Listen to me; listen, and pay close attention!
Does a farmer always plow and never sow?
Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting it?
Does he not finally plant his seeds for dill, cumin, wheat, barley, and spelt, each in its own section of his land?
The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given him understanding.
He doesn't thresh all his crops the same way.
A heavy sledge is never used on dill; rather, it is beaten with a light stick.
A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin; instead, it is beaten softly with a flail.
Bread grain is easily crushed, so he doesn't keep on pounding it.
He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but he doesn't pulverize it.
The LORD Almighty is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom.
(Isaiah 28:23-29, NLV from the Life Application Bible)
You might have missed this passage the last time you read Isaiah. I know I never paid much attention to it--something about crops or spices. I've never lived on a farm, I have a black thumb with plants, and I rarely cook, so those kind of analogies go right over my head.
But a month ago, after wrestling with an issue in my mind and asking God to give me some insight, He led me to this passage. It was like finishing a Rubix cube, when the last few colors line up and you realize that the whole thing fits together in so many more ways than you'd seen before. I've been revisiting this chapter almost daily ever since--here's just a little bit of what God has shown me in these verses:
1) God always finishes what he starts. Sometimes it seems like we're not just waiting to reap what we sow, but that our time of cultivating the soil before we can even start to plant goes on forever! But the process of growing and harvesting crops cannot be rushed, and each step must take place in due season. There is a time for preparation that, if skipped, can ruin or diminish the the quality of the harvest. Just as a farmer finally plants his seeds, we can be confident that God, who has begun a good work in us, will complete it in His time. (Phillipians 1:6)
2) We can trust God to meet our individual needs, providing exactly the right thing for each of us at exactly the right time in our lives. The farmer is careful to tend to each crop according to its own needs, preparing for its growth and nourishing it with exacting conditions, then gently preparing it in a way that allows it to be of the greatest use. Would God do any less for us?
3) Similarly, we can trust God to give us the wisdom to handle our problems with sensitivity. Our students are a bit like the crops in this passage: many are tender and 'easily crushed'. We have to know each one's needs: how and when to cultivate and prepare for learning; how to plant the seeds of knowledge in a way that will produce fruit; and how to use each one in a way that produces the greatest harvest.
How are we supposed to know all of that? There's no multiple-choice test or ditto students can complete to give us that kind of insight into how best to teach them. "The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given Him understanding". God knows our students far better than we ever will, and we can let his Spirit guide us as we seek ways to nurture each child.
After all..."The Lord of Heaven's armies is a wonderful teacher, and He gives the farmer great wisdom".