Awakening and America
2 Chronicles 7:11-14
James C. Denison
Last Thursday, President Bush was visiting with a group of second-graders when one asked him where he’s going to live next. The president said that he is relying on Laura’s judgment about their new house in Dallas, and for good reason—he has never seen it himself. “That’s called faith,” Mr. Bush said. I drove by their new home in Preston Hollow this week, and am happy to endorse Laura’s choice. I’m sure the president needs more advice these days.
Mr. Bush has just finished eight years in the most stressful job on earth. An article in this week’s news called “The graying of the presidents” states that American presidents apparently age twice as quickly as the rest of us. Their hair turns gray, their faces wrinkle, and they usually die prematurely. Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, died 15 years younger than actuarial tables would suggest; Woodrow Wilson lived seven years less than normal.
During prolonged stress, our bodies release hormones such as cortisol; these in turn damage blood vessels, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Presidents also suffer from a lack of friends they can trust. It’s all a prescription for stress and suffering.
Can you imagine the stress President-elect Obama will feel when he takes on this office? What is happening in America in these days? What is God doing, and allowing, and saying to us? What does it all mean for you and me this morning?
Is national judgment inevitable?
Remember our setting—Israel is at their high-water mark, with the largest geographical, economic, and military strength they would ever see again. If any nation’s future prosperity was guaranteed, it would be that of the “people of God.” But our text begins, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain . . .” (v. 13). Not “if” but “when.”
So it had been all through their history. Moses led them to the edge of the Promised Land, but they refused to trust God by faith and wandered 40 years in the wilderness until that entire generation died. After Solomon, Rehoboam’s cruel despotism would split the nation; the idolatry of the kings and people would lead to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom.
Eventually the Southern Kingdom would be captured and enslaved by Babylon, then ruled by Persia, Greece, and Rome. Jesus predicted of their mighty Temple, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Within a generation it was so.
Will every nation eventually face periods of spiritual darkness and resulting judgment? Tradition dates the founding of Rome at 753 B.C., the conversion of Constantine at AD 313, the “Christianization” of the Empire soon to follow. The world had never seen a mightier army or civilization, but the people fell into immorality and idolatry. Rome was sacked in AD 476 and the Empire came to ruin.
If you were asked to name the world’s greatest military, strongest economy, and largest empire in the year 1900, the answer would be Great Britain. If you were asked to guess the army with the most troops, tanks, artillery, and nuclear weapons in 1980, the answer would be the Soviet Union.
Is America in crisis?
Can the same happen to America and the West? Is it happening to America and the West? Consider the cultural crisis of our time, our battle with Radical Islam.
All Muslims believe that God’s final and superior revelation is the Qur’an, and that he wants all people on earth to convert to Islam. Radical Islam takes two steps further. First, they teach that the West has been attacking the Islamic world since the crusades and especially with the establishment of Israel. Second, they believe that since the Western world is democratic, where we elect our leaders and our taxes support our military, none of us are innocent in this attack.
Since the Qur’an expressly forbids Muslims to initiate violence but requires them to defend Islam, these points are critical to understanding 9-11 and the mind of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations like Hamas. In their minds, lobbing rockets into Israel is the defense of Islam mandated by the Qur’an.
We have been at war with Muslim extremists far longer than most people realize. You could begin with the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. In April of 1983, Hezbollah attacked the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 and wounding 120. In October of that year, another Hezbollah suicide bomber attacked the American barracks at the Beirut airport, killing 241 U.S. Marines in their sleep. In 1984 and 1985, terrorists hijacked airliners and cruise ships, killing Americans each time. In December of 1988, Libyan agents bombed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 270 passengers.
In 1993, a truck bomb exploded in the garage of the World Trade Center, injuring over a thousand people. In 1996, a truck bomb attacked American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, wounding 240. In 1998, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked on the same day, killing more than 200. On October 12, 2000, a boat carrying suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole, killing 17 American sailors. On September 11, 2001, 2,740 Americans were killed by Islamic terrorists.
I participated last Thursday in a fascinating discussion about Hamas, Gaza, and Israel. Dr. Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, was the keynote speaker. One of the most disturbing trends he is seeing in this conflict is the rise of public sentiment in the Arab world for Hamas and the Palestinians. Even Muslim governments sympathetic to America and the West such as Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey are facing uprisings among their people if they do not support Hamas. He is afraid that when this conflict is over, the enmity between Israel and the Arab world will be far greater than it is today. Who knows where that will leave us?