Yes, this title is a spin on “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” But today God burdened me to talk about silt, not smoke. Silt plays a huge role in world history, and it affects us as well.
The two sides to silt
Silt is mineral-rich, itty-bitty stuff created when glaciers grind against rock, wind buffets soil against canyon walls, or water erodes rock.
Silt made the Nile Delta one of the most fertile spots on earth. But silt also caused Ephesus’s downfall.
Ephesus, in West Turkey, was the region’s leading seaport. In Jesus’ day, it also was the world’s capital of slave trade and was second only to Rome as a cosmopolitan center of wealth, culture, and commerce. But Ephesus started to deteriorate in the sixth century as its harbor filled with silt.
Similarly, silt at the bottom of a pond can insulate frogs, preserving them when they hibernate. But that same silt can choke water plants out of their native habitat.
Silt is an apt description for what we let sift into our minds. What we hear, read, or see deposits either helpful or harmful information. Keeping the good and pumping out the bad are ongoing processes.
Fertilizer for your mind
Does the silt make the things of God grow in your thoughts and convictions? Or does it clog your mind and heart, dulling it to God’s Word?
The latter happens if we are ignorant of God’s Word or are impatient in waiting on God’s will. Impatience is a willful choice: “Nothing’s unfolding, so I guess I’ll try it my way.”
Silt requires sifting
In my first book about the Wise Men, they discover a secret Nabataean water source—an underground cistern made of waterproof cement, with a hydraulic system and a filter to sift/separate silt. (Some of those cisterns are still in use today!)
We need to sift what we hear, read, and see. That daily discipline literally makes our brain work more effectively at night. While we sleep, our brain sorts through all that input, makes sense of it, decides what to keep and where to store it.
Sifting requires action
Our sieve is discernment. Its mesh is God’s Word. Our action is how rigorously we sift. When we get lazy, we give silt space it shouldn’t occupy in our minds.
Have you ever heard of a lazy gold prospector? I haven’t. They spend countless hours and months running dirt and mud through their sieves, hoping to mine even tiny nuggets of gold for their efforts.
We don’t have to work that hard to mine God’s Word. But we do need to keep sifting silt from our minds.
Today’s society tends to think posting something on social media makes it true. Few people sift that information. It scares me how influential that silt is, especially with the November election looming. Snopes can help, but our gold standard is to sift the way God does—consistent with His Word.
A few Bible verses about sifting
God sifts people and nations for particular purposes. Here are a few examples.
Amos’s final vision speaks of Israel scattered among the nations and God sifting them to identify His true followers. The prophecy promises His shaking will not allow a single grain (kernel, or follower) to fall to the ground. God sifts to preserve the good—those who cling to Him throughout all difficulties.
This threefold prophecy describes how (1) Sennacherib will invade the Israelites, (2) God will sift [overthrow] all the nations the Assyrian king will call upon to overrun the Israelites, and (3) God will spare Sennecharib (which happened in Isaiah 37:36-37). As much as the Israelites feared the foreign king, God said, “Don’t worry; be confident in Me and watch a great deliverance happen.”
In this verse, God tells Gideon to sift the Israelites who had volunteered to fight against the Midianites. Gideon started with 32,000 men—against an army more than four times that size. Yet God had Gideon winnow his men down to three hundred who would remain courageous and faithful to him in battle. God’s victory was glorious.
You’ve likely heard these verses: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Satan approached God, demanding He fully hand over all the disciples to be sifted. The literal meaning is to shake with such inner agitation that it tries one’s faith to the verge of overthrowing it. God didn’t prohibit that sifting, but Jesus interceded on behalf of it. He knew Simon would need a miraculous comeback after denying His Lord—and his comeback would prime Simon to become Peter, the rock and foundation of the Church.
What do those verses tell us about sifting?
- A platform for persecution
- A proving ground for trials
- A pulpit for God’s power
- A practice of God’s protection and preservation
Just as God sifts us, he also calls us to sift what seeps into our lives. We have no choice but to deal with our daily problems. We do have a choice of what thoughts we allow to take up residence in our minds.
Every year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suction-dredges silt from 400 ports and 25,000 miles of navigation channels to keep water traffic operating efficiently. (They remove 400,000 truckloads of silt from the Great Lakes alone!) On an incredibly smaller scale, running tap water through my tabletop water filter twice a day reminds me to do the same in my life. It’s an ongoing process.
An earlier blog mentioned that God told me 2020 would be a year of sifting for Christians. Despite its discomfort, we can rest in knowing He won’t let a single kernel fall to the ground. He forever holds us in the palm of His hand. Hallelujah!
Do you need to sift anything out of your life? Share and let’s pray for each other.