that has stones crowding it. The Word is heard and quickly accepted but there is no root. It appears to penetrate. There are tears, words, resolve but there is not depth. When the sun rises, it withers away. Any opposition, affliction, tests, questions and their faith is gone, evaporated. They are shallow. "And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended."
Third is the thorny heart. The ground is good ground...wheat can grow here but so can thistles and thorns. The wheat is sown and sprouts but so does the thorns and weeds. The Word is literally choked out. These hearers take the truth home; they think it over; they even make a profession of religion. But they are in no hurry, these men and women have a great deal to see after; they have cares, they have no time for it. They are busy with life, making money, enjoying their leisure, adding to their inventory of "stuff", taking care of all that stuff. They may continue to attend church, give to charity, but the poor little stunted blade of religion finds it hard to keep growing. The thorns of pleasure, vanities stifle it. The very nature of weeds, thorns and thistles is killing and strangling out what is around it. They take over, grow voluminously and become harder and harder to get rid of. Weeding, yanking it out by the roots, can pull up the other plants around it, exposing those roots and killing it.
Lastly is the good ground. God has prepared it. The Holy Spirit has been ploughing the heart to make it tender and open to the Word. He has been fertilizing it and preparing the soil. Deep thoughts have been going on in these hearers. They begin to hear the call of God. When they recieve the seed, the Word of salvation, the gospel of good news, they recieve it desperately. They hunger and thirst for it, longing for mercy. They realize their need and they are thankful to recieve it. The Word goes deep and sprouts. Roots take hold of the soil. Shoots come up quickly and changes are made in the life of this hearer. His character begins to change. As he grows, he becomes fervent and devout, praising God and worshipping Him. He reads God's Word and grows in knowledge of the Word. He goes to church to grow ever more in knowledge of the Word and to support his fellow believers. He spends time in prayer and conversation with God because God is His Creator, Father, and Savior. He grows into a servant of God, a warrior for God. He reproduces and becomes a sower himself.
In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, while men sleep, the enemy comes and sows weeds (tares) among the wheat. This was a vicious, criminal act. The particular weed is darnel and is a type of grass that grows exclusively in grain fields in the Middle East. The weed contains a poisonous fungus that ruins crops. The problem is that when darnel first begins to grow, it looks just like wheat. So, by the time you realize it's darnel, it's too late to successfully root it out without killing the wheat.
Jesus is the Farmer who sows the wheat in the world. In this parable, the wheat represents Christians. We are God's people and we have been sown in this world. The devil is the evil one who sows the bad seed, sons of the evil one are the weeds. We learn from this parable that we co-exist in this world with "weeds"! We try to find a weedless environment to live in and raise our families in because we think we would grow better, hardier if we were in a hothouse environment. Surely God wants us to isolate ourselves and surround ourselves with only other Christians. We can attend church, send our children to Christian schools, buy houses in Christian neighborhoods, read only Christian books, watch only Christian TV, fellowship with other believers and separate ourselves from the world. In balance there is nothing wrong with any of that. The balance being that God has a purpose in us being in this world with "weeds". He has planted us here. We don't know who might see us, be touched by us, hear us and recieve the Word and be saved! We are to be examples of God's love and light in this world. He calls us to be patient and humble while He works on those "weeds" around us. Sometimes God allows us to experience heartache with those around us because He has a long term plan in mind. He can enable us and strengthen us to be able to endure the "weeds" in order to produce a harvest of a new Christian. We don't know who or when so we have to be patient and allow God to use us and do His work. We want to get out from under the uncomfortable proximity to these "weeds". We want to be weeded right now! Get rid of the "weeds" so we can have a comfortable life. Don't mistake God's slowness, there will come a time of judgement when the wheat and tares will be separated. The tares will be thrown into the fire. We are not the judge, He is. We can't be trusted to weed correctly. We also need to be careful that we don't allow the "weeds" to begin to put roots into our heart. We don't want to become "weeds" ourselves.
As you can see, wheat and it's production, is used by the Bible to teach us a lot and I hope you learned from this study.
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