Harvest and Chaff


I was struck, reading Psalm 1 last week, by the long lasting imagery of growing things. Of plants and trees, fruit, leaves, and even chaff. If you’re anywhere near central, inland California right now, you know intimately the harvest season – the seeming never ending summer which begins in abundant zucchini and ends in dry dust, weeping, forgotten, sunflower stalks, and withered melon vines. We know harvest, and we know drought. I don’t see chaff only in my mind, but in the background of my day to day life – the chaff of the fields, and even more so, the chaff of the weeds – blown about town. After painting a beautiful and thriving image of fruit and streams and plants that never die, the psalmist places in stark and purposeful contrast verse 4, which says “the wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away”. I highlighted that verse and wrote next to it – Foxtails. Foxtails that no matter how hard I try to rid the yard and the world of them, the wind wins and blows them away – they die in a way that ensures they will grow again. Wickedness, or sin, vice, depravity, “the paths that sinners tread”(v1) – however you want to describe sinful nature- it is like the chaff of wheat and rye and foxtails – blown away in the wind, only to regrow quickly and blow away again. Never harvested for it’s fruit, never tended or sewn with care, but always it returns. The broken parts of our beauty in creation – a world which constantly tends toward sin, even as we stand in awe of the fruitful – the righteous.

I loved the stringing together of all of the lectionary texts last week, too. Loved reading Proverbs 31 as a metaphor linking to the Law of the Lord from last week. Loved the furthering of the harvest metaphor in James 3:18’s “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” – and so my prayer for the week began:

Lord, Let me sew peace. Help me, at very least, to recognize the chaff and turn instead toward God – my helper; the upholder of my life (Psalm 54:4 – also this last week).

And I’m thankful for the weekly reminders in the Psalms as we meet and read and listen and pray – that the imagery is so long lasting. The Psalmist could have chosen a different image – one more specific and only relevant the moment in time when the Psalm was written, but instead, Harvest, Fruit, and Chaff.

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