We wander through the woods of our lives, tripping, winding, pulling away branches, and getting caught in the brambles. It is a long road. A rough road. And then, a clearing up ahead. We breathe the sweet nectar of the open field, feel the sunshine, and cooling breeze. It feels like heaven. But the dark woods draw us back, and soon we find ourselves, tangled, tired, and bruised. All the while, the Lord goes before us, clearing the path, absorbing the blows, and wishing we would only take His hand, so He could lead us to the next clearing, and the path of His design. Even so, He walks ahead. Never forsaking us and our chosen pathway. Even when He knows His is easier, He allows us to choose. And then He clears the way. Happy Birthday to me, and my dear friend Olivia, and all the other souls who celebrate their arrival on this earth today. We made it. Keep walking the path, the destination is more beautiful than we can possibly imagine.
One of the greatest gifts the Lord has bestowed to us, is the gift of time. And the greatest gift we can give Him in return - is how we spend that time. We can fritter it away, or pile it up with study, or work, or mindless activity. But what He would love, what He would ultimately prefer - is if we just took a deep breath, and said, "I'd really just like to spend my time with You."
Those who lie build walls - they carefully construct their version of truth. They shellack the stones and settle inside their forts of deception. Until. A still, small voice says, "Enough." And then another voice And another. Until finally, the noise is so deafening - that the walls come crumbling down. Jericho is taken, once again. Written last year after the inspirational moment a local woman went public with her decades long pain.
What will you give Him? What is the thing you love most in this world? What is the object, the person, the corporation, the "thing?" That thing, that MacGuffin, that is the last thing you have to lay down. It should be the first, but, it is usually the last. Why that thing, you ask? Because it is the last, the very last barrier between your heart and His. What has He ever given you, you ask? He has given you Everything - He has given you Jesus. He has given you Himself. The least we can do in return - the very least, is give Him all of us....every last morsel. Even that bit we've been holding back, saying - "Yes - you can have it all... except "This."" "This"... is exactly the last of the currency. But fear not, for the rate of exchange is priceless. You give Him the very last piece of your human heart, and He gives you Eternity.
“Don’t try to figure out what is happening. Simply trust Me and thank Me in advance for the good that will come out of it all. I know the plans I have for you, and they are good.”Jesus Calling, Sarah Young
“Where is hope to be found? In five life-altering words: “I am with you always.””New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp
Now Ornan turned and saw the angel; and his four sons who were with him hid themselves but Ornan continued threshing wheat.1 Chronicles 21:20, NJKV
For a couple of years now, I have been doing journaling after reading devotionals and my Bible. I don’t talk about it a lot, because it feels inauthentic to talk about something I feel like I should be doing anyway. It would be like saying, “Hey guys…I ate food today! Isn’t that impressive of me??” But, as I said in my previous post, this past year has been a year of re-evaluation, and maybe I need to talk more about things that mean something to me, and less about things that don’t.
Anyway, that small pre-cursor to say that not for a long time have the words I have read in a group of devotionals dove-tailed so smoothly with a Bible verse that was so completely applicable to my current state of mind; which was anxious and worried. I had just watched a YouTube video that had me nearly nauseous from a wave of worry. Now, I’ve been doing a LOT better about overcoming my anxiety (and a whole lot of that is thanks to the devotionals and journaling) but this one was a real doozy. I couldn’t even finish the video, but instead, decided to try and calm my mind with some reading.
As fate (or faith??) would have it, I read the passage about David wanting to number Israel – and how the Lord punished his sin of pride by offering David 3 options, and David chose option C – a three day plague. Now, to us in 2021, a 3 day plague doesn’t sound bad at all, right? Well, this was an old testament biblical plague, and they don’t do anything small.
SEVENTY THOUSAND people died in those three days.
I cannot even fathom the carnage. David even lamented to the Lord, “Why punish these sheep? What have they done? Instead, let my iniquity be on me and my household!” (My paraphrasing). Gotta say, I’m with you on this one, David. A leader of the people commits a wrong-doing against the Lord and the sheep are punished? How is that ever fair, whether now, or in Biblical times. But – this post isn’t about David, or any person in authority who does something wrong.
This is about the sheep he references. The people just living their lives and then BAM…plague. In my modern mind, I can really understand where the minds of the people may have been at during this three days of absolute death and horror. The rate of death must have been so abundant and so fast, that they may have been stepping over the bodies of friends or family. How in the world could they have coped, or worked, or done anything but weep uncontrollably every day of those three days? Did they know it was only going to be three days? Did David send out a decree or warn anyone? I have no idea, but that would have been a nightmare of a press release to draft.
But, again, let’s narrow our focus to the hero of the story. My new hero. Ornan the Brave. In verses prior to the one I shared above, it reads:
And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the Lord looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.”1 Chronicles 21: 15-16
There is a lot happening here. David and the elders are in sackcloth, which is a coarse garment, usually made of goats hair, and symbolizes mourning or penitence. They are justifiably freaking out, and what does Ornan do? Verse 20 tells us that he turns and SEES THE ANGEL, most likely with his sword still drawn, and his sons, also completely justifiably, run and hide. But Ornan….Ornan the Brave just shrugs and says, (obviously my conjecture) “You know what? I don’t get what’s happening here – but I’m gonna trust that the Lord has this – and that He’s with me always, and that it’s gonna turn out for my good.” – and Ornan KEPT ON WORKING, and he was right.
The plague ended at his literal doorstep, and David came calling and paid him 600 shekels of gold by weight for his property (which is nearly $600,000 in today’s money). AND Ornan’s little abode became the site of the future temple of the Lord that Solomon would build during his reign.
All of this for a humble man who looked at an angel with a drawn sword and said, “I’m not going to worry about this, or even attempt to figure it out. I’m just going to press on, and believe that the Lord will work it out for my good.”
What an encouragement this story was to me. And I hope it is to you, too. There are obvious parallels we can draw to today’s world, but I hope the main takeaway is one of trust in the Lord’s timing, and his protection under the most horrific circumstances. I would say unfathomable…but somehow, after 2020, that’s the wrong word choice.
Now, of course within those seventy thousand people were many other Ornan’s. People who trusted the Lord, and who died anyway. Why did that happen? It happened because Life is unfair, and it’s been unfair since Eve and Adam took that first bite of the fruit they had no business eating…it’s been unfair since Cain first took a stone and murdered Abel ahead of his time. Since that point… good people die before bad people, and people who are perfect and sunny and too good for this world are taken too soon. It happens because of Sin with the capital S. And Sin is here to steal, kill, and destroy. And the thing it would MOST like to steal, kill, and destroy, is our faith.
As I was writing this, it also dawned on me that Ornan and his moment of complete trust occurs in chapter 21, verse 20. Perhaps this is a subtle sign that this should be my go-to verse for the year 2021? This is the year that no matter what the circumstances, no matter how much everyone around me is (COMPLETELY JUSTIFIABLY) freaking out, I should keep doing the work that the Lord has laid on my heart. But I should also do it with the renewed fervor of a man who has just seen an angel of the Lord with his sword drawn and said,
“Meh. Not the craziest thing I’ve seen today. God’s got this.”