Ira Sankey was an American singer and gospel songwriter who, with D.L. Moody, labored at the forefront of a great spiritual revival in England and the U.S. in the late 1800’s. He possessed a magnificent voice and it was often said that Mr. Moody preached the gospel while Mr. Sankey sang the gospel. On one evening after he had sung a selection called “the Shepherd’s Song”, a rough, weather-beaten man approached him and asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union Army?”
“Yes”, replied Sankey, “in the spring of 1861.”
“Can you remember if you were doing pickett duty on a bright, moonlit night?’
Again, Sankey’s reply was “Yes” with some surprise.
“So did I”, the stranger said, “but I was in the Confederate Army. When I saw you standing at your post I said to myself, ‘that fellow will never get away from there alive’. I was standing in the shadow completely concealed while the full light of the moon was falling on you. At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised your eyes to heaven and began to sing. Music, especially songs, has always had a wonderful power over me and I took my finger off the trigger. ‘Let him sing his song to the end’, I said to myself, ‘I can shoot him afterward.’ But the song you sang then was the song you sang just now. I hear the words perfectly. ‘We are thine, do thou befriend us, be the guardian of our ways.’ Those words stirred my heart and I began to think of when I was young and of my God-fearing mother. She had many times sung that same song to me, but she died all too soon. And when you finished that song, it was impossible for me to take aim at you again. I thought the Lord that was able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty, and my arm fell limp at my side of it’s own accord.”
There are some who believe that after the creation, God withdrew and left man to fend for himself, to suffer or rejoice however it “happened” to him. The previous story is an example of how God influences and directs the events of our lives, for much had to happen by coincidence if God was not involved; the two had to be brought together; Sankey had to start singing just as the soldier was going to shoot; he had to sing a particular song that meant a great deal to the soldier; and the soldier had to let his memories and the feeling of God’s presence take control and not harden his heart. David, in Psalm 139 exclaims, “whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there, if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” In the sea, and darkness, and the womb, God is there, and he is there for us. I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” And he does care for us, and he influences our lives, no matter on which end of the gun we may find ourselves.