1 Chronicles 21:15
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.
Pope Gregory XVI recently broke his hand while on a vacation, and after minor surgery he joked to reporters, “Unfortunately my guardian angel, most probably on orders from above, did not prevent this incident.”
Even jokingly, it’s nice to see someone with a God-centered understanding of angels and their role in human affairs. In the Bible, we see angels fulfilling all sorts of roles: messengers, protectors, warriors, bearers of God’s blessings AND bearers of God’s wrath. So many Americans misunderstand the many roles of angels, seeing angels only as protectors of their lives. We are a very self-centered society, and we miss out on the idea that angels are simply agents of God’s will – sometimes protecting, sometimes leaving us to face the consequences of our actions, and at other times enacting God’s judgments.
In today’s verse we see angels at their most terrible, bringing a plague upon Israel and Jerusalem because of King David’s sin of numbering the people. (2 Samuel 24:1-9, 1 Chronicles 21:1-8) Seventy thousand men had to die for David’s insolence, and more would have died if not for God’s compassion. God relented – in Hebrew, He “sighed,” as if in remorse – and told the angel to stay his hand.
I know that when we are going through hard times – especially those brought on by our own actions – it is hard to believe Jeremiah’s statement:
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
But as illustrated by the angel above Jerusalem, God can and will stay His hand, He will have compassion on us. Yes, sometimes the angel IS with us to protect us, but there are times when the angel is sent to put us in our place, to remind us of God’s sovereignty and our own fragility.
In that same news conference mentioned above, Pope Benedict further remarked, “Perhaps the Lord wanted to teach me to have more patience and humility and give me more time for prayer and meditation.” Perhaps He did.
Blessed Heavenly Father, I praise You today for Your faithfulness. I thank You for the new mercies You rain down upon us every morning, giving us an opportunity for a fresh start in listening to You. Let my heart be filled with Your love and grace today, and whatever Your will may be, let it be done in my life. Amen.