Is there a word from God, following Tuesday’s (September 11, 2001) unprecedented terrorist attacks in New York and Washington which claimed thousands of lives, shut down air travel nationwide and launched the USA into a state of virtual war against an invisible enemy who as yet remains unknown? Three solemn truths transport us beyond terror, as we reflect on the whole teaching of Scripture.
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First, we lament the mind-numbing and momentous loss of life. We mourn for those who perished and pray for their loved ones. Though thousands died, each was an individual, snatched without warning from family and friends. We cannot explain such tragedies, and humans cannot finally prevent their repetition. We can ponder certain larger implications, however, and be reminded of eternal verities. What appear, from earth’s viewpoint, to be apocalyptic bowls of wrath, may always serve constructively as trumpet calls of warning. We live in a fallen world. Nothing earthly is ultimately secure. God weeps, I believe, but he is not threatened. Evil does not take him by surprise. Isaiah chapter 40 says that God is still sovereign, just as he has always been.
Second, no country, including the United States of America, is invulnerable to evil or — should it ever be necessary — beyond the reach of divine judgment. It is a false pride which suggests otherwise, as ancient Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre and Rome all bear witness. The prophet Obadiah’s words to haughty Edom still warn wise souls today. The phrase “in God we trust” must be more than a motto on a coin. It must motivate and describe a manner of life. America has been richly blessed by God, but God is not indebted to America.
Third, whatever happens now or hereafter, we can hope individually in God himself. Every one of us will die — unless Jesus returns first. We come into this world facing death. The only uncertainties are when we will die and how. Yet there is no place for panic, no time for terror. The prophet Habakkuk waited for the sword to fall on his own nation, helpless to change the course. Even so, the faith-filled finale in Habakkuk chapter three remains a model expression of confident trust in God when all else is gone. When we finally cross over into eternity, only God will be by our side. Because of Jesus Christ, we can repose in God’s presence from here to there as well.