The Angel at the Threshing Floor
Finally, a breather. With grades done and a rather relaxed week ahead of me, it’s time for a serious blog entry. Before that, however, let me introduce you to Shinkirou.
Shinkirou is an 8 GB iPod touch that my dad gave me for by birthday late last month. I was rather surprised by the offer although I gladly accepted. In any case, Shinkirou has now become a regular companion. More than just an mp3 player, I’m able to do a lot more with the iPod touch’s applications. Definitely a cool toy. Daily podcasts from CNN and Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist who I listen to.
By the way, you can find that wallpaper here.
Now on to the main event.
The Angel at the Threshing Floor
This Sunday’s sermon was much more than just a simple message. I think it served to me as a massive wakeup call.The main text was a story about King David that not that many people know of, at least outside of regular Bible readers.
Most of the time, when we hear of King David, we hear about his vanquishing of the giant Goliath, or his adulterous and murderous affair with Bathsheba. However, towards the end of his life, David experienced another extremely significant event in his life.
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelitest from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to meso that I many know how many there are.”
But Joab replied, “May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” 1 Chronicles 21: 1-5
Okay, so what’s wrong about having a census of soldiers? Well, let’s backtrack a bit.
To begin with, Israel as a nation had not been led by a king since they came out of Egypt. Moses, Joshua, and their successors were not really monarchs. Eventually, the people clamored for a king, and so Samuel, the last judge, asked God about it—and God told him what to say. In effect, they were discouraging them from relying on a political leader. Nevertheless, since there was a provision for a king in the Law (Deuteronomy 19). The gist of this was that the king should be an exemplar of righteousness and should avoid relying on his political and military power and not on God. By counting his fighting men, David is relying more on how powerful his army is and not on God’s ability to give him victory.
What happens is that David orders Joab, his commander-in-chief, to do it anyway. Take note that Joab is not a very nice guy, as seen elsewhere in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, but even he was appalled by the command. He counts the men short just to spite David, but notes that there are over a million men at David’s command. After the census, the judgment comes. God’s messenger is Gad, a prophet.
This is what the LORD says: ‘Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD–days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me. 1 Chronicles 21:11-12
David responded well:
“I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”
The judgment comes, and the LORD himself does it with a heavy heart. The plague kills 70,000 men before it’s over, and the angel finally turns to Jerusalem to destroy it.
But as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD was standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, with a sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown. 1 Chronicles 21:15-16
This must have been a horrifying sight for David—angels have always been shown to be terrifying creatures in Scripture, and to see this angel standing on top of what was to become the Temple Mount with his sword drawn in the execution of judgment must have been doubly unsettling especially since David knew this was all because of him. However, this was a wakeup call for David–he was not in power because he was a strong king. He started out as a shepherd, an unlikely hero whom everybody thought was nothing more than an annoying kid—then became one of Israel’s greatest figures. He was persecuted by his own king for a long time, and was not able to enjoy a the comfort of a palace until well into his adulthood. And he had become king only by the grace of God.
And so here was the turning point in his life–facing a being of enormous supernatural power, David could do nothing but bow down and worship the Lord. He purchased the threshing floor of Araunah and built an altar, insisting on buying it and the sacrificial implements because offering something he got for free to the LORD was unthinkable.
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take fo rthe LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” v. 24
After this, the LORD himself answers David with fire on the altar, and the angel at the threshing floor ceases and desists from the slaughter. Seeing the reply of the LORD, David declares, “The house of the LORD God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” (1 Chronicles 22:1) He had found the last mission of his life: the founding of the temple.
David never really gets a chance to build the temple–he’s approaching his 70s by this point, and the prophet Gad tells him that since he’d been a man of blood, the LORD decided not to give David the honor of building the temple, and that the honor belonged to Solomon, David’s son, who would be a man of peace. (22:7-9) David then prepares vast quantities of resources for the building of the temple, and after David’s death, Solomon picks up the work and carries on the construction all the way to the temple’s dedication.
So what does this ancient story have to do with me?
Three things: a wakeup call, a turning point, and a mission.
You might have noticed that my blog entries have been very angry lately. I’ve felt confused, distressed, and annoyed at various things. Add this to my lack of direction and you’ve got a very uncomfortable young man. However, this message just stirred my heart so much and renewed my courage.
I’ve been unhappy with my job. I do get enough money to continue my current lifestyle, but I was not happy that it was a very cold, dead end for me if I stayed here—I’d never earn enough to fund my own further studies, and thus I’d never get promoted or get opportunities for teaching in higher institutions. I’m thankful to the Lord that I have a job at all, but I’d been living the past four years as if this was all there was.
I have a history of being like that—living for the moment. While it sounds good on paper or in a movie, living for the moment, quite frankly, leads nowhere. I don’t like meandering around a mall; I definitely don’t want to meander around my life. I have to move on and move forward.
Now my problem is that I saw the Angel at the Threshing Floor of my life—my application to Singapore’s Ministry of Education. It has always been so intimidating to me, especially since I’m a teacher with only four years of experience and not a single unit of education underneath my belt. I’ve been afraid to take the risk, afraid to make a move, and as such I’ve been putting it off.
Now that the year is ticking by rapidly, I haven’t finished it yet. But like David, who made the bold risk of bowing to the Lord’s will and building an altar where the angel stood, I have decided it’s time to trust in the Lord and go with his plan. By all indications, that mission does not involve me staying here in the Philippines. It’s time to move on. The Angel at the Threshing Floor, though terrifying, is merely the messenger who is to bring me my life mission.