Was 9/11 Judgment From God For America’s Sins?, Part 1

Title: Was 9/11 Judgment From God for America’s Sins?

Text: Habakkuk 1:5-6, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, Isaiah 1:4-7

Time: September 18th, 2011


Last week, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I spoke on the reality of evil. The attacks were a public demonstration of the reality of evil, even if a majority of Americans today don’t believe in absolute moral standards anymore. There’s something about the events of 9/11 that convince even the most radical moral relativists among us of the reality of evil. Today, I’d like to go in a different direction in respect to the 9/11 terrorist attacks of ten years ago – I’d like to ask the question, “Was 9/11 judgment from God for America’s sins?” Now this isn’t the first time this question has been raised. If you remember, shortly after the attacks, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson and televangelist Jerry Falwell were discussing the events of 9/11 on the 700 Club television show. Here’s what they said:

Here are their comments in context:
Pat Robertson began the interview asking Falwell what his response has been to the terrorist attacks.  Falwell said there had been a massive prayer gathering of members of his congregation along with students from Liberty University.  He told the TV audience that they had humbled themselves before God, prayed for President Bush and his advisers and for the victims of the attacks.
Falwell then likened the attacks to Pearl Harbor and that at that time, Hitler wanted to destroy the Jews and conquer the world.  Now, “Islamic fundamentalists, radical terrorists, Middle-Eastern monsters” want to destroy Israel and conquer the world.
The two men then talked about religious revival and whether the events of September 11 might spark spiritual renewal in America.
Then Falwell said, “What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”
Robertson replied,  “Well, Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror, we haven’t begun to see what they can do to the major population.”
Falwell said, “The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I’ll hear from them for this, but throwing God…successfully with the help of the federal court system…throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad…I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America…I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen.”
Robertson said, “I totally concur, and the problem is we’ve adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government, and so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do, and the top people, of course, is the court system.”
Falwell added, “Pat, did you notice yesterday that the ACLU and all the Christ-haters, the People for the American Way, NOW, etc., were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress, as they went out on the steps and called out to God in prayer and sang ‘God bless America’ and said, let the ACLU be hanged. In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time, calling on God.”


Now if you remember, this caused quite an uproar and both the men were eventually forced to backtrack a little on what they said. But my question is, “Is there any truth to the notion that God could be bringing judgment upon America through the events of 9/11 for her sins?” It certainly isn’t a pleasant idea, but after ten years I think it’s time to go back and really answer the question honestly. I understand at the time, ten years ago,  right immediately after the terrorist attacks, it might have been inappropriate to even bring up the subject of God’s wrath and judgment for sin, but after ten years I think it’s important to go back and re-examine the whole question. Was God trying to get our attention? Obviously God permitted or allowed this terrorist attack to occur – he could have prevented it — but was it for a purpose? Was it in any way as a result of our national sins? Is it even legitimate to talk this way or even raise the question? Ten years ago, it’s obvious from the reaction to Robertson’s and Falwell’s remarks, that Americans thought their remarks were inappropriate.  But what about now? Is it ok now, after ten years, to talk and think about such things? Well, whether it’s proper or not in the eyes of most Americans, I’m going to tackle the subject today, and I’m going to make three claims: first, according to the Bible, God judges nations for their sins and sometimes uses other nations as instruments of his wrath; second, there is cause for God to bring judgment upon America for her sins; third, Americans need to repent of their sins and turn back to God in order to avoid future judgment.


First, according to the Bible, God judges nations for their sins and sometimes uses other nations as instruments of his wrath. Habakkuk 1:5-6, “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence.” The short prophetic Old Testament book of Habakkuk goes on to describe how God uses the Babylonian army to judge the Jews! The struggle the prophet Habakkuk had was how could God use a wicked people like the Babylonians to judge his people the Jews? Granted the Jews deserved God’s judgment because of their sins, but how could the Babylonians be used as instruments of that judgment, since they were far more sinful than the Jews? Yet this is exactly what God willed and permitted to happen historically in ancient times. And this is but one example in the Old Testament; there are numerous other examples where God also uses other, more sinful peoples, to execute judgment upon his chosen people the Jews.  So it’s pretty clear that if God has used other, foreign people as instruments of his wrath for the purpose of bringing judgment upon his people for their sins, if he’s done that before – and it’s clear that he has – then we shouldn’t think it strange that he would or could do it again, in our own day and age. I don’t understand the reaction of most Americans, including most Christians, to the suggestion that the radical, Islamic terrorists who attacked New York city, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, might have been bringing God’s judgment upon sinful America. It’s not like this idea of divine judgment for sin is something new; it’s all throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. Have Jews and Christians forgotten their own faith? Have people of the Judeo-Christian tradition forgotten their own sacred writings? This idea of God using a foreign, sinful enemy to bring about wrath as punishment for sin upon his people is completely biblical. The idea that the 9/11 attack was a form of judgment upon sinful America is perfectly biblical as well. The reaction against such an idea by America in the aftermath of 9/11 is a deep form of spiritual and moral denial. Instead of reacting against the idea that God could use evil and sinful terrorists as instruments of his wrath, Americans should be exploring the possibility, because in dealing honestly with the reality of their own sins, Americans could discover the key to their own salvation, individually and nationally.


Second, there is cause for God to bring judgment upon America for her sins. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” The reaction on the part of most Americans to the idea that God had just brought a form of judgment through the hands of radical, Islamic terrorists on 9/11 reveals the very opposite attitude God desires of his people; it reveals stubborn, unrepentant pride. It’s the kind of stubborn pride that invites further judgments from God of increasing intensity. What will it take to humble proud Americans? What will it take for sinful Americans to confess and repent of their sins against God? But for most Americans, there is almost a kind of self-righteousness about the way we exist in the United States. The last thing on the mind of the average American is how sinful we are as a people. We see ourselves as the good guys; “The bad guys are attacking us, remember?” But that is only a superficial reaction to a far deeper problem. As we become more and more secular, we become less and less capable of evaluating our own moral standing with God. The fact is, we are a sinful people, a very sinful people. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, in their comments, mentioned a number of different notorious sins that most people downplay or even outright deny as sins – abortion, homosexuality, and the general turning away from God through secularism. Americans more and more see these as no sins at all. For example, abortion has been legal nation-wide since 1973. For many or most Americans, it’s now a woman’s natural right to kill her unborn child before it’s born. With such a casual and loose attitude towards the rights of the unborn, is it any wonder that year-after-year abortion is allowed to continue on in this country. Yet, in the eyes of God’s it’s murder! It’s an evil, yet most Americans see it as nothing of the sort. We’ve nearly lost the capacity to distinguish good from bad. Another example is homosexuality. At the time, Falwell and Robertson didn’t discuss gay marriage because it really wasn’t on the radar of sins in America; they only talked about the sin of homosexuality. The Bible categorizes homosexuality as such a detestable, gross and abominable sin that it describes God destroying two entire cities on account of it – the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah.  Today in America, a majority now is sympathetic to gay marriage, which takes the sin of homosexuality to a new level – the corruption and further erosion of the institution of marriage. These are just two sins that America is guilty of, but there are many other sins we could include. These and other sins need confessed and repented of by America. Notice the Old Testament verse calls people to “humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways.” America still needs to turn from her wicked ways, even after ten years, especially after ten years. There should have been national repentance after the 9/11 attacks. Americans should have done some soul searching and put two and two together, and connected the dots between our own sins and God’s judgment upon us, but we didn’t. In fact, we are further down the road of sin and judgment than we were before; we haven’t learned anything in the intervening ten years.


Third, Americans have another opportunity after ten years to reflect on 9/11, recognize God’s judgment upon our land, repent of our sins and turn back to God. Isaiah 1:4-7, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.” The question remains after ten years, “What will it take to get us to repent of our sins and return to God?” Will it take another terrorist attack? Would it take another 9/11-style attack to wake us up to the reality of our own sins? How can Americans ever be convicted of their sins enough to repent and turn to God if they won’t even allow a discussion about sin and judgment to even begin? The violent reaction even now against Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for even bringing up the topic of God’s judgment upon America for its sins says a lot about how people are still in denial. What will it take to break through to Americans about the reality of their own sins and the reality of God’s judgment, if whenever the topic is brought up everyone shuts down the conversation immediately? Well, I’d like to open up the conversation again and maybe this time challenge Americans to stop being so defensive about their own sins and start being more open to learning about the ways of God in the world. As Americans we have another opportunity, and this time to get it right. We can look back upon the events of ten years ago, the awful terrorist attacks of 9/11, and learn from them. Not only learn that real evil exists in the world and that we should be vigilant to resist it. We’ve learned that lesson; we’ve done better at guarding against evil attacks and going after the bad guys before they can strike us. But we’ve totally neglected going after the other bad guys, I mean, we’ve totally failed in judging ourselves against the holy will of God as found in the Bible. If we were to examine ourselves in light of God’s holy laws, the most basic moral laws of the Bible, then we’d see our number one priority isn’t addressing some external threat to America, it’s dealing with the threat we pose to ourselves. We are bringing judgment and destruction upon America by our sins and by our failing to follow after the ways of God. Like the Fall of Rome in ancient days, our biggest threat isn’t external, it’s internal – our own moral and spiritual corruption that is destroying us from the inside and provoking God’s judgment.


Why can’t Americans see this reality as it stares them directly in their face? I believe it’s because most Americans have totally lost any sense of the sovereignty of God, that is, the providential hand of God in the history of world. As fully modern people, most Americans see things in straightforward cause and effect ways. Radical, Islamic terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Why did this happen? The typical cause and effect answer is – because of political and ideological reasons. But as valid as this natural, human answer is, most modern Americans fail to think further along spiritual and moral lines. The Bible, in contrast, describes spiritual and moral causes and effects, and doesn’t just limit itself to human causation. Everyone understands that radical, Islamic terrorists attacked America, but if we step back from the obvious and think in terms of moral or spiritual categories, it’s very possible that God used the attacks to bring judgment upon America for her sins. According to the Bible, according to the Christian faith, much of what Americans participate in and tolerate today in our modern, secular society is sinful. Actions that appear totally acceptable and tolerable to us, appear totally unacceptable to God – if the Bible is an accurate and reliable record of what God likes and dislikes, as we assume it is. If the Bible is true and accurately reveals the will of God, then America deserves to be under God’s judgment for her sins. That is clear. If what the Bible describes and defines as sin, is truly sin, then we as Americans deserve every judgment, disaster, tragedy, trouble, problem or calamity we receive. Why? Because it’s God’s judgment upon a sinful people who won’t repent. Because it’s God’s way of attempting to bring about repentance in a sinful people who he wishes to save and not destroy. Seen in this sense, to deny we are sinners as Americans, or to deny that we participate in and tolerate sin, or to think that we are basically “good” people doesn’t help us at all. To see us as the good guys and the terrorists as the bad guys doesn’t help either. Yes, the terrorists are bad guys, and yes, we should defend ourselves from them and even go after them, but to see ourselves only as the good guys, the innocent victims, as the righteous ones, is wrong. God is trying to get our attention, to call us to repent of our sins so that he doesn’t have to totally destroy us like he did Sodom and Gomorrah. Bringing us to repentance is a good thing. Turning from our sins and turning back to God is a good think. It saves us from destruction. We can see the 9/11 attacks as an evil thing done by hate-filled terrorists that must be prevented from ever happening again. That is proper. But we should also see the 9/11 attacks as God’s wake up call for us Americans to repent of our sins and turn back to him or else worse judgment will come. There is no incompatibility with seeing it both ways. In fact, we should see it both ways instead of seeing things from just one side. Have we gotten the message from God yet?


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