What does it really mean to live by the verse, "All things work together for good"? It means on certain days, days like today - you turn on the projector of your life, and you allow it to run - clipping along with images of past people, conversations, & events. You relive choices you made, paths you didn't take, for reasons of logic, or fear, or cowardice. And you reflect. You get down in the mire and think as the projector whirs along, inanimate & efficient. You review it all - the good and the bad. Your eyes never close, and your head never turns. Then the whap, whap, whap of the last reel let's you know that you've caught up to "now." And you understand. Truly understand. The mistakes, the victories, the heartbreak, the hope - all have led you to right here, and right now. They have created the essence of you. The "sadder, but wiser" yet simultaneously, the "blessed and highly favored" version of you. You also see the hand of God at work. The guidance, the gentle nudging, the course correcting, and protecting. You have true hindsight, and realize you are seeing your past the way God sees your entire lifeline. We are the sum of our choices, but God sees where each choice will lead, and how He can orchestrate it for our good. However, like the benevolent parent He is, good does not always equate happy. It just means for our benefit. And knowing His sovereignty, no matter how you muddle the circumstance, is the best way I've found to live by the verse, "All things work together for good."
“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.”