According to the Archery Trade Association, 21.6 million Americans participated in bow shooting in 2014. That’s a lot of arrows being sent toward a target. That number does not include people like me who once were archers but for some reason can no longer take part in the sport. The point is that a lot of people understand the concept of drawing back a bow and releasing an arrow. It is an image that is frequently used in the Bible.
“Thine arrows also went abroad” (Ps. 77:17b), wrote David. He understood archery. He was describing the arrows of lightning that flash throughout the whole earth. Yet there is more to it than mere lightning. “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day…he hath bent his bow, and made it ready…he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors” (Ps. 7:11-13). Make no mistake about it; God does not forever rest when it comes to the actions of evil people.
David was personally acquainted with how God dealt with sin. “O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore” (Ps. 38:1, 2). He described the barbs of a guilty conscience as painful and constant. He had felt God’s arrows and they had hit the mark.
We could learn from David’s experience with God’s arrows. David understood that God shoots His arrows for a good purpose. He does it to destroy the evil and to save the good. He shoots to pinpoint the problem in the heart so that it can be dealt with and the sinful person can be saved. If lost people are not convicted of their sins, they will not seek for deliverance from the Savior. So they need God to shoot His arrows at them. “Shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them” (Ps. 146:6b), pled David.
Howard Walk had been comfortable in his sins until he went to the Hannah Methodist Church where they were having a revival. He went home and told his wife he would never go again. But God’s arrow had found its mark. That night Howard could not sleep. He buried his face in his pillow so that his wife would not realize he was shedding tears. It did no good. He was a wounded man. The next night he went back to the revival and at the invitation gave his heart to Jesus. When he told me that story he was an old man who had served the Lord for decades. But his eyes glistened as he rejoiced in the relief that came when he placed his faith in Christ who obtained salvation for him on the cross.
Paul the Apostle spoke of how his heart was convicted before he believed in Jesus Christ. “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me” (Rom. 7:9-11). As the esteemed Saul of Tarsus – educated, powerful, articulate – he had felt rather good about himself. He bragged about keeping the laws of his religion.
Then God’s arrow struck his heart. It killed him. He had no boast about how good he was. He needed the forgiveness of Christ. And he found it. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13, 14).
We learn from David and Howard and Paul that God sends His arrows for a good purpose. Those arrows are shot around the world to find the hearts of sinful men. They are sent to pierce the veneer of self-satisfaction. They are sent to awaken the sleeping conscience. They are sent as messengers of death to the sinner so that the sinner will seek life in Christ Jesus.
Do you have a burden for someone who is lost? A son or daughter? A neighbor? A fellow worker? Pray for them. Even if they are so far away that they are living like pagans, pray. God tells us to. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps.2:8). What shall we pray? “Lord, bend Your bow. Shoot Your arrows and destroy them. Kill them like you did Saul of Tarsus. Take sleep from them like you did from Howard Walk. Sink your arrows deep into their consciences like you did to David. Convict them so that they will see that they are dead in trespasses and in sins. Don’t let them rest until they seek the Savior.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this about shooting arrows:
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.
Unlike Longfellow, God knows exactly where His arrows are going. He is not surprised when they hit the targets. “Thine arrows also went abroad.” He shoots them so that they will find the mark. But similar to Longfellow’s poem, God sends His arrows into the heart of those He would have as His friends. Jesus was called a friend of sinners. It is from His love that He sends His arrows straight to the hearts of the lost.
When they truly find Jesus they will join the song of the ransomed. “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south” (Ps. 107:2, 3).
God shoots arrows around the world. They return as a host of believers from the four corners of the globe, singing the song of the redeemed, and coming home.