Musing on Judgment

The following article was written following the terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001.

Judging Cautiously

Looking back at my past years of being a pastor, I must admit that the Lord has indeed brought me a far way.  There was a time when I thought I knew it all, whether it was doctrine, prophecy, or the analysis of any situation.  I made rapid and immature conclusions, and my pronouncement of  judgment on individuals was harsh, unsympathetic, and contrary to the spirit of Christ.  But God is good, and through a lengthy process of trials and tribulations of my own, He has allowed me to acknowledge the reality of my own human inadequacies.  An understanding of God’s greatness and sovereignty has developed within me a confidence and stability that has enhanced my ability to judge righteously.  I have learned to trust His word, having absolute assurance that He never errs in judgment, but will render to every man only what is required.

In his exhortation to Job, Elihu stated, “for the work of man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways. Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.” (Job 34:11-12).  Also in Psalms 115:3 the scripture declares, “but our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”

With these thoughts in mind, I wish to ponder on the subject of God’s judgment, especially in light of the 9/11crisis in America – the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.    I will resort to God’s word as a measuring instrument and let history, prophecy, and principle influence my speculations.  After all, biblical history and reality should hold priority to my personal feelings, commitment, and patriotism.

Appreciating America

Although I was brought up under British influence, there has always been a great appreciation in my heart for the ‘good old U.S.A.’.  If my family and I were given a choice, living in America would hold priority to any other country in the world.  The bottom line is, I love America!  The land, the liberty, the people, and the American spirit have all contributed to this sense of belonging that we so deeply cherish.  I am convinced that, should the U.S.A. cease to exist, so would the spirit of liberty that is so freely enjoyed here in North America.

From my point of view, the United States of America is the greatest and most powerful nation in our time.  Within the pages of her history lies a harmonious blend of remarkable characters, amazing conquests, and the seemingly fictitious evolution of a  superpower.  It is almost universally acknowledged that she feeds the world, defends the afflicted, and carries the gospel to the ends of the earth.  I simply love the U.S.A.

Pondering The Crisis

However, when measured by the principles of God’s word, even the best of us may find ourselves falling short of His requirements for spiritual commitment.

May God assist us as we examine a few aspects of the American lifestyle, weigh carefully the 9/11 crisis, and use scripture to analyze America’s response to God in the face of crisis.  Before drawing conclusions from whatever is presented in this article, there are three important facts we must bear in mind.

The first is that we cannot change prophecy of judgment from being fulfilled according to the dictates of God.  Of course, this should in no way cripple our human responsibility to obey scripture.

The second fact is that we should never condemn others for their moral and spiritual short-comings without first analyzing our own standing. Being citizens of any nation will, in most instances, automatically include us in the overall judgment of that land.  We should not only enjoy the prosperity of our native land, but we should also be able to feel remorse for its transgressions and accept the consequences of its judgment.

Like the prophet Nehemiah, we are expected to carry a genuine burden for our own nation and not exclude ourselves from its judgment.  Although Nehemiah was living comfortably in the household of  King Artaxerxes, he greatly lamented the sad state of Jerusalem and included himself in the transgressions of the land.  In his prayer he said, “let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.” (Neh. 1:4-11).

Thirdly, we must consider biblical history as good object lessons though not always applicable to our circumstances.  Our situations must always be measured by the principles of God’s law and each circumstance dealt with on its own merit.

With these thoughts in mind, I will endeavour to present, in tabulated form, suggestions and scriptural illustrations that may relate to the U.S. crisis in question.

1. Sin as the Cause?

Scripture emphatically states that “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34).  Again in Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell (sheol), and all the nations that forget God.”

These scriptures promote a perpetual truth that may be applicable to every nation in every dispensation.  God will judge a nation when sin, ungodliness, and idolatry become it’s predominant influences.

In Matthew 24:37-39, our Lord prophesied that “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”  Society was stable, and life was comfortable.  Scripture states that, “they were eating and drinking” and unlike our present society, they maintained the moral custom of marriage.  However, it appeared that in their busy materialistic lifestyle, little attention was paid to the ‘gospel of Noah’.  The word of God tells us that “they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away.”

The term “knew not” does not seem to imply an absence of awareness but rather a lack of belief in the reality of their predicted fate.  It is hard to imagine how an astounding project like building a massive structure 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high can go unnoticed by the crowds.  I have concluded that the Antediluvians saw the ark and possibly assisted in it’s construction, but they did not believe that God would send a flood and destroy them.  Maybe our attitude today is not too different when it comes to having a genuine fear of God’s righteous indignation.

We too may be involved in building God’s 21st Century ark — the Church, but are we only passive believers in reality?  Are we playing the role without the required convictions?  If our spiritual experience is not genuine, and our service to God is just a form, then God’s protective ark may not be able to save us from the destructive floods of worldliness and sin.

Jesus did warn about a replay of the ‘Noah crisis’ in our day, when man will be so involved in material gains that he will take for granted the scriptural warnings of judgment and, as a result, be destroyed by God’s Wrath.

As we apply these principles to the U.S. crisis, we are confronted with two opposing realities.  The first is the fact that America is a religious nation, perhaps the most active in spreading the gospel and showing international Christian charity.  On the second issue, I would resort to asking the following questions in preference to making a statement: Is this most religious nation also the most sinful nation?  Is there more sin and idolatry in the United States than there is in any other single country in the world?  Will God compromise with her sins because of her religiosity and charity?

As each of us draw conclusions, may we never lose sight of the fact that God is no respecter of persons, and His justice will execute judgment, even on His own people when necessary.  (Rom. 2:5-11, Rom. 11:21-22, Job 34:11-12).

In addressing the issue of God’s judgment against rebellion, the Apostle Paul wrote, “but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentiles;…for there is no respect of persons with God.”  (Rom. 2:8-11).

As Christians we are exhorted by God’s word to carefully examine our lives against the negative circumstances we encounter.  Scripture states, “in the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider.” (Eccl. 7:14).  Also, Isaiah 30:20-21 exhorts, “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind they, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it.”

Chastening in the lives of God’s children is intended to influence repentance and a change of lifestyle.  The scripture in 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

2. True Repentance

Following the World Trade Center tragedy, the United States entered into an unprecedented wave of prayer and lamentation.  We have witnessed the coming together of possibly every religious group — Christian and non-Christian — joining hands and hearts in united prayers for the bereaved as well as the nation.  This remarkable unity will be remembered for many years.

From the human standpoint, this act of moral support and charity appears wonderful, but my question is: Does the God of the Bible approve this religious unity?  Can the born-again child of God be unequally yoked together with unbelievers?  The Apostle Paul wrote, “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”  (2 Cor. 6:14-15).

Furthermore, if the destruction of the World Trade Center was God’s judgment on the U.S.A., then the mere chanting of prayers was an insufficient response to a judgment call.

Scripture suggests that, “If my people…shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways…”, only then will God respond appropriately to save the nation.  (2 Chr. 7:14).  Were prayers being prayed in repentance and deep godly sorrow, were efforts made to change the American society from its ungodly lifestyle?

Using the city of Nineveh as an example may allow us greater clarity of our own reality.  The wickedness was so great that God had earmarked it for destruction.  But the preaching of Jonah brought conviction and repentance.  Scripture describes the entire city, from servant to king, repenting in sackcloth and ashes.  “God saw their works, but they turned from their evil way: and God repented of the evil, that he had said the he would do unto them; and he did it not”. (Jon. 3:10).  The end result was that God spared Nineveh.

However, unlike the Ninevites, we here in North America have not indicated any desire to turn from our wicked ways.  I am convinced that we are not even ready to accept the suggestion that God may be judging us.

If God were to raise up a prophet at this particular time — for example, a man like Jeremiah — to cry out against the sins of materialism, sodomy, abortion, drunkenness, false religion, and so on, would he be accepted?  Can our Christian nations accommodate the words of a true prophet, or are we only set to waltz with spiritual sheiks in the pulpits?  May we consider these questions with honest hearts and make room for godly conviction.

In his effort to encourage repentance among God’s people, the

prophet Joel said, “…turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping and with mourning…”  (Joel 2:12).  See Isaiah 30:9-10, Jeremiah 5:30-31, Ezekiel 33:30-33.

3.   Judging the Proud?

In describing the judgment of God in the last days, Isaiah prophesied saying, “The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.  The earth mourneth and fadeth away…the haughty people of the earth do languish.  The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.  Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth and they that dwell therein are desolate: Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned and few men left.”  (Isa. 24:3-6).

Prophecy holds a predominant position in the hearts of many Christians, and it is with little exception that most anticipate a future judgment.  Described as the ‘wrath of God’ or ‘the day of the Lord’, this period of godly indignation which will transpire in the last days will be executed against the ungodly nations of the world.

Students of scripture associate this time of judgment with ‘The Great Tribulation’  of Matthew 24:21, the Trumpet Plagues of Revelation 8-10, and The Seven Last Plagues of Revelation 16.  The Battle of Armageddon, which at the present time is made a mockery of by the foolish imaginations of Hollywood producers, will be the climax of God’s wrath.  I would like to draw our attention at this time to the fact that God’s judgment of the proud is recurring in most of these prophetic scriptures of judgment.

As I study these scriptures, I am somewhat convinced that the proud, the arrogant, and the haughty are terms not associated with the poor nations of the world, but rather describe a category that surely includes, Canada, the United States, and England.

Let us carefully consider the following scriptures:

  • “Behold the Lord…shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.”  (Isa. 10:33).
  • “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”  (Isa. 13:11).
  • “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up,…that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”  (Mal. 4:1).

From these scriptures, we can see that pride is an attitude contrary to godliness.  There are numerous reasons for a person or a nation to be proud.  Some of the more predominant reasons are wealth, materialism, military superiority, agricultural prowess, peace, ecological tranquility, and worst of all, an unconverted heart.

History shows that these are the areas most affected when godly judgment is executed against a nation.  In describing God’s judgment against Israel, the prophet Jeremiah made the following observation:

“How is thy gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!…the precious sons of Zion,…how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers,…the tongue of the suckling child cleaveth to the roof  of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them.  They that feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.  …the kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.”   (Lam. 4:1-12).

In our analysis of this aspect of judgment, should not overlook the reality of who suffers the most in war.  Is it the poor refugees who have spent their entire lives in the slums of the Earth, or is it the haughty and pampered modern aristocrats?

I guess that it was quite normal for most of us in the western world to come under a cloud of extreme trepidation following the 9/11 World Trade Centre disaster.  Anger, fear and revenge was apparent in the minds of our political leaders, and it remains a fact that life will never return to the peace and tranquility we once enjoyed.  But, have we sought out reason for god’s judgment: was 9/11 changed our way of life?

4.  Commercial Collapse?

James described judgment against the rich saying, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.   Your gold and silver are cankered…”  (Js. 5:1-3).

In The Midnight Cry, Issue 6, we briefly dealt with the scriptural prediction of a massive commercial collapse in the world.

Let us consider the twin towers of the World Trade Center crumbling to the ground.  The very name ‘World Trade’ brings to mind many scriptures describing judgment.  The most popular scripture is Revelation 18, where God warns His people to “come out of her”.  In this particular chapter, the personal pronoun ‘her’ refers to the commercial enterprises of the world.  I am convinced that in our day, this divine warning refers to the overindulgence of God’s people in the so-called ‘money markets’ and other areas of materialism.  There will be an overnight collapse of commerce that will cause the wealthy to “weep and howl” when their riches become corrupted, garments moth-eaten, and gold and silver cankered.  (Jas. 5:1-3).

When the child of God becomes obsessed with the greed of the ungodly, they too will “weep and howl”.  To partake of the sins of commercial Babylon will result in receiving of her plagues.  (Rev. 18:4).

I would encourage each of us to read again the 18 chapter of Revelation and refresh our minds with the predicted judgment on the kings and merchants of the Earth.  The growing trepidation within the commercial world, especially since the bombing of the World Trade Center, is a fulfillment of prophecy.  According to scripture, there will come a time when the money market will never recover.

5.  Towers Destroyed?

The book of Ezekiel states, “And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers.”  (Ezek. 26:9).

In Old Testament times, the building of towers was an expression of superiority and strength.  Subsequently, when a nation or city was overthrown or conquered, their towers were among the first structures destroyed.

Could the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center have a divine significance?  Let us look at a few more scriptures while pondering these things.

The biblical record of the first tower ever built is in Genesis 11:4.  This structure, known as the “tower of Babel”, was the effort of a rebellious people desirous of making a name for themselves.  God, judging the arrogance of fickle humanity, stalled the project and scattered the builders.

Some of the other well- known Old Testament towers were the tower of Penuel (Jdg. 8:17), Shechem (Jdg. 9:46), and Siloam (Lk. 13:4).

We also read of kings in Israel who built towers as a means of defense.  King Asa “built fenced cities in Judah” and said to the people, “let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates and bars…”  (2 Chr. 14:1-7).

King Uzzah built many towers in Jerusalem, and “he made in Jerusalem engines…to be on the towers…to shoot arrows and great stones…and his name spread far abroad; for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.  But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God…”  (2 Chr. 26:9, 10, 15-16).  Mention is also made of King Jotham, who built towers as well.  (2 Chr. 21:4).

Unlike those mentioned in the Old Testament, towers in our day serve a somewhat different purpose.  Our 21st Century skyscrapers, the most important elements in a city’s landscape, generate an

impression of industrial stability and house the nucleus that keeps the wheels of commerce spinning.  They are the pride of a city and political icons of a nation.

With all of the aforementioned thoughts in mind let us not lose spiritual focus on the possible reasons for the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon buildings.  Is God making a statement that we are too blind to comprehend?  Scripture tells us that “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.”  (Job 33:14).

Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27 speak of God’s judgment on Tyrus.  Other nations were to come against her and “destroy the walls…and break down her towers.”  (vs. 3-4).  In verse 9, mention is made of King Nebuchadnezzar setting engines of war against the walls and breaking down her towers with axes.  Chapter 27 gives details of its commercial collapse.  A similar description of the destruction of Tyre and its towers is found in Isaiah 23.

The prophet Isaiah, described God’s judgment on the nation of Israel and recorded a massive collapse of commerce.  He tells of the lofty looks of man being humbled, the proud and the haughty brought low, and judgment being executed against every high tower, fenced wall, and idol of silver and gold.  (Isa. 2:11).

Again I ask, was the collapse of the World Trade Centre a mere coincidence, or is Divine Providence making a statement of reality?  Is God telling America and those of us living in the western world something that we are failing to comprehend?  As Elihu stated, ‘is God speaking once, yea twice, yet man fails to recognize His voice’? (Job 33:14-17).

It may be necessary to constantly remind ourselves that, “righteousness exhalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”. (Prov. 14:34).

As Christians we ought to accept the fact that we are living at the end of the age.  Bible prophecies will be fulfilled all around us, and a time of trouble, such as never was, is about to transpire.  (Dan. 12:1).  Let us give heed to the words of Jesus when he stated, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”  (Lk. 21:36).