In the aftermath of 9/11, Senator Tom Daschle was selected to give the official response to the attack. In his remarks, he quoted a passage of Scripture that he said would bring comfort to us at a time like this. This is the passage he quoted, which is also recorded in the official record of the US Senate:
“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” Isaiah 9:10 (ESV)
By itself, it sounds good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you want to rebuild better and stronger after an attack? The problem is that when you examine the context of this Scripture, it becomes apparent that this passage was never intended to be a source of encouragement..
The previous verse is sufficient to establish that Isaiah 9: 10 is anything but words of encouragement. Here is the passage with the context:
The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”
Isaiah 9:8-10 (ESV)
God had faithfully sent prophets to warn them previously what would happen if they rebelled against God, but they refused to listen. When the Assyrians invaded, they ravaged the land, but after a period of time they left. When Israel saw this, the leaders said with an arrogant heart ‘we will build better and stronger so we will be protected next time.’ They did not realize that God allowed the Assyrian invasion to wake them up to the fact that all was not well with Israel. Instead of turning to God in repentance, they arrogantly felt they could make themselves strong enough to stand against the enemy next time. As Israel acted in arrogance after the Assyrian invasion, the leaders and people of America have also acted with pride and arrogance of heart.
What happened after 9/11? The Department of Homeland Security was created. Laws were enacted to allow warrant-less government surveillance of American citizens (to keep us safe, or so they say). Church attendance went up briefly, but there was no national repentance. The leadership placed their confidence in the military might of our nation and its defense technologies. This is no different than the response of Israel. The story didn’t end well for Israel. They stubbornly refused to repent after God gave them a period of grace. Isaiah 9: 11-21 gives chilling details about the judgment that fell on Israel. They were invaded again later, but this time the entire nation was removed from the land and the people were scattered throughout the nations. We are also in a period of grace, and the window of opportunity to change course is coming to an end.
It is like the days after Noah built the Ark, Noah and his family and all the animals were loaded on board. When everything had been completed, God shut the door of the Ark, and no one else could enter to be saved (Gen 7: 16). In the same way, if America disregards the opportunity to repent, time will one day run out. When that happens, God will shut the door against this nation.
Scripture tells us that: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” Psalms 127:1 (ESV). We ought not to be arrogant and prideful in our hearts, as if all our sophisticated weapons and technology will keep us safe. Such confidence is misplaced to say the least. If God removes His protection from a nation, there is no way to replace that protection through our own efforts and strength. Such a nation is destined for destruction.
That means all the sacrifices made by previous generations to preserve this nation on the battlefield will have been in vain. If Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was written about America after the judgment of God has fallen on us, the last words of it might sound something like this:
that we here highly resolve that these dead shall have died in vain, that this nation under God shall not have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall perish from the earth.
God has given America many opportunities to repent, but so far this nation is drifting even farther from God at the precise time she needs to draw closer to God. Time is getting short. For this nation, and each one of us also, we must get our houses in order while it is still possible to do so. The time to prepare is now, like the wise virgins who bought their oil while the markets were still open. I close with these Scriptures:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)
If only Senator Daschle had quoted this Scripture:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chron 7:14 (ESV)
Please do not neglect this warning.