“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:”
On the last night that Jesus was with His disciples, He gave Peter a great warning. Notice that He called him Simon, not Peter. Peter means “a rock”. This is what Jesus often called him (see Luke 6:14 and John 1:42). A stone, or a rock, is sturdy and stable. I believe Jesus was trying to warn Peter – even by calling him Simon. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). This was an important warning. Peter believed he was a rock – sturdy and stable (read on to see his reply to what Jesus was trying to tell him in Luke 22:33). Peter needed to understand the situation. Satan means “opponent; adversary; the accuser, that is, the devil”. Satan wanted to sift Peter.
First, consider what the purpose of sifting was in those days. When they sifted their grains, it was a screening process that would allow them to remove the trash. Oftentimes there were rocks or debris that would be left after the sifting process so that those things could be removed. They would then be left with the grain, no longer filled with trash and debris. This purified grain could be used.
Satan wanted to sift Peter much like this – only Satan wanted the trash and debris to be brought to the forefront. What should happen: when Peter was sifted, the debris in his life would separate out to the top where it could be removed and eliminated. It sounds like Satan was hoping that this sifting would reveal only the negative and worthless things that were in Peter. And, because Satan is an adversary or an accuser, he wanted to point those things out in Peter’s life, causing Peter to think he was unworthy to serve Jesus.
We can understand the fact that Satan wanted to sift Peter (because he wanted Peter ineffective – for Satan could not have Peter). Take note that Satan desired to have Peter to sift him. This reveals that Satan had to have permission to do this. One cannot help but remember Job chapters 1-2. Satan had to have God’s permission to do anything to Job. The same was true with Peter. That should be of some comfort to Christians today. Remember: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God only allows what one can handle (a way of escape). These are for our good. A refining time: eliminating the trash, revealing the good that can be used by God.
The following verse should have brought great comfort to Peter that night. “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). Jesus prayed for Peter. Take note that Jesus knew that Peter’s faith would not fail him. And more than that, after coming through this time of sifting (where the trash and debris in his life would be revealed), Peter would be “converted”. Converted indicates that Peter would recognize this trash and debris in his life and remove it. He would then return back to his former firm standing – the rock that Jesus declared he was. And because of all of this, Peter would be able to strengthen his brethren. He would be able to encourage them and help them
Peter had an adversary, and he revealed the dirt, the trash that was in Peter’s life. This sifting revealed the things that Peter removed. Afterward, Peter was stronger, preaching a great sermon on the day of Pentecost where many believed in Jesus (see Acts 2:14-41).
Satan often does the same thing to Christians today. Satan wants to point out our faults before God – to accuse us. He is our accuser before the Lord. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). However, God’s Holy Spirit points out our faults not to accuse us, but to convict our hearts so we will confess sin and turn to God (see John 16:8 and Acts 2:36-38). Remember what King David wrote when he recognized and confessed that he had failed the Lord miserably. “11. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalm 51:11-13). He was fearful God would remove His spirit as He had from King Saul. However, remember that King Saul was not repentant, nor did he turn back to the Lord. God was then unable to use him. David on the other hand, was not only repentant, he prayed for God’s restoration to His good pleasure. David recorded this prayer to teach us what we need to do, even today. Repent with a true heart, knowing God will not only restore but refine for use by Him. What encouraging words!
Have you been sifted, revealing and then removed the debris and trash hidden in your life?
Are you now able to help and encourage others in their faith as Peter did?