9“Huddle together, you nations, and be terrified.
Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, but you will be crushed!
Yes, prepare for battle, but you will be crushed!
10Call your councils of war, but they will be worthless.
Develop your strategies, but they will not succeed.
For God is with us!”
11The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,
12“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,
and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.
13Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.
He is the one you should fear.
He is the one who should make you tremble.
14He will keep you safe.
I found these words from Isaiah for September 11 in the One Year Bible to be exactly what I needed to hear. I have been wondering for the last couple of days what lessons we have learned since that terrible day 12 years ago and my immediate response is to doubt that we have learned anything at all. From my perspective we have acted as a nation that has lost its moral compass. Here are some reasons for coming to that conclusion.
We lack the common sense that comes from moral clarity. Through the poison of political correctness we cannot even be honest about who attacked us. (Hint; it wasn’t a bunch of Methodists). Instead we pat down 90 year old wheelchair bound women in the airport. We bend over backwards not to offend foreigners while the NSA spies on our own citizens. When we are not being p.c. we are being paranoid.
With disastrous results, we have tried to impose our way of life on nations that do not want it. The so-called Arab Spring has become a nightmare and only served to further destabilize the whole region. The consequence has been to expose the Church to increased persecution. Over 70 churches in Egypt alone have been attacked.
We have demonstrated selective moral outrage. One year ago our embassy was attacked and the ambassador was killed, his body defiled and we have made no response nor have we the people been given answers. Christians all over Africa are being slaughtered and it is not even mentioned. But now we are told that it is our duty to enter into Syria’s civil war. It has been said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” but in the case of both the Syrian government and the rebels, I see no friends. In fact the Syrian rebels have been attacking Christians and leaders like the Catholic Patriarch of Syria have begged us to stay out of it.
If we have learned nothing since 9/11, then what is the answer? It is to return to our moral compass. As Isaiah put it, “The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.” How do we do that? I draw three pieces of wisdom from Isaiah’s words.
First we need to realize that that the secular answers are never going to be enough. They can call all the councils and prepare all the strategies they want, but in the end man alone cannot conquer evil. What will save us is to have God with us. We knew that right after 9/11, when attendance in the churches swelled, but it did not take us long to return to our old ways of putting God right behind football and Dancing with the Stars.
Second Isaiah said we are not to call everything a conspiracy or to live in dread as they do. We waste valuable time and energy looking for plans and plots that may or may not exist. We waste even more time and energy when we live in fear. Even if we could prove that it all goes back to the Illuminate, or the New World Order, or Wal-Mart, what difference would it make? The Scriptures tell us two important things. First is what is really behind it all are principalities and powers. Second, Christ has defeated them. Thus we do not live in fear. We can be concerned, we can be moved to action, but we are not to be afraid.
Third, Isaiah says that we are to “Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear.” That is such an interesting expression “to make the Lord holy in your life.” The E.S.V. says, “him you shall honor as holy.” We do that when we look to the Lord first and foremost. The Psalmist said, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation….How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD .”
There is a fourth thing that Isaiah does not mention but must not be overlooked in our response to evil. Prayer. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress said, “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.” Instead of fighting with folks on the Internet we need to be doing battle in prayer. We underestimate what a powerful weapon it is as well as conduit for God’s peace. St. Paul said,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And while we are praying, let us remember the victims of 9/11 and their families and loved ones. May we be inspired by the countless stories of heroism where men and women lived out Jesus’ words by laying down their lives for their friends.