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Thoughts on the New York Towers
By S. J. Crafts.
On a certain occasion some people offering sacrifices in the Temple courtyard were killed by Roman soldiers. They hadn’t been doing anyone any harm at the time.
They were apparent innocents.
Yet the episode was told to Jesus with a certain satisfaction. Many people felt that the ones killed must have been ill-favoured by God, and that in some way they must have richly deserved their "punishment". And more! Because the speakers were unscathed, they flattered themselves that they were undoubtedly in God’s good “books”.
Fatal delusion! Jesus responds to this general attitude, saying to them (and effectively to the whole nation) “except you repent, you shall all likewise perish”.
They were just as vulnerable and guilty as those that had died.
Jesus cites another incident familiar to them. Eighteen people had been killed when “the tower of Siloam fell”.
“Think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?”
Again, Jesus repeats the words, “I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
They were just as vulnerable, because they were also living outside the walls of salvation. A repentance - a general change of thinking and attitude - was required in them, if they were to escape, and not “likewise perish”.
Now if we think of the Americans as “deserving of their punishment”, then we too are in danger, and it is likely that we will “likewise perish”.
A real danger for us today is overestimating our own standing, and of falling below those whom we judge! Let us be mindful of the warning to the Laodicean church. (Revelation 3:17, Jeremiah 8:8.)
So many people are praying.
Israel prayed earnestly at times. They confidently prayed even as the Roman armies were taking Jerusalem in AD 70. They prayed; they offered sacrifices, and just like those that had offered beforehand, they “likewise perished” at the hands of Roman soldiers.
Does God hear the prayers of a rebellious people? In the truest sense, no, He does not hear them. But this is to say that He cannot help them while they continue to disregard His direction. (Consider Proverbs 1:24-33; 4:13, 20-22.) Jesus effectively stands outside, knocking at the door, waiting. note 1
It is a mistake to automatically assume that prayer is a good thing for a person to be engaged in! Prayer is a deadly thing if it makes a person feel good about themselves while living in defiance of God. These essentially pray to themselves: for the satisfaction of their own ears, and for the ears of other people. Their reward (the benefits of their prayers) is received -- but they do not reach God. (See Lukke 18:11)
If we are to pray aright we must learn what the will of God is.
“This is the confidence that we [may] have concerning Him, that,
if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
(1 John 5:14 margin)
“Whatsoever we ask [of Him], we receive of Him, [WHY?]
because we keep His commandments,
and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
(1 John 3:22)
Though the President himself speaks of God and prays; though the whole country looks to the Lord of hosts for comfort, what good is it if the people are not moved to know and “to do those things that are pleasing in His sight”?
Retaliation and Revenge.
If an aggressor strikes us, and we justify ourselves in an act of retaliation, what have we done? We have disregarded the words of Jesus: Jesus Himself is rejected.
And shall we think of ourselves as a follower of Christ, an “upholder of Christian liberty”? In this we deceive ourselves.
While a person chooses to persist in such rejection and folly, their prayer is sin! Asking God for protection and for good mental judgement, to sustain us in a course that is against Him is folly indeed.
Of course the civil authorities should be honoured and respected, but when those civil authorities seek to blend the things of God with the ways of the world, let us be on guard! Why? Because the ways of God and the ways of the world are not only unequal (making it impossible for a partnership to exist between them), but the two ways are also mutually exclusive. How can the two possibly pursue the same path when they are so far from being in agreement? (See 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Amos 3:3)
The world has changed?
Many people now hold the view that there has been a change. But what has changed in the world? A new sense of realism and vulnerability perhaps? Greater suspicion between men: trust fallen in the street? Hearts failing for fear: reluctant to travel?
Has something new appeared? Or perhaps false securities have blinded us, because oh, how quickly people forget! Of course the value of a single soul is insurmountable (especially in God’s eyes), but history counts the attacks on America as insignificant in terms of the numbers killed; and the scale of the violation (in historical terms) is nothing of note.
For many centuries “the powers that be” have contended like the beasts of the field.
All of them glorified their valiant men, and scorned the oppressor. There is nothing new.
Their icons are touched and a viper breaks out.
Now many people have been shaken by the attacks on America, and yes, for a little while people adjusted their priorities. Brotherly kindness in the street became more important — for a little while.
Long ago the prophet spoke of a power that is now forgotten, saying,
“thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart”. (Jeremiah 49:16.)
Might this not also be said of America? That country’s “terribleness” (her impressive strength and power) has deceived her: but she is neither as strong nor as glorious as many imagine.
Emotion, sentiment, patriotism are stirred. But is there any real change in the world?
I think not.
Vanity of vanities.
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." This, this is the sum of life for all who are alienated from the Life of God. All our pursuits amount to nothing. But is it not the world’s endeavour to disprove those words?
And it appears that anything that brings a sense of substance (or significance) into the life is counted as precious, and proves (in the minds of many people) that life is not lived in vain.
Some even mistake extravagance for the true substance of life. But they are mistaken.
Extravagance, love of money and display, will always corrupt the morals and make a people insensitive to the woes of others: it produces an assembly of treacherous men and women. And look, are there not a crowd of strange vanities standing on every side?
What shall we reap if we sow a field with pride and extravagance? A fall, yes, and how great a fall! (See Obadiah 3-4)
Rome was once regarded as eternally secure. And America, like that great city, will discover the folly of this view. America is by no means impregnable, and nor should we think of it as lasting.
A people might clothe themselves with the form of godliness (of course prayer is a large part of the “form” or appearance of religion,) but unless a person has the power of God manifestly working in them, Jesus stands outside, knocking at their door, waiting for room to work. (And how capable He is when given room!)
Will it be asked how it is we dare to judge between those who regard God’s direction and those who disregard it? We dare to do it because we may “know them by their fruits.” The spirit, the heart, of man is outside our view, and we must never judge motive. However, “by their works” we are to recognise the obedient and the disobedient.
(We should be able to make a distinction… because the line between right and wrong is neither as movable nor as vague as many make it out to be.) Back to text
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