Questions for Discussion:
Have you ever experienced your place of worship as a place where “the forces of human tragedy and personal guilt” are touched and transcended by God’s mercy?
Is a church or place of worship an appropriate place to bring “the madness of our lives” seeking mercy? If so, is this true only for our personal, individual lives, or is it also true for our lives as a society, nation, and world?
1 Chronicles 21:14-17
14 So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel; and seventy thousand persons fell in Israel. 15 And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but when he was about to destroy it, the Lord took note and relented concerning the calamity; he said to the destroying angel, “Enough! Stay your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave the command to count the people? It is I who have sinned and done very wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house; but do not let your people be plagued!”
The Mercy Seat
"The angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan… And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem." - 1 Chronicles 21:15-16
The disastrous events of 1Chronicles 21 begin with an ill-fated decision by King David to take a census of the Israeli troops. God was displeased because Israel's strength was not in a number; it was in a name—the name of the Lord God.
The consequences of David's census were devastating. Rancor and deception from a lieutenant who disagreed with David's decision set it. And David's denial of trust in favor of troops brought an horrific plague upon Israel that took the lives of 70,000 people.
In distressful remorse, David asks God why so many had to suffer as a result of David's own transgression.
Just when an angel with an outstretched sword poised to destroy the city of Jerusalem was about to strike, the Mercy of God interceded and the city was spared. The place where the angel was intercepted was the threshing floor of a man named Ornan.
The angel instructed David to build an altar in that place. Years later, David's successor, Solomon, built the first Temple at that threshing floor.
Our places of worship are places where God's mercy meets the madness of our lives.
Worship is the place where the ravaging forces of human tragedy and personal guilt are touched and transcended by the steadfast grace and mercy of a Redeemer who loves us through it all.
"Come Ye disconsolate, Where'er ye languish
Come to the Mercy Seat, Fervently kneel
Here bring your wounded heart, Here tell your anguish
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal."