James Ray Palmer opened fire on the courthouse last Tuesday, September 13, here in Van Buren, Arkansas. Many of the people in our community still leave their doors unlocked at night. The tragedy was unexpected and deeply saddening. This past Wednesday’s edition of our local paper, The Press Argus Courier, ran a front page news story featuring the victims. Many of the victims rightly attributed their escape as a miracle from God. In reading through the newspaper clippings over the past week it is noted that Palmer’s rifle jammed as he attempted to shoot at least one person fleeing the courthouse. Additionally, Judge Cottrell twisted his knee two days earlier preventing him from being at his office that afternoon. A court case scheduled for hearing was settled among the disputing parties otherwise more lives would have been endangered.
Yet, still one question remains in the mind of some of the survivors: “Why did I survive?”
I offered two replies in yesterday’s post and but I want to offer one final reply.
3. Recognize God governs all the events of our lives. This is rarely considered among most of Americans today. Yet, survivors were correct in attempting to ascertain what God was communicating to him and others by sparing their lives. While contemporary Americans speak of fate or destiny, our Puritan forefathers rightly recognized that God governs all things according to His wise and good purposes (Isaiah 46:10). The Bible portrays God as controlling all things in and around us. Because this is so little known in our day, I want to provide you with a sampling of God’s complete providence over our lives:
“I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” (1Kings 17:4)
“I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants” (Exodus 8:21).
“He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread” (Psalms 105:16).
“He gave them hail for rain” (Psalms 105:32).
“He spoke, and the locusts came” (Psalms 105:34).
“The Lord will whistle for . . . the bee that is in the land of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:18).
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
“The Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah” (Jonah 4:6).
“God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered” (Jonah 4:7).
“Even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41).
“Even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27).
“He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
Some Americans will say, “But I control the events of my life. I make my own choices.” This is the talk of power-inebriated, freedom-loving Americans and not the kind of thoughts you find on the pages of Scripture. God limits the freedom of all His creatures, even Satan (Jude 1:6), to accomplish His own will. Consider when the biblical story of Israel’s King Rehoboam when he rejected the counsel of the older men around him. The Bible records the following commentary, “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the Lord might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (2 Chronicles 10:15). Or consider later in the book when Israel’s rule, King Joash attempted to stop Judah’s ruler, King Amaziah, from going to war against him. Again, the Bible comments, “But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom” (2 Chronicles 25:20).
Again, we should recognize that there is a God in heaven who governs all things – even tragic events – for His own good purposes. We should be humbled, as well as thankful, for His mercy for us through His Son’s death on the cross on our behalf.
If you missed the first two reasons, go here.