Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Lesson on Providence at Shiloh

The beautiful woman in the picture to the left is my wife, Rachelle Burleson. The story I'm about to tell you is personal, one that I have researched for a few years. The reason I think you will benefit from reading it is because it revolves around God and His sovereignty over all His creation, particularly His people.  I believe in a personal God. I believe "the Lord Almighty has a purpose, and nobody can change his plans" (Isaiah 14:27). The Psalmist proclaims "God has established His throne in the heavens and His Kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19) and I concur wholeheartedly. Creation is either the product of random chaos or the plan of a reigning Creator, and to affirm the former is to live a fearful, hopeless life. To believe the latter is to live a life filled with hope, strength, and purpose. 

On Sunday afternoon, April 6, 1862, two men died not more than 100 yards apart from each other during the Battle of Shiloh. They both died in the woods just west of the Tennessee River. Both died of gunshot wounds. Both died in the arms of friends. Both men were Christians. Both places where they died have had markers placed at Shiloh to identify the spot. The first man who died (pictured) was the highest ranking officer to be killed on the battlefield during the Civil War. His name was General Sydney Albert Johnston. He had led the army of the Confederate States of America into the Battle of Shiloh. About 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon Johnston had been found sitting on his horse, losing consciousness as he bled out from a gunshot wound to the back of his right knee. He had come to the front lines a few minutes earlier to rally Confederate troops, including the Arkansas 6th Infantry Regiment, as they attacked the Union left flank to drive the Union army into the Tennessee River. Isham G. Harris, the man who discovered the wounded General and carried him to the safety of a nearby ravine and cared for him until Johnston died, would later became the governor of Tennessee. As word of the death of General Sydney Albert Johnston spread among the troops, the CSA solders became demoralized. Some scholars believe General Johnston's absence on the battlefield eventually led to the Confederates losing the Battle of Shiloh.

That same Sunday afternoon not more than 100 yards away from where General Johnston lay dying in the ravine, the other man in this story also died. His name was Jesse Mock. Unlike General Johnston, Jesse was a private. Unlike General Johnston, Jesse was a Union soldier, not a Confederate. Unlike General Johnston, not very many people noticed when Union Private Jesse Mock died. Jesse and his fellow Illinois volunteers had been firing at General Johnston and the Confederate troops when Jesse was shot in the chest. Unlike General Johnston, the man who cared for Jesse after he was wounded would not become a future governor. The man who cradled Jesse Mock as he died was his brother, William Mock. The Mock brothers were attached to the 9th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Of all the regiments in the Union army at Shiloh, the Illinois 9th Regiment lost more men than any other. Jesse Mock was one of those men. Nobody knows who shot General Johnston. Nobody knows who shot Jesse Mock. Everyone knows they died on the same woods, within the same hour, during the same battle, under similar circumstances.

Jesse Mock is my wife's great-great uncle. Jesse's brother on the battlefield at Shiloh, William
Mock, is my wife's great-great grandfather. William survived the Civil War, and in honor of his dead brother, William named his first born son Jesse. Jesse then had a son named Charles (Rachelle's grandfather) and Charles had a son he named Don (Rachelle's father). As Rachelle and I walked yesterday to the monument where the 9th Illinois engaged General Johnston and the CSA troops, to the very place where private Jesse Mock and many more Union solders of the Illinois 9th were killed and buried during the Battle of Shiloh, I couldn't help but wonder what my world would be like today if just one or two things had been different on that April Sunday afternoon in 1862. What if General Johnston had not been killed?  What if the Confederates have won the Battle of Shiloh? What if William Mock had died and Jesse Mock had lived? What if ....?

It is probably a waste of time to think such thoughts about stray bullets and battlefield chance. The Bible declares that God "works all things after the counsel of His own will." Our God is either running the entire universe today, or as some of my friends believe, it has slipped out from under Him. I reject their view that God is not in charge because it not only violates the teaching of Scripture, it destroys all hope in the human soul. Providence is the unseen rudder on the ship of state. God is the pilot at the wheel during the night watch. As J. Vernon McGee said, "God makes great doors swing on little hinges." He brought together a little baby's cry and a woman's heart down by the River Nile when Pharaoh's daughter went to bathe. The Lord pinched little Moses and he let out a yell. The cry reached the heart of the princess, and God used it to change the destiny of a people. That was providence.

Likewise, God orchestrated all events at Shiloh so that one day I would eventually meet the beautiful woman whose great-great grandfather survived wounds in both thighs while his own brother died and was buried in the fields of Shiloh. I am grateful that our God sits on His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all. So are my kids.

"Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise;
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.
He who formed me in the womb,
He will guide me to the tomb.
Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I shall not die."
For those who wish to "curse God and die" when bad things happen to God's people, I simply remind you of Job's words when he lost his job, his home, his family, his land, and his wife told him to do that very thing. Job responded,  "What? Shall we receive good things from God and not affliction? The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."  Amen.


Bob Cleveland said...

One advantage of being old and retired is that I have a lot of time to spend, reflecting on such things.

I had a front-row seat for my youth. I was intimately acquainted with how I was raised, what I felt, what I felt about the future .. which, when I was young, was what I KNEW would happen. I have also had a ringside seat for what's gone on in my adult life, everything from the circumstances of meeting my bride, every moment of my career, and all the things that have happened since early 2006.

God's statement that the fool says in his heart that God doesn't exist is a vast understatement. There is simply no way humanly possible for me to go from a scared, insecure, shy, high-strung high school freshman, to the me that's sitting behind my computer now, as I prepare Sunday's Lesson, communicating with people from uncounted places around the country. Especially Enid, OK.

Wade Burleson said...

A hearty "Amen," Bob!

Pege' said...

Wade, I found this on a dear friends desk :) and now I have it on mine. I read it about every day it seems and I am always encouraged by the words.It change my life.

The Sovereign Ruler~John Ryland
Sovereign Ruler of the skies, Ever gracious ever wise.
All my times are in thy hand, All events at your command.
His decree, who formed the earth, Fixed my first and second birth: Parents, native place and time, All appointed by him.
He that formed me in the womb, He shall guide me to the tomb.
All my times shall ever be, Ordered by his wise decree.
Times of sickness, times of health, Times of poverty and of wealth:
times of trial and of grief, times of triumph and relief.
Times the tempter's power to prove. Times to taste the Savior's love;
All must come, and last and end, As shall please my heavenly friend.
plagues and death around me fly: Till He bids, I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit, Till the God of love sees fit.
O Thou Gracious, wise and just! In THY hand my life I trust:
Have I something dearer still? I resign it to thy will.
May I always own Thy hand; Still to the surrender stand;
Know that Thou are God alone:
I and mine are all they own.
The at all times will I bless; having Thee I all possess:
How can I bereaved be; Since I cannot part with thee?

Tim A said...

Wade, Great post, and so true concerning God and His sovereignty.

Rex Ray said...

WOW! Very interesting stories! But we can all go crazy thinking ‘What if’?

It was the end of America for many as they left to live in other parts of the world where they flew the Confederate flag.

I hope we can/will learn from the past.

Maybe I’ll understand in heaven why God didn’t kill Satan instead of casting him to earth like a bolt of lightening where he is the ruler of this world. He even tempted Jesus he’d give man if Jesus would worship him. (If Satan was lying it would NOT have been a temptation.)

So to imply that God allows/in charge of all evil—I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole.

Wade, speaking of your beautiful wife, I’d advise—never outlive her.

Anonymous said...

My wife opened the door this morning and looked out to see our rear tire on the pick-up was quite low on air. I took it to the tire repair man and it was like he was sitting there waiting for me to arrive. He got up and quickly identified a screw as the culprit and repaired it. The screw allowed air to leak out slowly but the tire had not gone completely flat allowing me to drive to the repair shop without having to change it myself. It had not gone flat or blown-out as we traveled on very busy expressways the day before either.

"He gives His angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. They bear you up in their hands lest you strike your foot against a stone." Or unless you have a blow-out on the expressway during a rain storm!

I prefer and try hard to give God credit for ALL the good things and even non-pleasant things that happen to me. I actually have been seen and heard shouting "Praise the Lord!" for those open parking spaces at the busy mall!

I would rather give Him credit for something that might have "just happened" than to miss the chance of praising Him for a blessed intervention on my behalf.

Wade Burleson said...


Great point.

The verse I will be focusing on Sunday is Hebrews 13:15, "By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise, that is the fruit of our lips..."

It is a long and lonely life when a Christian cannot see Him at work in every detail of the believer's life.

Rex Ray said...

RRR and Wade,

You guys remind me of the song “Rose Colored Glasses”. Do you not realize the devil is alive and well? He is at war with God and his destruction has nothing to do with God’s will.

Look at our nation. What does the God and the devil want us to do?

It seems you have the attitude it doesn’t matter because God will use it for good.

"It is a long and lonely life when a Christian cannot see Him at work in every detail of the believer's life.”

Several times my life hung by a thread and my wife prayed for me. Did I not pray for her? I don’t see His work in this detail so guess I’ll just remain lonely.

Anonymous said...

A minor correction - Isham Harris was elected "later" as stated in your article. He was elected governor in 1857. When Andrew Johnson was appointed the military governor in March, 1862, Harris continued to be the governor the Confederacy recognized including the time of the Battle of Shiloh.

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray,

You are so right! I do look through rose colored glasses. My wife always accuses me of looking at the glass "half full" instead of "half empty".

Those times when we're suffering and don't understand why an Almighty, All-loving God would allow it is when I have to trust the most. Trusting is not something that I consciously decided to do and it's certainly not because I'm such an awesome and spiritual guy. I'm just like you. I have no alternative!

You don't understand why you and your wife had to suffer as you did and you still don't understand. You can't see any reason for it and see nothing that was accomplished as a result of it that would give you some awesome story about how it was used to give God glory in some miraculous way.

But you're still trusting in God your Father. You said, "It is a long and lonely life when a Christian cannot see Him at work in every detail of the believer's life.” How right you are. But Rex Ray does not decide to tell other people, "DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD! HE'S A HOAX!!!"

You just keep on keeping on. You keep on serving your God and in spite of the hurt and unexplainable suffering you encounter you keep on telling other people about Him and tell them that they will find no possible hope or remedy from sin's destruction other than through Jesus Christ.

Nobody who has loved and lost a spouse can find anyone who can empathize with them and console them more than Rex Ray. If I lost my spouse (hoping that Jesus returns before either of us go) you would be the person that I would come to for counsel and understanding from a Godly perspective.

I know that death comes from Satan. Suffering in this world and injustice comes from Satan. No matter how "good" we are we are still living in Satan's realm but the thing that gives Rex Ray and me comfort and hope is knowing that we do not belong to Satan's realm, we're just victims of living in it.

Wade Burleson said...


Of course. Thank you so much for the correction.

Wade Burleson said...

Rex Ray,

This morning at Emmanuel I am teaching on Hebrews 13:15 "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."

I understand where you are coming from in your last comment, and in my experience, you don't "teach" people to change them. Having said that, I think the message could be an encouragement to you.

Rex Ray said...

Wade and RRR,

Thank you for your replies.

Wade said, "It is a long and lonely life when a Christian cannot see Him at work in every detail of the believer's life.”

I stand by my disagreement that God works in EVERY detail of the believer’s life.

Going to extreme examples; does God work in the detail of a believer’s life if they commit suicide or commit murder?

I referenced my wife and believe God did NOT work the “detail” that caused her death known as the ‘long goodbye’.

Only God knows all the reasons for her failed health, but for many years I tried to get her to stop drinking homogenized milk.

“In unhomogenized cow's milk, the fat globules have an average diameter of two to four micrometers and with homogenization, average around 0.4 micrometers.”

“Milk fat contains a substance called Xanthine Oxidase (XO). This XO is usually not a problem in our system, but homogenization causes some of this XO to pass through the wall of the intestine into the circulatory system. There it creates havoc by attacking specific targets in the artery walls as well as heart tissue, causing lesions. The body responds to this attack by attempting to heal the damaged areas. Fatty tissue and cholesterol are laid over the “body Band-Aids” that build up over the damaged areas and eventually cause obstruction.”

“More recent research shows a milk connection to ALZHEIMER’S, Arthritis, and Diabetes.”

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray says; "I stand by my disagreement that God works in EVERY detail of the believer’s life."

When I first read your reference to it as the ‘long goodbye’ I thought you were going to say it was ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) which is what took my Mom over the course of two years. Those types of disease and conditions are ugly stuff and painful as we watch helplessly as our dearest ones are victimized by its destruction.

It was not my intent to suggest that God causes all things to occur such as “evil” or even the consequences of our being in a world tainted by evil. I sure didn’t intend to suggest that you and your wife was experiencing God’s judgment or deserved to have this to be inflicted upon her. At the same time I do believe that He is there in all events and is aware of all events. I believe that He suffers with us in the painful events and rejoices with us in those celebratory events in life.

I also believe that He has the power and desire to work in all circumstances. His work may not be to heal all physical ailments or remedy all problems or remove all pain but His Spirit is there to bring healing, comfort and hope during those times of tragedy and heartbreak.

He sometimes works unexpectedly with collateral salvation in others who may be observing from the distance even when we’re unaware ourselves. He worked in my life when I was observing the witness of those who knew my 20 year old nephew who died unexplainably but left a mark on the hearts and lives of those who worked with him and knew of his day to day life. His death caused GREAT pain for my brother and my sister in-law who were saying, “Why? Why?” Through that experience it came to my mind, “If it had been ME who had died instead of my devoted, Godly nephew there probably would not have been one testimony as to how I had served God! Many would be surprised to hear that I was a Christian!” God didn’t take my nephew’s life to tazer my dumb-numb spirit awake and bring me back into His will but He was there to open my eyes through that family tragedy and it did bring me back to Him. God has been able to use me more in His work as a result of my awakening through the shock of that event.

I agree that it's difficult to understand how God can be there and not remove the pain. That's a very deep question. Still, I have experienced His presence during those times and have leaned on the reality that our loving Father was there when we were asking, "Why? Why?"

Rex Ray said...


You helped me to see “God works in every detail of the believer’s life” from a different point of view.

I first took the view that God CAUSED every detail, but now I see Wade was saying God works (rejoices, comforts, or heals) in every detail.

Someone said “Man’s sorrow is God’s opportunity.”

Thank you.

Victorious said...

I see this a little differently and hope I can articulate it in a meaningful way.

God doesn't cause the cruel and/or sorrowful events that happen in life. The world operates in a kind of "cause and effect" system and He normally doesn't interfere with that. He does occasionally so we know He is aware and is present in all circumstances. That knowledge on our part keeps our faith from permanently disappearing. I say permanently, because it's normal for it to ebb to low conditions from time to time just because we're human. Jesus' knows that because he experienced it as well.

Lots of people drink homogenized milk and it has no effect on them. My own mother smoked cigarettes for over 65 yrs. and was never sick a day in her life. Some drink alcohol and never seems to suffer the ill effects. Some risky behavior catches up with some and not with others.

Some of the situations we see are simply "freak" accidents and others are planned by evil people. It's just the way of the world. It's the result of living in a world that's filled with carcinogens, the misuse of weapons, evil people, and bodies that are not meant to last forever.

God doesn't cause these circumstances, and I believe he grieves when His people become victims of unfortunate, untimely ends. And He is always there to comfort us when they do.

As I see it....

Wade Burleson said...


I would agree and go one step further.

God can prevent "freak accidents" while still not "causing" freak accidents. In addition, God can prevent sinners from murder, rape and other horrible crimes without being the "cause" of murder, rape and other horrible crimes. Rebellious man is the cause.

God said to Abimelech in a dream "Behold, I kept you from sinning against me" (Genesis 20:6).

Victorious said...


Agree with your one step further. Of course, looking back we can know that God was to fulfill his promise to both Sarah and Abraham that she would bear a son and it would be of Abraham. Abimelech may have interfered with that promise and hence the genealogy of the Savior. Maybe?

We can never know the reason for God's intervention in human affairs, but must trust that when He does, it's for a reason that if He didn't, His eternal plan would be not be accomplished.

He sees the bigger picture and while we are afforded a measure of free will and choices, if they interfere with His ultimate plan, He gets it back on track.


Anonymous said...

Praise God Almighty! I am elevated and lookin' for the city!

Ya' gotta' listen to that recent Wade sermon or you'll be missing a blessing!

Wade Burleson said...

Rex Ray,

"I first took the view that God CAUSED every detail, but now I see Wade was saying God works (rejoices, comforts, or heals) in every detail.

Someone said 'Man’s sorrow is God’s opportunity.'"

My view has never been stated better than what you have written.

Thank you.

Nicholas said...

Off topic:

The latest post by Christa Brown is a must-read:

Nicholas said...

Off topic:

The latest post by Christa Brown is a must-read:

Wade Burleson said...


Interesting article indeed!

Rex Ray said...

Interesting link indeed!

I believe if Obama is permitted to ‘shoot across the bow’, a real war will develop just like this link. Because this link (#1) has link #2 which has link #3 which has link #4 and so it goes.

Link #2 mega-scandal at the Prestonwood Baptist mega-church

Link #3

Link #4

I believe Obama has a ‘tiger by the tail’ and doesn’t know how to let go without losing face.

Anonymous said...

Shiloh battlefield is a very profound place. I first hiked there as a Boy Scout in about 1973 or so. It made a real impression on me.

Glad you got to visit the site.

I some very distant familial connection to Albert Sydney Johnston, my Aunt having married to Murray Johnston.

Thanks for an interesting post.