David at the Threshing-floor
William Trew, Cardiff
In this series of meditations on the Books of Samuel, we have been seeking to discover principles that could be applied in a practical way to the people of God to-day. We have traced the movements of the Ark, symbol of the Presence and active Rule of God amongst His people. We have seen it amongst the Philistines, type of the religious world, in the way of judgment. We have observed how it was disregarded completely in the days of Saul, and the people were enslaved to a principle of human rule. But with David acting as the vicegerent of God and true leader of His people, the Throne of God was restored to its rightful place at the heart of their corporate life. We have applied these principles in order to show that the only way of blessing, and of power against every enemy of the testimony, is to respond with willing heart to the rule of God amongst us.
This last article is one of solemn warning. If we take a general survey, and note the lack of spiritual power and dearth of spiritual result in spite of much labour; the deterioration in the character of ministry; the neglect of close Bible study and consequent immaturity; and the introduction of many innovations to serve as a substitute for the Prepuce and Power of God; one feels the need of such warnings as are contained in this last article. The remedy is shown; may we have grace from God to avail ourselves of it.
It is evident that this last section contains a number of appendices grouped together because of the moral features that are common to them, in order to illustrate the government of God mitt to show the Throne of God vindicating itself in the presence of evil, 2 Sam. 6 records David's violation of the Levitical law and the Hand of God upon him in judgment. Chap. 11. brings to light his breach of the moral law, and the chapters that follow show the working-out, of the principles of God's government. In Chapter 21 we are told for the first time of the sin of Saul, and of how it was visited upon the people of God long after Saul was dead. And the book emit; with a story (if failure in leadership that involved, not only the shepherd, but the sheep also, in the bitterness of the sore discipline of God.
The first and last of these are connected with "threshing floors", and since "threshing" suggests the thought of God's governmental dealings with His people, the idea seems to give character to the whole section. The word translated "thresh" is elsewhere variously rendered "to trample"—"break"—"tear"—"tread down"—"tread out." In chap. 24, it is associated with Araunah the Jebusite (Treader down). The Jebusites were "the ancient treaders down of God's roya1 city." But now it was God Who was treading down—yet not destroying ruthlessly; but, as threshing is accomplished under the feet of the patient ox, whore, with all the roughness of the process, the precious grain is sought and secured. Even so, the stroke of judgment fell at the threshing-floor of Nachon (chap. 6), and judgment did not reach beyond the threshing-place of Araunah (chap. 24); and behind all was the infinitely-wise purpose of God serving the truest, highest blessing of His people.
THE NEW CART
"When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold. The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim" (5: 17-18). We have already seen that the Philistines represent the religious world in its opposition to the testimony of God in the hands of His people. Their power, on this occasion, was concentrated in "the valley of Rephaim" (Giants), for man looms large in every 'Philistine' system. But "David inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall I … ? Will Thou …" With a deep consciousness of his own insufficiency, David clings to God and sacks the guidance of His Word. That is ever the way of victory over all that the Philistines typify. Again the Philistine spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim. The circumstances were exactly thee same as before, and David might have reasoned that there was no need to seek further guidance. But he inquired again of the Lord, and was directed along & different road to victory. In chap. 5 David was in close fellowship with God, and the Hand of God was laid in judgment upon every Philistinian way. That fact make his actions recorded in chap. 6 the more difficult to understand.
As king, appointed by God to be the shepherd of His people, David was required to write for himself "a copy of the law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites," to read therein all the dap of hi a life. Deut. 17. 18/10. Ho must have known the "Will of God that the Ark should be borne upon the shoulders of the Levites. No doubt David's intentions were good. If he was ignorant of the "Will of God concerning this matter, it is a sad commentary upon the condition of the leaders of the people of God, that there was neither Priest, Levite not Prophet to instruct the well-intentioned king. The people of God were united in their desire to enthrone God in their midst; and that was well. It was with great zeal and with much joy that they assembled to bring the Ark to Zion; and that also vu well. But right motives cannot justify wrong acts; the end cannot justify the means; God's Will must be done in God's way. If God has given a pattern, that, pattern must be observed; if the Word of God gives guidance to His people, that Word must be obeyed. We cannot improve upon. God's ways, and any attempt to do so is rebellion against His revealed Will. David had no right to imitate the Philistines' way of doing things. God had spoken to make clear "the due order" (1 Chron, 15. 13), and blessing lien in the way of obedience.
It. seems almost inevitable that those who adopt the ways of the religious world will go further than those whose methods they imitate. The Philistines had reasoned that if it was indeed God who had disciplined them, He would control the kine and direct the path they would take. They knew no better, and God vindicated Himself, But David cannot move in faith in a path of disobedience to the revealed Will of God. Therefore Ahio loads the oxen, while Uzzah walk a adongside to support that which, because it is an innovation of man, is always liable to break down. Uzzah means "strength," while Ahio means "His brother." These are two of a kind. Ahio is but a. reproduction of his brother, for in every Philistinism way man looms large. Every human innovation imported into the assembly, professedly the sphere of God's rule, has to be supported by self-willed men with stubborn determination. How much there is of this to-day! Let us take to heart the solemn lesson that this passage seems designed to teach us, for God cannot, ignore departure on the part of His people from the pattern He Him Me If his given.
The protection did not move beyond the thrashing-floor of Nachon (Prepared), called in the account given in Chronicles, Chidon (Calamity). There "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; … and David was displeased … and he called the name of the place Perez-Uzzah (The breaking of strength) unto this day" (chap. 6: 7-8). There is much in the conditions that prevail at the present time, to convince as that God is dealing with us in discipline, "threshing" in His government, that He might break the stubborn determination of our self-will, lead us to self-judgment and to humble confession, and to an adjustment of conditions in accord with "the due order." When chastisement has produced "the fruit of righteousness" in us, He will restore to us the power and blessing of His manifested Presence.
THE THBESHING-PLOOK OF ARAUNAH
"Again the anger o-f the Lord was kindled again at Israel, and Satan (1 Chron. 21: 1) moved David against them to say, 'Go number Israel and Judah' " (chap. 24: 1). It was a military order, begotten of the pride of David's heart and the consciousness of his strength. The spirit that prompted the command was that of those who would "lord it over God's heritage," involving the denial of God's redemption rights over His people, and His claims upon their loyalty. David had strayed far from God "when even such as Joab would recognise the evil to which he was apparently blind, and raise his voice in protest. The self-willed king, characterized by a supreme disregard of every warning, pursued with determination a course that brought both shepherd and sheep (v. 17) under the sore discipline of God. We have already seen the significance of the fact that judgment went nut beyond the threshing-floor. How- sweet it is to see that upon the threshing-floor itself, its solemn lesson learned at last, David builded an altar and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, the sweet fragrance of which ascended before God, so that His Heart was Satisfied and the judgment of His Throne was arrested. "The plague was stayed from Israel;" and there the book suitably ends.
David failed on very many occasions; who has not? But he never rebelled against God's chastisement. Exercised before God, he was quick to confess his sin and to seek the restoring Grace of God. Discipline produced its peaceable fruit, and the "threshing" separated the chaff from the wheat in his character, and the precious grain was gathered, a joy to the Heart of God. So may it be with us all.