From Midian to Gideon, and from Saul to Paul, God threshes the wheat until it is removed from its chaff in the winepress of the heart. Some take longer than others to get right with God for holy service, but smallness, not largeness, is the same prerequisite condition needed to fit every soul for fruitful ministry.
The famous prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, said: “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 went on to say something that has been ringing in my spirit now for some time: “THE THRESHING WILL NOT LAST FOR EVER.”
In Gideon’s day, for seven (spiritual perfecting) years the Midianites (“strife” of flesh warring hard against spirit) prevailed against Israel (the new creation nature) because of their disobedience to God, and specifically in regards to them fearing the god of the Amorites (“mountaineers”; to speak from natural enlightenment) in the time of the judges when the climate of the day was thickly clouded up with everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.
This accords very well to our day. Before God calls Gideon (“he that cuts down”) out from his hiding place from the strife of tongues, from out of the depths of our beings, He allows things to deteriorate. The attritional tongues that lick up the dust about us, and would lick us clean (especially the Amalekite spirit which means “to lick up the dust”) if God does not intervene by raising up our Gideon man to cut them down, will utterly devour us. These tongues are both in us and about us spoken by devils in the lips of others and as echoes in our own heads. And yes, God’s discipline is indeed grievous, but afterwards, as the apostle James declares, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We are made to bring God glory, not by being all we can be as so many tongues say, but by being less than we can be. The chaff is not us! Unless you understand God’s ways, you will be frustrated and discouraged beyond measure, because even having known His ways, and then experiencing them in broad daylight, many get frustrated and discouraged much anyways. “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5).
We are being whittled down to something much smaller and less significant than was supposed by many of us when we first embarked upon this journey. Dear God, what little wheat is left of us! And still it is being beaten clean in this late hour...there...way down there at the broken bottom of our hearts in that inner sanctum, in our rock hard winepress where the never ending process of transforming desperate sorrow into delicate joy yet churns and burns within us to the core.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord [the One who is going to do this irrespective of the will of man] showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts [God’s end time army] after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the late crops were coming up [some gleanings maybe left of last generation, but new generation ripening fast]. When they had stripped the land clean [God’s end time army], I cried out, 'Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!'
So the Lord relented.
‘This will not happen,’ the Lord said.
This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: The Sovereign Lord was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. Then I cried out, ‘Sovereign Lord, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!’
So the Lord relented.
‘This will not happen either,’ the Sovereign Lord said.
This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, ‘what do you see, Amos?’
‘A plumb line,’ I replied
Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.’
‘The high places of Isaac [laughter] will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel [places where His people hide] will be ruined; with my sword [the Word of God] I will rise [come up from out of our spirits where He is tied to us in holiness] against the house of Jeroboam [countless voices which rise up against the King of Kings]’” (Amos 7:1-9 NIV).
God promises to punish to the third and fourth generation them that hate God; Amorites were given to the third and fourth generation to fill up the measure of their sins only to be removed from the Promised Land forever. Amorites represent all of us to some degree or another (which YES, secretly hate God); it corresponds to that part of our natural mind which is high and lifted up and speaks its natural mind nature into the holy work instead of the mind of Christ into the holy faith. It is refining flesh; it is threshing thorns. It is worthless and not worthy of being refined of course, but alas, we often waste much time trying to extract the precious from the vile of something that is nothing but vile through and through. Why does the threshing never end? Perhaps we’re threshing the wrong crop in the right field. When God was displeased with His people He said to His prophet, “They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have strained themselves to no profit” (Jeremiah 12:13).
“Then the people asked for a king (and by default, removing THE King off the throne of their lives), and he gave them Saul son of Kish (“asked for,” son of “snaring,” who was head and shoulders above the rest to their natural line of sight), of the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of ravenous wolves), who ruled (heavily) forty years (the time of trials and tribulations)” (Acts 13:21 NIV). AND, “Now Saul [of Tarsus] (“asked for” of “not a significant city”), [breathed out] threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord...” (Acts 9:1).
From Midian to Gideon is from hearing the strife of too many tongues and being utterly deprived of joy and peace because of them, to hearing God and being empowered by Him to deliver yourself, your family, and your countrymen from the towering babble of nonsensical and conflicting messages that are inundating us from every quarter of the land. From Saul to Paul is from the arrogant mind of man, to the humble mind of Christ. The name Paul literally means “small,” and the apostle Paul embraced the meaning of that name in a very special way, and in no small part (no pun intended...but appreciated) because he did not continue to thresh the thorn.
“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a THORN IN MY FLESH, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.”
Again Spurgeon speaks well: “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 honour God and bless men by being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. O corn of the Lord's threshing-floor, thou must be beaten and bruised, or perish as a worthless heap! Eminent usefulness usually necessitates eminent affliction.”
God’s purpose is much larger than we think, and even our small part is not as small as we are apt to imagine. Look again at Paul! He, like Saul the king, is from the tribe of Benjamin, and he like Saul, started out as Saul. But King Saul regrettably dies as Saul, whereas Saul of Tarsus changed into a new man named Paul. But not before extraordinary sin! And the tribe they both originated from was first nearly decimated because of siding with worthless men of their own family, and then entirely decimated (at least in the form of one of its branches [excepting lame Mephibosheth]) by NOT DESTROYING ALL THE AMALEKITES (those tongues which if left unchecked will lick you to death).
If we only understood the cost of our salvation and the purpose behind the suffering way to obtain its matured end, we’d endure the narrowing process, the attritional way to large purpose. In the midst of a famine of the Word of God, but in the confusion of the many voices unifying around erecting a monument to manhood, Gideon, a deliverer ordained to cut them all down, arises from a half tribe, from the least significant family of that tribe, and then from the least position in that family, to lead Israel out of hiding and into victory. Likewise, in the midst of a feast of the Word of God, but in the confusion of the many voices unifying around the pillar and support of the truth, Paul, a deliverer ordained to organize the church, arises from the fires of self will and natural enlightenment to be the most eminent apostle of them all.