by C. H. Spurgeon
"Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it, his horses do not grind it." Isaiah 28:27-28 NIV
"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 cummin; 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." Isaiah 28:27-28 Nlt
The art of farming was taught to man by God. He would have starved while he was discovering it, and so the Lord, when he sent him out of the Garden of Eden, gave him a measure of elementary instruction in agriculture, even as the prophet puts it, "His God does instruct him to discretion, and does teach him." God has taught man to plough, to break the clods, to sow the different kinds of grain, and to thresh out the different orders of seeds. The Eastern farmer could not thresh by machinery as we do; but still he was ingenious and discreet in that operation. Sometimes a heavy instrument was dragged over the corn to tear out the grain. This is what is intended in the first clause by the "threshing instrument," as also in that passage, "I have made you a sharp threshing instrument having teeth." When the corn-drag was not used, they often turned the heavy solid wheel of a country cart over the straw. This is alluded to in the next sentence: "Neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cumin."
They had also flails not very unlike our own, and then for still smaller seeds, such as dill and cumin, they used a simple staff or a slender switch. "The caraway are beaten out with a staff, and the cumin with a rod." This is not the time or place to give a dissertation upon threshing. We find every information upon that subject in proper books; but the meaning of the illustration is this—that as God has taught husbandmen to distinguish between different kinds of grain in the threshing, so does he in his infinite wisdom deal discreetly with different sorts of men. He does not try us all alike, seeing we are differently constituted. He does not pass us all through the same agony of conviction: we are not all to the same extent threshed with terrors. He does not give us all to endure the same family or bodily affliction; one escapes with only being beaten with a rod, while another feels, as it were, the feet of horses in his heavy tribulations.
Our subject is just this. Threshing: all kinds of seeds need it, all sorts of men need it. Secondly, the threshing is done with discretion, and, thirdly, the threshing will not last forever; for so the second verse of the text says: "Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen."
I. First, then, WE ALL NEED THRESHING. Some have a foolish conceit of themselves that they have no sin; but they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. The best of men are men at the best; and being men, they are not perfect, but are still compassed about with infirmity. What is the object of threshing the grain? Is it not to separate it from the straw and the chaff? About the best of men, there is still a measure of chaff. All is not grain that lies upon the threshing floor. All is not grain even in those golden sheaves which have been brought into our garner so joyfully. Even the wheat is joined to the straw, which was necessary to it at one time. About the kernel of the wheat the husk is wrapped, and this still clings to it even when it lies upon the threshing-floor. About the holiest of men there is something superfluous, something which must be removed. We either sin by omission or by trespass. Either in spirit, or motive, or lack of zeal, or lack of discretion, we are faulty. If we escape one error, we usually glide into its opposite. If before an action we are right, we err in the doing of it, or, if not, we become proud after it is over.
If sin is shut out at the front door, it tries the back gate, or climbs in at the window, or comes down the chimney. Those who cannot perceive it in themselves, are frequently blinded by its smoke. They are so thoroughly in the water that they do not know that it rains. So far as my own observation goes I have found out no man whom the old divines would have called perfectly perfect; the absolutely complete man is a being whom I expect to see in heaven, but not in this poor fallen world. We all need such cleansing and purging as the threshing-floor is intended to work for us. Now, threshing is useful in loosening the connection between the good corn and the husk. Of course, if it would slip out easily from its husk, the corn would only need to be shaken. There would be no necessity for a staff or a rod, much less for the feet of horses, or the wheel of a cart to separate it. But here's the rub: our soul not only lies in the dust, but "cleaves" to it. There is a fearful intimacy between fallen human nature and the evil which is in the world; and this compact is not soon broken. In our hearts we hate every false way, and yet we sorrowfully confess, "When I would do good, evil is present with me." Sometimes when our spirit cries out most ardently after God, a holy will is present with us, but how to perform that which is good we find not.
Flesh and blood have tendencies and weaknesses which, if not sinful in themselves, yet tend in that direction. Appetites need but slight excitement to germinate into lusts. It is not easy for us to forget our own kindred and our father's house even when the king does most greatly desire our beauty. Our alien nature remembers Egypt and the flesh-pots while yet the manna is in our mouths. We were all born in the house of evil, and some of us were nursed upon the lap of iniquity, so that our first companionships were among the heirs of wrath. That which was bred in the bone is hard to get out of the flesh. Threshing is used to loosen our hold of earthly things and break us away from evil. This needs a divine hand, and nothing but the grace of God can make the threshing effectual. Something is done by threshing when the soul ceases to be bound up with its sin, and sin is no longer pleasurable or satisfactory. Still, as the work of threshing is never done until the corn is separated altogether from the husk, so chastening and discipline have never accomplished their design until God's people give up every form of evil, and abhor all iniquity.
When we shake right out of the straw, and have nothing further to do with sin, then the flail will lie quiet. It has taken a good deal of threshing to bring some of us anywhere near that mark, and I am afraid many more heavy blows will be struck before we shall reach the total separation. From a certain sort of sins we are very easily separated by the grace of God early in our spiritual life; but when those are gone, another layer of evils comes into sight, and the work has to be repeated. The complete removal of our connection with sin is a work demanding the divine skill and power of the Holy Spirit, and by him only will it be accomplished. Threshing becomes needful for the sake of our usefulness; for the wheat must come out of the husk to be of service. We can only honor God and bless men by being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. O corn of the Lord's threshing-floor, you must be beaten and bruised, or perish as a worthless heap! Eminent usefulness usually necessitates eminent affliction. Unless thus severed from sin, we cannot be gathered into the barn. God's pure wheat must not be defiled by an admixture of chaff. There shall in no way enter into heaven anything that defiles; therefore every sort of imperfection must come away from us by some means or other before we can enter into the state of eternal blessedness and perfection. Yes, even here we cannot have true fellowship with the Father unless we are daily delivered from sin. Peradventure some of us today are lying upon the threshing-floor, suffering from the blows of chastisement. What then? Why, let us rejoice therein; for this testifies to our value in the sight of God. If the wheat were to cry out and say, "The great drag has gone over me, therefore the farmer has no concern for me," we should instantly reply—The farmer does not pass the corn-drag over the darnel or the nettles; it is only over the precious wheat that he turns the wheel of his cart, or the feet of his oxen.
Because he esteems the wheat, therefore he deals sternly with it and spares it not. Judge not, O believer, that God hates you because he afflicts you; but interpret truly and see that he honors you by every stroke which he lays upon you. Thus says the Lord, "You only have I known of all the nations of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Because a full atonement has been made by the Lord Jesus for all his people's sins, therefore he will not punish us as a judge; but because we are his dear children, therefore he will chastise us as a father.
In love he corrects his own children that he may perfect them in his own image, and make them partakers of his holiness. Is it not written, "I will bring them under the rod of the covenant"? Has he not said, "I have refined you, but not with silver, I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction"? Therefore do not judge according to the sight of the eyes or the feeling of the flesh, but judge according to faith, and understand that, as threshing is a testimony to the value of the wheat, so affliction is a token of God's delight in is people. Remember, however, that as threshing is a sign of the impurity of the wheat, so is affliction an indication of the present imperfection of the Christian. If you were no more connected with evil, you would be no more corrected with sorrow. The sound of a flail is never heard in heaven, for it is not the threshing-floor of the imperfect but the garner of the completely sanctified. The threshing instrument is therefore a humbling token, and so long as we feel it we should humble ourselves under the hand of God, for it is clear that we are not yet free from the straw and the chaff of fallen nature.
On the other hand, the threshing instrument is a prophecy of our future perfection. We are undergoing from the hand of God a discipline which will not fail: we shall by his prudence and wisdom be fully delivered from the husk of sin. We are feeling the blows of the staff, but we are being effectually separated from the evil which has so long surrounded us, and for certain we shall one day be pure and perfect. Every tendency to sin shall be beaten off. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." If, we being evil, yet succeed with our children by our poor, imperfect chastening, how much more shall the Father of spirits cause us to live unto himself by his holy discipline? If the corn could know the necessary uses of the flail, it would invite the thresher to his work; and since we know whereunto tribulation tends, let us glory in it, and yield ourselves with cheerfulness to its processes. We need threshing, the threshing proves our value in God's sight, and while it marks our imperfection, it secures our ultimate cleansing.