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The Threshing Sledge – Br. David Allen

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Isa. 41:13-20

While I was still a small boy, not old enough to go to school, when my grandmother came for her annual visit my father took me to the Union Pacific Station to meet the train. When the train was announced we would go out to the platform. The huge locomotive (to my eyes), would come into the station belching smoke and steam, and stop with a great screeching of brakes and hiss of steam. It always frightened me. I was able to take heart because my father was there holding my hand.

Our O.T. reading from Isaiah today began with the words, “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isa. 41:13)

Isaiah wrote these words at the time of the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem. (587-537 B.C.)  I think we can also apply what he wrote to life in our times.

To whom was Isaiah writing this prophecy? To whom was God speaking through Isaiah?  It was primarily to Jerusalem and to Israel. But I think as we read it, and hear it, we can take it as applying in many ways to us in the present age.

The references to mountains and hills can be considered as allegories. Meditating on this I quickly understood that the mountains and hills stand for our fears and frustrations. They are the things that threaten us. They hold us back from making a commitment to serve God.

At the heart of the prophecy we find God’s promise of help, and a challenge; “I shall make of you a threshing sledge”.  He did not say, “I shall send you a threshing sledge”. He said, “I shall make you a threshing sledge.”

The threshing sledge is also an allegory.  A heavy wooden plank, 2 or 3 feet by 5 or 6 feet, with sharp spikes on the bottom, when oxen pulled it over a grain field the grain was separated from stalks and weeds.

You shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff.”  (Cf. Vv. 14-15)

God gives us the responsibility of doing something ourselves about those “faithless fears and worldly anxieties” that are holding us back in whatever way. (Collect for Epiphany 8) We don’t have to do this alone.  We have God’s promise of holding our hand and of helping us.  By prayer we can know the assurance of God’s help at our right hand.

Stretch out your hand in faith and receive the strength and encouragement of God’s love to deal with your mountains and hills.

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5 Comments

  1. Gail Alsobrook on December 9, 2016 at 13:55

    I love the fact of God holding my hand. So often I have the feeling of God so near. Just looking out at nature during this beautiful but bitterly cold day I am thankful that God is with us and all of our blessings!

  2. Elspeth on December 9, 2016 at 08:48

    thank you for this message today. It is so nice to know that we do not have to face our challenges alone.

  3. Charlotte Townsend on December 9, 2016 at 08:35

    Thank you so very much for this posting today…I still forget to ask God to hold my hand !

  4. Jean Ann Schulte on December 9, 2016 at 07:47

    Brother David and Jerime,

    I am drawn to your imagery of holding hands with God and then the moment of encouragement to “fly away”. So eloquent. I remember a workshop with Brother David V a few years ago when he talked about “pillow talk” with Jesus. These are the images that have help me deepen my awareness of the very near presence of God in my life. So grateful for your help in making the Almighty accessible.

    Jean Ann

  5. Jerome Berkeley on December 19, 2014 at 09:23

    Thank you for this insightful sermon, Br. David. I was drawn to it by your reminiscence of holding your father’s hand. It evoked my own memories of my father holding my hand as a boy and then releasing it as I ran as he said, “fly away, little bird”. One day without intending to, I said the same thing to my goddaughter as I released her hand and she ran. It moved me to a tearful laughter. Further, your explanations of the mountains and hills was very useful for me. The poetic and sometimes archaic language and imagery of the bible often leaves me a bit glazed over and I miss the sort of crucial lessons you have so eloquently taught here. You have ignited my spirit with passages which I would have otherwise read as dated poetry and lost the impact.

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