Summary: As our country makes war on terror, we need to be reminded that God’s love will prevail.
What an extraordinary week this has been. What a horrifying, sad, frightening, exhausting week this has been. By now, you all know the tragic story: terrorists hijacking four commercial airliners and flying three of them into buildings filled with tens of thousands of people. You’ve seen the images repeated dozens of times: a twin-engine Boeing 757 appearing in the sky over Manhattan, then suddenly banking and disappearing into the side of the World Trade Center. The explosion, the huge fireball. Then another jet, another explosion. A massive fire, caused by thousands of gallons of burning jet fuel. Trapped office workers making their way to the roof, waiting for a rescue that never came, or jumping hopelessly to their deaths to avoid being burned alive. Then the terrible spectacle of both towers collapsing. One moment, a hundred and ten stories of glass, steel, and concrete reaching into the sky. The next moment, just a pile of rubble. And who could ever forget that scene, with thousands of people running through the streets in panic, choking, eyes burning, covered with ash, looking for some place, anyplace, to escape the poisonous clouds of smoke and dust billowing out from the wreckage.
And the worst of it was what we couldn’t see - thousands more trapped in the towers when they fell, most of them almost certainly crushed beneath the tons of debris, including hundreds of fire fighters and rescue workers. Thousands of lives snuffed out in an instant - parents whose children would never see their father or mother again; sons and daughters; friends; people with plans, and hopes, and dreams, and futures, thousands of people - gone. Some of us may know people who lost their lives there. And even if we don’t, even if they were all strangers to us, we can’t help but grieve for them, and mourn, and weep.
What are we to make of all this? How are we supposed to find any comfort; any reassurance in the face of these horrific events? How do we gain wisdom and understanding? How do we recover our sense of peace, and safety and security? It’s not an option for us to return to our lives unchanged, as if nothing had happened. Because something has happened; something which cannot be ignored. Our faith has been challenged. And either we find a way to incorporate these events into our faith, to integrate them into our view of the world; or they will undermine and weaken our faith. These events will either draw us closer to God, or push us away from Him. And so this morning, although I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I would like to remind you of three things to help you make sense of all this. Three essential truths to keep in mind as you think about this catastrophe.
First, this was not done out of God’s sight or without His knowledge. Apparently, these attacks were being planned for years, and yet the CIA and FBI and NSA were completely clueless. Our government agencies were taken completely by surprise. They had no idea it was coming. Now, how a terrorist plot of this magnitude, involving this many people, could remain undetected for so long, is a mystery. Nevertheless, it happened. They completely deceived the people who were supposed to protect us. In addition, the terrorists’ intentions went undetected by the airline personnel. No one noticed their weapons. No one’s suspicions were aroused by their behavior. In short, no one knew what was going on until it was too late. But know this for certain: God was not surprised. God was not deceived, not even for an instant. Nothing these men did, or said, or even thought, escaped his notice. Every detail of their murderous plan was known to him from the very beginning. He watched their every move, and he knew precisely what they had in mind. There’s been a lot of talk on the news this week about how elusive this Osama Bin Laden character is; how difficult it will be to find him in his mountain hideaway. But God knows exactly where he is, every minute of every day.
"From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do." - Psalm 33:13-15
"For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths."
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." - Hebrews 4:13
As I’ve been watching the news coverage over the past few days, I’ve heard the this feeling expressed: knowing what we know now, if we could only go back to Tuesday morning, and somehow stop those men from getting on the planes. Shoot them. Warn the police. Do something. Yet God knew what they were going to do, and He didn’t stop them. He could have thwarted their plan, but he didn’t.