The morning of September 11, 2001 was like any other break of day. I got up early to fix coffee for my wife and me. (Carol was sleeping in.) I prepared the coffee, took Carol her cup, and turned the TV on to one of the morning shows. Interestingly, the first thing I saw was a picture of the World Trade Center with smoke coming out of one of the trade towers. People on the morning show were making comments seemingly in a hushed tone as if they didn't quite know themselves what was happening. During the first few minutes, I do not recall anyone making any comments on a possible terrorist attack. I continued to stare at the image of the twin tower on the screen, with thick smoke billowing out of the sides of the building. Obviously, there was a huge fire in the building, but what could have caused it? I sat transfixed, eyes glued to the screen.
My mind raced back to the late 1980s, early 1990s when I was stationed at the Naval Military Personnel Command in Washington, D.C. I had three friends from my days in Data Processing Technician "A" School in San Diego, California who were stationed at Fort Meade just outside of Washington in Maryland. Like clockwork, every three months the four of us guys would take a tour bus from Fort Meade, Maryland up to New York City where we'd spend the day. At 6:00 p.m. sharp we would meet up with the bus at the front of St Patrick's Cathedral for the ride back to Fort Meade.
Exhausted and elated from our time in the Big Apple, we'd talk about the day. The agenda was somewhat different each time we visited the city, but there were some things we enjoyed time and again. The Statue of Liberty (In those days the public was allowed to climb the steps from the base to the crown.), the Empire State Building, Central Park, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine were some of our favorites. Many times we'd go down below the great city and ride the subway system just to rest. The graffiti and the stench of ozone found in the subway system, still after 20+ years, pleasantly linger in my mind. I always enjoyed our trips to New York City!
During one of our visits in December 1989 about a week before Christmas, we decided that we should visit the World Trade Center. For whatever reason, we had never been there before so why not? My buddies and I spent a good portion of the morning there (not hard to do!) with the climax of the memorable sojourn being a trip up to the observation deck of Twin Tower #2. (Twin Tower #1 didn't have an observation deck.) The view was breathtakingly spectacular! The wind was unrelentingly frigid and I thought we would surely freeze to death before getting back inside! But, we had our cameras and so we decided to take lots of pictures. Somewhere in the depths of all my belongings at my home, and some assorted stuff still at my parents' house, there is a picture of me leaning against the rail on the observation deck of Twin Tower #2. Now, more than ever, I wish I could find the photo because it would have a lot of significance for me.
As I sat, eyes still stuck to the TV screen, much to my horror, I saw an airplane come around from an angle and go through the other world trade center building! What in the world......... I remember yelling at Carol to quickly get up, that obviously the United States was under some terrorist attack! And the rest was history........ How rapidly my throughts were jolted from the pleasant memories of yesteryear to a horrid reality!
We hear about, or directly witness atrocities that defy human imagination and so often we ask, "Why did God allow this to happen if truly He is a good God and also sovereign?" Initially, the question seems reasonable. Why, God? However, when we start examining scripture, we begin to realize that tragedies, of any magnitude or cause be they natural disasters or acts of evil such as 9/11, are not God's fault. Yes, He could have averted them, plainly, but He didn't. In reality, what we are seeing is the disastrous consequences of sin and what it has done to every human since Adam, and how it has even affected planet earth.
The human race is fallen due to the first Adam's choice to disobey God and partake of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. We are witnesses (some are participants unfortunately) of the dire consequences of what happens when man chooses to disregard and alienate himself from God, rejecting the Almighty's authority through rebellion. It's not a pretty picture. Please don't misunderstand. In relation to the world's population, only a handful of people were directly responsible for the events of 9/11. To be sure, the many catastrophes of that day can only be attributed to a few mad, raving lunatics that had no regard for human life, even their own! But, it is impossible to isolate their behavior from the remainder of human existence and its foregoing sinful state. Evil is evil is evil is evil.
For us human beings, how evil manifests varies greatly. The occurrences of 9/11 and the atrocities of Hitler and his WWII armies of madness, as well as other notable events of history, cause us to pause and reflect only because of how horrific they were. We focus on the magnitude of the atrocity consequently "measuring" evil. However, for God, evil is a direct result of sin and isn't quantified. He sees no difference between Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden vice all that transpired at 9/11 in New York City. This is a hard pill for us to swallow, even as Christians, yet sin is NOT an act or acts. Sin is a perpetual state of a heart that refuses to surrender to its Creator in humility and repentance. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our way....." (Isaiah 53:6)
The Bible says, "There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:11-12) Solomon, the wisest man that has ever lived wrote, "Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who is right and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Our sin nature, as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden becomes our undoing. We cannot rightly and justly blame God Almighty for the failures and corruptions of humanity, including even the natural disasters! King Solomon summed it up well in one proverb, "People ruin their own lives by their foolishness and then are angry at the LORD." (Proverbs 19:3, NLT) The bottom line is that every human is born into a state of sin, separated from God, even at birth. (Please refer to Psalm 51:5) When things go awry in our lives, or in world events, we point toward heaven with words of blame instead of pointing at ourselves. Not smart. That doesn't solve anything.
If indeed the human race is capable of such monumental evil as 9/11, and evidently it is, then each of us ought to consider the condition of the human heart to discover what lies inside of each of us. Moreover, we are compelled to not stop at the individual level but rather, we must consider the heart of the nation as a whole. In the Old Testament, God's people were constantly oscillating between times when they would love, honor and obey Him; and periods of profound backsliding when they would engage in abysmal idolatry.
During the time of the judges of Israel, the Lord would allow His people to undergo unspeakable bondage to their neighbors i.e. the Midianites when His chosen would turn their backs on Him. They would then cry out to the Lord and He would send them a judge (a shadow, a figure of Christ the Messiah), a deliverer from their enemies. This became a vicious cycle during Israel's period of history before they had an earthly king. Later, during the reign of the kings, the pattern of apostasy lamentably kept repeating itself as it had done during the period of the judges. Nothing changed. So the consideration is this: Israel was God's chosen people through whom He elected to reveal Himself to the human race, and through whom He would subsequently send the Savior, His own Son, Jesus Christ, to save the same. Can we as the United States of America actually believe that we are any less guilty of apostasy and backsliding than God's elect? Do we not deserve punishment like they did? Dear blessed reader, the unadulterated truth is that we are as guilty as the nation of Israel of the Old Testament!
Israel's sins piled high to heaven notwithstanding God's constant warnings through the prophets. The northern kingdom of Israel (Israel split into northern and southern kingdoms after King Solomon's death.) was eventually obliterated from history by the mighty Assyrians; about 150 years later the southern kingdom received its just recompense from the fierce Babylonians. The Bible offers an eerie description of the fall of Jerusalem, which served as the capital city of the southern kingdom of Judah. "The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles of the temple, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down the walls of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power." (II Chronicles 36:15-20) Could this mayhem happen in America? New York City, September 11, 2001?
We, the United States of America are a mighty nation that has been blest beyond compare. But this season of continual blessing cannot endure if we are going to repeatedly disregard the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the salvation He offers through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; and passionately embrace the deplorable practices of idolatry and reckless bloodshed. (The abominable practice of abortion in this country is in itself enough to bring God's judgment and wrath upon us!) Whether we want to regard the events of 9/11 as a wakeup call to this great land, the home of the free and the brave, remains our choice. If they serve as a wakeup call, repent we shall; if not, we will march on in our unyielding path of sin. Make no mistake about it however, sin doesn't go unobserved and cannot continue indefinitely. God Almighty sees it all and most assuredly, there is a day of reckoning.
Mercifully, the Bible gives us an example from scripture, speaking of the judgment of a wicked, unrepentant place, Babylon. "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay back her double portion for what she has done. Pour her a double portion for her own cup." (Revelation 18:4-6) Since this scripture strongly alludes to the sure call of God's divine justice, we wisely heed the warning by taking advantage of the option to flee a life of sin through repentance, on an individual as well as national level. And let us not forget that Jesus Christ took the sins of the world at the cross and forever appeased the righteousness of God, but that does NOT give any nation or people the license to ignore God by continuing to walk blatantly unrepentant, mocking the Holy One every step of the way. There is always a choice before each of us. We are not doomed to a life of sin. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7) Praise God for His goodness and forgiveness in Christ Jesus!!!
May God Almighty have mercy upon us, this great nation of the United States of America! And may we walk in obedience by getting Him back into our lives, in EVERY aspect of our existence. So be it, amen.