Summary: We need to be made holy by cutting ourselves off from the world, and relying on our life in Christ to give us strength. If we don’t, we will rot and die.
Baking Bread: The Harvest
Fall is in the air! It’s the end of September, the air’s getting crisp, and Starbucks has brought out their Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It’s glorious! Fall is my favorite season of all -- as the weather starts to get cooler, it feels like the whole world is starting to settle down from the hustle and bustle of summer.
I grew up in Florida, so for me fall was just the time when the weather got a little less hot. However, when I moved to New England I was finally able to experience fall as it’s typically described -- temperatures were in the 60s, the leaves turned bright, beautiful colors, and freshly-picked apples could be seen in every roadside stand, taken straight from the orchards. Despite all of that, though, my favorite memory of fall doesn’t come from New England, but from my mom’s kitchen.
About a year before we moved to New England, Mom got a bread machine for Christmas. She began making sourdough bread every year. There’s something about the smell of warm, baking bread that will always remind me of fall. Even though Mom used a mix from a box to make her bread, the smell would fill the house and would make my entire family crave a thick slice with butter.
The Bible speaks on bread regularly throughout scripture. Jesus used it to perform several miracles, and even Elijah performed miracles with bread. But did you know that the Bible actually has a recipe for bread? In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 4, God tells Ezekiel to bake bread in a certain way in order to make a point to the children of Israel. Starting with verse 9: “‘Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. 10Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. 11Also measure a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. 12Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.’”
Of course, “excrement” means poo. Keep in mind also that that’s the NIV translation. In the original Hebrew, it just says to bake the bread “using human excrement”, so scholars really aren’t sure if it said to bake it with poo as the fuel source or as an ingredient. Yep -- that’s right! The Bible includes poo as an ingredient to bake bread.
Now, to be clear, this bread was intended to make a point, as is explained in verse 13 -- “The LORD said, In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.” Shortly afterward, Ezekiel argues with God (and who wouldn’t!), and God relents and allows Ezekiel to use cow poo instead of person poo. Still, though -- for 390 days (that’s more than a year), Ezekiel used poo to bake his bread.
Thankfully, though, modern bread doesn’t require poo to cook it! But one thing that hasn’t changed since Bible times is that all of the ingredients are still grown on farms and still need to be harvested before they can be made into bread.
The process for this is simple -- let’s take wheat for example. first the wheat is cut, secondly it’s separated from the chaff, third it’s ground into flour, and finally it’s combined with other ingredients in order to be baked into bread. Every other ingredient in bread -- water, yeast, and other oats all need to be changed in some way in order to be useful.
Tonight though, let’s just concentrate on cutting the wheat, or the harvest. When you harvest something, all you’re really doing is just cutting it off. You’re literally separating the useful part of a plant from what seems to have given it life. In many ways, it seems like you’re hurting the plant and killing the part you harvest.
But what happens if you don’t harvest the plant? What would happen if we just waited until the wheat fell off the stalk on its own, or just never harvested it in the first place because we didn’t want it to “die”? Fruit falls off its tree all the time, right? I’m sure wheat would do the same thing.
Except it doesn’t. Wheat is a plant, and therefore bears seeds. These seeds are what we eat. This is true in other plants as well -- we either eat the seeds themselves or the seed container. If we don’t harvest this part of the plant, though, it will get rid of it on it’s own -- through rot. When the head of the wheat stalk begins to rot, the entire plant will die. This is why it is very important that we harvest wheat at just the right time.