Eyes to See

The Old Testament can be tricky to read and beyond reading the big stories of the Old Testament, it’s tempting to overlook the words in between, and go to the New Testament where we feel more at home.

But there’s so much goodness in these ancient texts, so much to learn about God here. And as challenging as it can be, it’s worth pushing through and seeing what God will teach us here about who He is.

In the Old Testamnet, if you are going off of your knowledge learned in Sunday school, you might have vague memories of some of the bigger stories like the 10 Commandments or David and Goliath. You also may think that the Old Testament characters are something like heroes, and that God chose the best of the best.

If you’re familiar with your Bible, you know this is not true. At ALL. Especially with David. He was insignificant and least likely off all men to take the throne of Israel. He had a heart that reflected God’s heart. Yet, there was Bethsheba and that whole debaucle. But David still had screw-ups after this massive failure, yet over and over the Bible speaks of God’s steadfast love for him, as well as David’s heart being fully devoted to the Lord.

David always comes back to God. Always. His failure gives him great sorrow, not because of the consequences, but because He has sinned against His God. “Against you and you alone have I sinned and done which is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:4.

Second Samuel 24:18-25 and First Chronicles 21 give parallel accounts. The account in First Chronicles offers more details of David’s failure that resulted in pestilence on the land and people of Israel.

Chapter 21 begins, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” He then told Joab, the Commander of David’s army, to carry out the command of the census. Joab disagreed with David, but since David was King, he couldn’t refuse. So the census was taken and reported to David.

“But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Isreal. And David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing.'” (1 Chronicles 21:7-8).

The King taking a census doesn’t exactly seem sinful or worthy of harsh punishment…but it wasn’t the actual census that was sinful, it was of course David’s heart in the matter. Perhaps it was David’s pride and military ambition…but either way, David did something that was not commanded by God.

In nearly all of David’s dealings, He inquires of God first. Then takes action. In this instance, he took action but did not wait for God to give the command.

With God, obedience is of utmost importance.

The land of Israel was struck with a great pestilence and many died. God also sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. “…but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said the the angel who was working the destruction, ‘It is enough; now stay your hand.’ And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” (1 Chronicles 21:14-15).

At this point, we get this tingle of a memory from another story, Abraham and Isaac. When God stops destruction and death at the very last second, a hand raised with sword in hand,  the blow of death anticipated. God intervenes and relents, giving mercy.

Because David is penitent, his plea for mercy is granted. Here is where the site of the threshing floor that David purchased for “full price” is so significant. He buys the site of the threshing floor, makes an alter, and offers burnt offerings to the Lord. The pestilence is lifted and David is once again reconciled with God Almighty.

This site is later identified as Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), the same place Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. The same place that God chose, through David’s son Solomon, to build His holy temple.

This threshing floor location is significant to God. It is here He passes judgement, listens to His people, grants mercy and forgiveness, bestows blessing, and redeems His people.

God never wastes these words found in the Old Testament. It is so tempting to overlook the significance of these accounts, and to not put in the effort to look beyond and see the story God is telling. Even the site of this threshing floor, a place bought with a price, a place where judgement is due but God makes a way for fellowship and forgiveness with His people. A place that God chose to set up residence.

Here, in the middle of pestilence and sin, God makes a way for His children. It foreshadows the events to come almost 500 years later, when God would send His son Jesus to make a way for His children to have communion with Him, through the line of David.  Judgement is imminent until the Cross. He rescues us. He paid full price. At the cross, he grants mercy and forgiveness, bestows blessing, and redeems His people once and for all. A dirty, hard threshing floor; a rough, crude cross. Each make a way for those in Christ to have forgiveness of sin and communion with our Creator.

So if you’re reading the Old Testament, ask God to give you eyes to see and ears to hear. Every part of His word allows us to learn more about Him, who He is, and His steadfast love for us .

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Welcome to the Threshing Floor

Last year I began reading through the Old Testament, slowly and purposefully. In all honesty, my reading faltered from time to time because I felt I wasn’t walking away enriched and encouraged, like I often did when I would spend my mornings in the Psalms or the gospels or any of Paul’s letters. But I kept feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit to keep looking, asking God each morning give me eyes to see.

There were moments I literally laughed out loud (2 Kings 2:24), when a group of boys were taunting Elisha, he cursed them, and suddenly two “she-bears” came out of the woods and “tore forty-two of the boys.” I mean. Wait, what?

However, I also kept coming across the term “threshing floor.” This is an Old-Testament specific phrase, and only mentioned twice in the New Testament. (Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17). The threshing took place during the harvest, where the grain was removed from the husk and the false grain was separated from the wheat in a rather violent beating process. Afterwards, in a process called winnowing, they would toss the stalks up in the air in hopes that the wind would carry away the rest and they only had the good, valuable stuff left. (Paraphrase, David Reagan, “Learn the Bible”)

Over and over the threshing floor was mentioned, and I paid special attention because it seemed so symbolic. Indeed, the threshing floor symbolizes a place of both blessing and judgement. In 2 Samuel 24:18-25, David is going to build an alter to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (Jebusites were the previous inhabitants of Jerusalem, and some still lived there.) Araunah was fully prepared to give the King the site, as well as oxen for the burnt offering.

Then David says, “No, I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that costs me nothing.”

So often we lay down our “offerings” to the Lord and it cost us nothing to do so. All throughout the Bible, when God chooses His servants, it costs them everything. When fear and doubt creep in, we are often tempted to take control to help God out. We end up making a mess of things, yet God in His infinite grace, still accomplishes His will through us.

And it always, always, costs.

 

When we had the first inklings of adoption, I said to God, “Ok, I’m up for adoption. But I’m thinking, like, drop a baby at our doorstep, like they do in Lifetime movies, and I will say, ‘Wow! A baby! Let’s adopt him!'” He’d of course be perfect and everything would be tied up with a pretty bow. And, best of all, it would cost me nothing. In other words…obedience without sacrifice.

God gave me the opposite story. This journey has been long. Arduous. Painful. Humbling. I’ve been filled with fear and doubt and have faced more spiritual attacks in four years than I have in my entire life. But it’s also taken me to the hard, dirty surface of the threshing floor. I’m the stalk that has been slammed to the ground, tossed in the air, and stripped of the worthless fibers that padded my life. And the valuable kernels have fallen to the ground, and gleaned for His glory.

So from now on, I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing. Because I’ve learned that in the threshing, in the pain of the price, God proves to be more than enough. Not just enough…bountiful. A deep, inexhaustible well that fills the soul.

And I’d rather have the valuable kernels that are gathered and used, than the worthless chaff that the wind carries away in the smallest of breezes.

Oh to be people of God who refuse the easy way and instead we say, “I will not offer my offering to the Lord that costs me nothing.” And gladly surrender all that we have to the Lord our God.

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