What You Meant

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post gives away almost EVERYTHING.*

A fellow heard the prophecy regarding how the baby Cor would one day save Archenland. Desiring the downfall of Archenland, he purposed in his heart to thwart the prophesied end.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when Cor, now known as Shasta, grew up doing menial labor in the house of an uneducated Calormene fisherman, completely unaware of Archenland and unconcerned with its fate.

But what the fellow meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. His evil action only set the stage for Aslan’s great plan–the prophesied deliverance.

A Tarkaan saw the boy working hard in the fisherman’s tent. Desiring a slave with whom he could do whatever he wished, he purposed in his heart to buy the teenaged Shasta.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when the fisherman begins to barter, selling away his “son” for a few crescents.

But what the Tarkaan meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The Tarkaan’s evil intentions only gave the impetus for Shasta to begin his flight.

A stepmother sees her step-daughter and hates her. Desiring to have away with her, she purposed in her heart to marry the girl off.

Her purposes seem to be accomplished when the engagement goes through and the girl leaves her home.

But what the stepmother meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The stepmother’s evil intentions only made a way for Aravis and Shasta to meet, and to become traveling companions.

Dozens of characters, each with their own purposes. The pleasure-seeking Lasaraleen. The lust-driven Rabadash. The conquest-happy Tisroc. The favor-currying Vizier. Even Shasta and Aravis have their own selfish motivations.

Evil actors seem to drive the story to its deadly end.

But all the evil actors, however much evil they meant, had no power against the purposes of the main Actor.

Each actor is a free agent, acting according to the intents of his own heart–and it seems that every actor’s intents are evil. Even the “good” choices were often made with poor intentions: pride, self-preservation, shame. Every bad choice is fully the actor’s responsibility. He clearly chose, of the evil in his own heart, to act as he did.

Yet every evil perpetuated out of the evil in man’s heart was turned into good by the sovereign hand of Aslan.

Conversely, any good that any actor did was not out of the good in his own heart (as though he had good in his heart out of which to act), but was generally the result of the direct hand of Aslan–the Lion at their heels, driving them wherever He willed, compelling them to ride faster than they thought themselves capable of riding.

As such, no actor deserves glory for his good actions; each actor only deserves punishment for his evil.

Yet Aslan, in His mercy, withheld just punishment from many who did evil–and justly received glory for every good deed.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
~Genesis 50:20

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

4 thoughts on “What You Meant”

  1. I always enjoy reading your thoughts about the Narnia series. But I have to question a little…

    Is it fair to hold them responsible for their evil but not give them any credit for their good? To say, when one does wrong, “It’s your fault,” but never to say, when one does right, “It’s your fault”?

    What about when Shasta gets off Bree to face the lion that’s attacking?

    Just thoughts… :)

    • Ooo-Davene, thank you for bringing up that question. It’s certainly a good one.

      I definitely believe that the heart of man (without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit) is completely evil and unable to do good. I believe that every desire of man’s heart (in its fallen state) is evil. (Scriptural support: In Genesis 8:21, God promises after the flood that “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” And in Romans 7:14, Paul states that “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…”)

      On the other hand, evil man often does perform good deeds. How is this so when Jesus said “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil” (Luke 6:45)? How can any man (one who is born with an evil heart) bear good fruit?

      I suggest that there are three Biblically appropriate answers: 1) A person does good but with evil intentions, 2) A person does good because God specially graces them to do good despite the evil in their hearts, or 3) A person does good because their hearts have been transformed by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

      So, yes, I guess I do hold man responsible for evil (since we do evil of own own accord), but do not give man credit for good (since we are only able to do good through the work of God in our lives.)

      Does that mean that I don’t think we should praise one another (or unbelievers) for their right actions? No.

      But any praise to man is as the praise given to a youngster who has just successfully written his own name–grasping the pencil tightly in his hand as his mother’s hand guides his in the correct movements.

      At least, that’s my take :-)

      As for your example, that too is a very good one. When I went back to read that part of the story, I noted that as Shasta is “staggering back to help Aravis”, the narrator notes “He had never done anything like this in his life before and hardly knew why he was doing it now.” I think that sentence serves to illustrate the unnaturalness of truly altruistic actions. The natural man does not seek others’ good above his own. At least, not naturally. It takes something supernatural at work.

      Thank God that He is always at work, in the lives of believers and unbelievers alike, holding them back from expressing the full depth of the evil in their natural hearts and changing their hearts such that they can act in a wholly supernatural way.

  2. I loved this aspect of the book as well, and that verse came to mind.

    I agree with your answer to Davene. I wrestled with this, too, in light of the welcome each of us anticipates, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But Scripture is replete with instruction that we’re not good on on own, and sad experience shows me that even the good He prompts me to do is tainted by wrong motives or hope for notice. Truly in our flesh dwells no good thing and without Him we can do nothing. But through Him we can do all things as we abide in Him.

    The thought of how God can use evil for good while not prompting the evil or partaking in it is a brain buster — but I am glad He does.


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