(The following article appeared in the Covenant Reformed News of Ballymena, Northern Ireland in September 2002 issue.)
Earlier, the world remembered those who died in the terrorist attacks upon the United States on 11 September, 2001. Who can forget those images of the World Trade Center - planes flying into two skyscrapers, people jumping out of windows dozens of floors up, and finally the Twin Towers crashing to rubble with the loss of thousands of lives? Many of us relived that sad day by watching the commemorative ceremony in New York when friends and relatives descended to Ground Zero to lay flowers and to shed yet more tears over their loved ones so tragically torn from them.
What ought the church think of this terrible event? And what does God think of it all? A reader asked for our comments on the words of Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz: "I believe that God is deeply saddened by this just as we are. But for years we’ve been telling God to get our of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman that He is, I believe that He has calmly backed out." But can the ever-blessed God, who is infinitely joyful in His own perfect covenant fellowship in the Trinity, really be "deeply saddened?" Is it true that when men sin, God "calmly back[s] out" like a "gentleman?" Is September 11 really to be explained by saying that while God vacated His providential government over the nations, Satan stepped in and sent murderous terrorists to wreak havoc, so that God was "deeply saddened by this just as we are?" We must ask with the apostle, "what saith the scripture?" (Rom. 4:3).
God declares, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things" (Isa. 45:7). All earthly calamities and troubles - including death and destruction, disease and famine, that is, all the events that we call "evil" - come from the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth "who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). Jehovah sent the world-wide flood (Gen. 7:4) and rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). He slew the Canaanites in Joshua's day (Ps. 44:1-3) and He sent the evils of sword, famine, disease and wild beasts upon Jerusalem (Eze. 5:7-17). He brought slaughter and misery upon the cities of Babylon (Isa. 13), Tyre (Eze. 26) and Nineveh (Nah. 3), and even upon whole nations (Isa. 13-23; Jer 46-51; Eze. 25-32; Amos 1-2). Thus Amos asks the rhetorical question, "shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath nor done it?" (Amos 3:6).
Now what ought we conclude about September 11? Shall there be evil in the city of New York and the Lord hath not done it? The sovereign God ordained the destruction of the Twin Towers and brought it to pass in His providence. Just as all things were created by Him, so all things are governed by Him, so that nothing happens contrary to or outside of His sovereign purpose.
None of this in any way detracts from God's holiness. The God of love loves righteousness and abhors and hates the bloodthirsty terrorists who hijacked the planes and flew them into the World Trade Center (Ps. 5:4-6), and He is currently punishing them with fire and brimstone in Hell (Ps. 11:6). Moreover who can deny that many of those in the World Trade Center were driven by covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5)? Fallen man is not only "shapen in iniquity" (Ps. 51:5) but he lives in iniquity and "drinketh iniquity like water" (Job 15:16). "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Ps. 7:11), and He judges in this world as well as in the next. We must not only confess that September 11 took place in God's sovereign plan but also that it was God's judgment upon sin and sinners.
The media said nothing of God's sovereignty on September 11 or of His judgment upon the wicked. It was as noticeable as it was deliberate that there were no references to God during the commemorative ceremony in New York. The response of a large part of the church world, including Anne Graham Lorz, was even worse. The ungodly media ignored the sovereign Jehovah; many church leaders lied that He had nothing to do with it. The Scriptures tell us that events like September 11 are signs of Christ's second coming (cf. Mart. 24:6-7), but few church leaders would dare to say this. When a tower in Siloam fell killing 18 people, Jesus used the opportunity afforded to call men to repentance (Luke 13:4-5). But many Christian leaders, instead of referring to September 11 to warn the ungodly, tried to "defend" God by presenting Him as a "gentlemanly” idol who does not reign in the heavens. The Bible gives the reason why people, even church leaders, teach lies: "it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). Let us hold fast to the confession of the psalmist: "our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased" (Ps. 115:3), and let us trust in Jesus Christ who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 17
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851