The Threshing-Floor of Ornan the Jebusite: Part 1

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1 Chronicles 21
It is an affecting and solemn truth presented to us by scripture, to which we desire that our thoughts may ever be fully subject, that our God has, through our transgression, been separated from His due place, as over the work of His own hands; that this world which is all His handy-work has acknowledged another god and prince. (John 14:30; 1 Cor. 4:4.) Since the day when the Lord God walked with Adam in paradise, He has had no abiding place among us. He has visited the earth in divers manners, to bring mercies to His chosen in the midst of it; but when His errand of love has been finished, He has, as is said, “gone his way” again. (Gen. 18:33.) He would, it is true, have found a place among His chosen Israel, but He was, even by them, too speedily disowned, and His tarrying there proved to be but as that of a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night. (Jer. 14:8.) “The ox knoweth his owner,” said the God of Israel by His prophet, “and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” (Isa. 1:3.)
But the Lord's title to the earth, of course, stands unimpeachable; “the cattle on a thousand hills” are His, “the earth, and the fullness thereof;” and accordingly, in one way or another, He has been making continual claim to it in the face of the usurper, so as to express His purpose of finally taking it into full possession again. This indeed was so clearly intimated by the first promise, that the whole creation is represented as hoping and waiting for it. (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 8:19-21.) And so in the day of the kingdom of our God these hopes of the creation shall not be ashamed; for the “heavens shall then rejoice, and the earth be glad, the sea and the fullness thereof; the field shall then be joyful, and all that is therein: the floods, and the hills, and the trees of the wood shall rejoice before Jehovah.”
By tracing for a while the dealings of the Lord with this world of ours, we may discern the ways in which He has been pleased since the day when man sold himself and his inheritance into the hand of a strange lord thus to claim the earth as His. When the giants of old had finished the antediluvian apostasy, corrupting the earth and filling it with violence, doing with it as if it were their own, the Lord asserted His right by judging that generation as oppressors and wrong-doers. (Gen. 6:1-13.)
Then in the new world He witnessed His title to the earth by making man the tenant of it under Himself, delivering it into the hand of Noah, under express condition imposed according to His own good pleasure. (Gen. 9:1-7.) And again, when these children of men, doing the deeds of their fathers, affected independency of God, their rightful Lord, as they did in the matter of Babel, He again asserted His right in the way of judgment, scattering the confederates over the face of the earth. (Gen. 11:1-9.)
But the Lord, in His fruitful sovereign wisdom, had now another mode of continuing His claim to the earth. This scattering of the nations from Babel He so orders as to have respect to His setting up one of them as the future witness of His name and rights. (Deut. 32:8, 9.) And in the meantime He separates the father of this nation to Himself (Gen. 12:1), making him also personally the witness of the same truth—that, let the people imagine what vain things they might, Jehovah, and He alone, was “possessor of heaven and earth.” (Gen. 14:18-22.)
Accordingly, then, when in due course of providence Abraham's nation was manifested, the Lord, who had chosen them to be His witnesses, puts them into possession of a portion of the earth, to hold it under Him, their Lord; thus showing that He who took what portion He pleased had title to the whole; as He says, “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine.” (Ex. 19:5.) And Israel, thus established as God's people, should have continued in the midst of, but separated formally from, the nations, reflecting the light of God's glory as King of all the earth. But again and again they revolted, and rejected Jehovah-Christ from being king over them. The nation first (1 Sam. 8:7), then the house of David (Isa. 8:13; Jer. 21:12), give up their testimony to God; and at length the wicked husbandmen cast “the heir” himself out of the vineyard, and slew him. (Matt. 21:39.)1
Abraham's seed thus refused to do the works of Abraham, and then Abraham's God abandoned their land, leaving the boar out of the wood to waste it, and the wild beast of the field to devour it. But the Lord has had pity for His holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, and has called forth another witness to the glory of it. By the voice of heralds He is publishing “Jesus and the resurrection,” opening the kingdom of heaven and the Father's house to all believers, and letting all men know that the kingdoms of the world are become His, and that all things are to be put under His feet again. (Heb. 2:8; Rev. 11:15.)
But how is the kingdom of the world to become the Lord's? And how is His presence to be preserved among us? We can prepare Him no habitation or dominion, for we have been found unable even to retain that which in His love He once committed to us. The Lord, then, must, and so He will, prepare Himself a place over and among the children of men, so as to secure His presence and authority (O blessed expectation!) from ever being clouded or denied again.
When the Lord took Israel of old, as we have seen, to be His peculiar people, of course He prepared Himself a place among them—the tabernacle first, and then the temple. The tabernacle was but a moveable pavilion; there Jehovah dwelt as between curtains, and walked as in a tent, refusing, with infinite grace, to enter into His rest while His Israel sojourned from one nation to another people. (2 Sam. 7:5-8.) But the temple was fixed; for when Israel was brought into the land of their covenant, and all their enemies had been reduced, then the Lord would enter into rest among them. In their affliction having been afflicted, He would now rejoice in their joy (Isa. 63:9); and He whom the heaven cannot contain seated Himself in the midst of His chosen nation.
But where was the honored spot? Who of us that clings with all desire (as, if we be saints, we at least should) to the hope of God's restored presence and kingdom in this world, that would not but know something of it? I speak not of what travelers have told us of it, but how the oracles of God mark it out. And from them we learn this simple story of it: that it had been the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite, and was the place where the angel of God stayed his destructive course through the city of Jerusalem, whither he had been summoned by the sin of the king and the people. It was this spot which became the place of the temple, and most fitly so, as we shall see, if we can a little more narrowly survey the ground as it is spread out before us by the Spirit of God in 1 Chron. 21.
(To be continued.)