O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared to you.
Isaiah was familiar with the threshing and winnowing processes, and what was in his mind may be presented to ours. In the East, the threshing-floor is prepared upon some level spot, on high ground. The soil is beaten hard, clay is laid over it and rolled; this soon dries in the heat of the sun, and makes a firm clean floor. Sometimes horses or oxen, tied together and led round in a circle, tread out the corn-grains; but the more general plan is to use a sort of sled made of thick boards, four or five feet in length, with many pieces of flint or iron set firmly in the wood of the under surface. This is drawn over the sheaves, as they are laid on the threshing-floor, by a pail' of oxen. The winnowing is done by throwing up the heap with a largo shovel, so that the wind may separate the lighter chaff from the heavier grain. The familiar word "tribulation," it will be remembered, is taken from the Latin word tribulum, a heavy threshing-roller. The comparison of severe oppression or affliction to threshing is a common one. We may work the figure out by saying - Life is God's floor; his people are the corn laid upon it; dispensations of providence are the sharp threshing-instruments; but their Working only proves how anxious God is for the final good of his people; and over their separating and refining he anxiously and lovingly presides. The reference of the text is to Judah, suffering under Babylonian oppression. Isaiah sees the fall of Babylon, and he would gladly have reported that the success of its enemies would prove a permanent relief to Judah; but alas! he only sees more trouble, and heavier trouble still, in store for his country.
I. THRESHING AND WINNOWING ARE ALWAYS TRYING PROCESSES. They crush and cut and bruise; they seem to fling away as we fling away worthless things. And the answering providential dealings of God try faith, try patience, try endurance, try submission. They are trying only because they must be. No man would bruise his corn, if it could be separated from its husk in some simpler and easier way. When we think of the work God would do in us - get the corn of goodness quite free from the husk of evil - then the wonder is that, even with such threshing-instruments of trouble, suffering, humiliation, disappointment, as he uses, he yet can accomplish so great a result. Only Divine grace can make such means adequate to such an end. On this dwell further.
II. THRESHING AND WINNOWING ARE PROCESSES HAVING A GRACIOUS END IN VIEW. That end is variously stated. It is "holiness;" it is our "sanctification;" it is knowing how rightly to use these "vessels of our bodies;" it is "likeness to Christ;" it is "meetness for the inheritance of the saints in the light;" it is the "liberty of righteousness." God would have the grain clean, free from all chaff, or dust, or straw; it must be "meet for the Master's use." The ends of Divine threshing are the further ends sought by the Divine redemption. God forms a people for himself; by providential threshings and winnowings, he beautifies them for himself.
III. THE TRYING PROCESS MAY BE BORNE IF WE KEEP THE GRACIOUS END IN VIEW. "No affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." Yet does the child of God yield submissively, singing his restful refrain, and saying, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Even in view of further threshing-times, Judah may be quiet; they would but be God's threshings, with a view to final good. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.