God’s Threshing Floor

Living in a rural, agricultural part of Ohio, I’ve witnessed many a harvest season. The modern process of harvest takes a great deal less time and effort than ancient practices described in the Bible. But when I drive by an Amish field and see these big shocks of corn, it reminds me that when the pace is slowed, and things are done by hand, there is a greater opportunity to think about what is actually taking place as the grain is gathered into bundles, stood up on end to ripen and dry, carried to the threshing floor, beaten out, and winnowed to separate the grain from the chaff.

This all serves as a lead-in to the fact that, when writing my series of blogs on “Baptism For Life,” I left some unfinished business back in Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17.

 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:11-12)

What does threshing have to do with Jesus being the One who “baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire?” We’ve talked about the concept of baptism as a life-long process instead of just a one-time event, which enhances the importance of water baptism as the action that kicks off the whole process. But verse 12 adds even more to Christ’s responsibility as Head over all things to the Church, and as the One who really is doing the baptizing. As the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, He has this winnowing fan in His hand, and He is diligent in this responsibility to “thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the garner,” as it reads in the old KJV. The Greek word for “thoroughly purge” means “to cleanse perfectly, or throughout.” But what, and where, is this threshing floor He’s talking about, and how does it effect our lives as you and I strive towards the Kingdom of God?

Temple Back-story

In 2 Chronicles 3:1, we see that “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The back-story for this it found in 1 Chronicles 21. It begins with an assault on David by the adversary: “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. “ (1 Chron. 21:1). It’s interesting that this whole thing began with a grievous sin committed by David, and provoked by Satan himself … or was that REALLY the way it was?

There’s another account of this in 2 Sam. 24 that sheds a whole different light on it. Here it says, “Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah’” (2 Sam 24:1). Now we know from the 1st chapter of Job that Satan is used by God to accomplish His divine will among men, even if it temporarily grieves or hurts us, to bring about a greater end. What had the people of Israel done to provoke God’s anger? The commentaries I’ve read can only guess, and that’s all I can do too, but the last 28 verses of the previous chapter tell of the exploits of David’s mighty men. The sense that I get is that both David and his subjects took great pride in the prowess of their heroes in battle, and there are many scriptures that warn us not to trust in the arm of flesh. With that in mind, let’s pick up the story in 1 Chronicles 21, after David sinned by numbering Israel.

The Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the Lord looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1 Chron. 21:14-15)

The word “relented,” or “repented” in the KJV, means, to sigh, or by implication, to be sorry, to pity. It can also mean that God was consoled, or avenged of the evil committed against Him. When He told the destroying angel to stay his hand, the angel was standing in a particular place – by this threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. And David said to God, “Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, O Lord my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.” (1 Chron. 21:16-17)

We see that David’s eyes were enabled to see this angel with a drawn sword in his hand. He accepted full responsibility for his sin, and offered himself and his own posterity “me and my father’s house” as a ransom for the lives of the rest of his people, which may have been why God relented.

In verse 18, “the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” So David went, and paid Ornan more than a fair price for the use of his land, though Ornan was ready to give it to David with no haggling. David paid for it out of his own purse, and then he built an altar there on that spot.

And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. So the Lord commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath. At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the Lord and the altar of the burnt offering, which Moses had made in the wilderness, were at that time at the high place in Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord. (1 Chron.21:26-30)

So while the tabernacle and altar of the burnt offering were still at Gilgal, still functional and still being used, because of this necessity, David inquired of God right there on the spot and God answered him right there on the spot.

Building The Temple

Following this experience, “David said, ‘This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel,” and he began to make preparations for his son Solomon to build the temple on Ornan’s threshing floor (1 Chron. 22:1-19). Interestingly, some Bible scholars believe that this was the very spot in the land of Moriah where Abraham set up the altar to offer Issac upon (Gen. 22:2).

Leaving the Old Testament temple for now, I’d like to go to cover several New Testament scriptures that say Jesus Christ is, in symbol, the Rock, King, Builder, Temple, and Threshing Floor for His heavenly kingdom.

In Matthew 12:42, and Luke 11:31, Jesus Christ speaks of Himself as being “greater than Solomon.” In John 18:33-37, He answers Pilate’s question “Are You the King of the Jews?” by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “You say rightly that I am a king.” He was, and is, a greater king than Solomon, but His kingdom is to be a completely different kind of kingdom with a different kind of temple.

In Matthew 12, “Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath,” and the pharisees rebuked His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. Christ’s response was that “I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:1-6). Jesus Christ standing in a cornfield was greater than the physical temple. He also described His body as a temple (John 2:19-21), and He referred to Himself as the Rock, the building site for His church (Matt. 16:18). In the Psalms, King David repeatedly called this Being “my Rock.”.

The physical temple – a type of the church – was built on a rock called Mount Moriah, which was the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite that king David purchased for God and where God had appeared to David. Now, the church is told “you are the temple of God” and that “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Cor 3:16-17, see also Eph. 2:21 and 2 Cor. 6:16).

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:5-9)

These verses make it plain that we are the stones that are being built up into a spiritual house, or temple, for God. Our bodies are called the temples of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for “temple” in these verses is naos (G3584), which speaks of a special part of the larger temple complex. The temple as a whole is refereed to by the word hieron (G2411), while naos is specifically the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.

Purification

As the body of Christ and the temple of God (Rom. 12:4-5 and 1 Cor. 12:12-27), one of the ways that Jesus Christ works in us is to purify us.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (Eph. 5:25-30)

We are His Body, the temple built on the Rock, who are cleansed and purged in much the same way as a threshing floor is purged of chaff to leave the good grain. So would it be too much of a stretch to conclude that “His threshing floor” today could be the church?

Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. (Ps. 65:1-4, KJV)

To dwell in the presence of God, our transgressions must be purged away. Jumping into a prophecy in the book of Daniel, we read that “some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Dan. 11:35).

In Part 2 of this message, we’ll look at how Christ’s “winnowing process” … the “purging of His threshing floor” took place in the personal life of Peter, one of Christ’s closest and most intimate friends while He walked this earth in human flesh, and just how tough it was on Peter to be “purged” on Christ’s threshing floor

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