The Destroying Angel


Then the LORD spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath (I Chronicles 21:27).


When Americans think of angels, some quickly picture those cute red cherubs seen on cards around Valentine’s Day. Those are fake. The next thought might be of guardian angels. Those are real. Yet, we seldom think of another type of angel—the destroying angel.


The scene shown us in I Chronicles 21 is a most unusual one. It’s worth reading the entire chapter. Evidently out of a sense of pride, King David calls for a count of his fighting men. He learns it is 1,100,000. That could make any commander happy. His Commander-in-chief was not. Sin is involved.


There will be consequences: either three years of famine; or three months of being swept away by an enemy; or “three days of the sword of the LORD—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.”


David chose the last one, saying, “Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 


So it was. Though God’s is mercy is great, the punishment was not light. “So the LORD sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead.” 


When some 2,000 Americans were struck dead, our country went into shock. Cries for vengeance arose. Surely there was no less shock or sorrow in Israel when 70,000 died. And vengeance? There could be none. This was the hand of the holy God.


But this was only the opening action. We are told, “And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem.”


Horrible! Dreadful! The citizens of Jerusalem were helpless.


We tend to think lightly about sin. God does not. It is only because of his mercy that all of us have not been consumed. It was mercy that spared Jerusalem on that day. To the destroying angel the Lord said: “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The order was obeyed.


American warriors are not heavenly angels. But many have seen first-hand the destruction that the holy God sometimes allows. Their eyes have seen the misery and death that descends upon the helpless when the sword of war is drawn.


When lives are spared, when death and destruction have ceased, the cause is always the same: the mercy of God.


Jerusalem was spared. We are spared. We will live forever because of his mercy.


We live today because, the LORD spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.


We pray:

Holy God, who judges with the fist of righteousness and spares with the hand of mercy, your Word reminds us of what we deserve, and of what we have been spared. We are prepared to be agents of destruction upon the enemies of our country. We take that responsibility seriously. But we pray that we might not be needed. Change minds. Change hearts. Frustrate plans, so that we may guard peace instead of waging war. Show mercy on helpless people. We beg you, tell your angel to put his sword back into its sheath. Amen.


Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain

and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida

Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military