As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 draws nigh, the media is saturated with reflections on this defining event of our generation. Watching or reading certain pundits can be a maddening experience, as they draw wrong conclusions or hype the tragedy. Other types of coverage can make your heart leap into your throat, such as the cover of one magazine I saw in the airport recently entitled "9/11 Children" featuring those who had lost parents on that fateful day. For reflective articles, I have benefited from the latest issues of WORLD [link now expired] and Tabletalk magazines.
I recall how horrified I was ten years ago, as events unfolded, by the evil forethought of the perpetrators. For years the terrorists had been learning to fly so they could control the cockpit; they plotted such things as what types of planes to hijack, their routes, fuel amounts, passenger levels, etc.; they chose symbolic targets representing our financial, military and political power (the Shanksville, PA, crash preventing a plane from flying into the US Capitol Building). Insidiously, Osama Bin Laden even deliberately chose the date of 9/11 . In his laughing, diabolical mind, he knew these three numbers were the ones Americans dial for emergencies.
Thinking as a former math teacher about those numbers, I wondered if there was a positive use one could make of them. Yes, I am admitting here that I looked to see what the Bible verses with the reference of 9:11 say. I wondered, "Do any of them in their proper context contain truth that might communicate when the subject of this tragedy arises?" After all, the reference would make it easy to remember and might help in witnessing. I did and do feel a bit silly, about like rolling dice to find a verse. But then again, "Man casts the lot, but its every decision is from the Lord."
Just to clarify my little experiment before I share the results. No, I am not promoting "secret number codes" of the Bible, approaching the Scriptures as if these verses were written for this event. No, I do not believe the references are inspired. No, this should not be the way one ordinarily studies the Bible.
I found there are only 37 9:11 references, as 29 of the books do not have enough chapters. As one would expect, almost all of these 37 verses did not relate at all. Some were, in referring to tragedy, intriguing but not that helpful, such as Isaiah 9:11, "Therefore the LORD raises against them adversaries from Rezin and spurs their enemies on" and Esther 9:11, "On that day the number of those who were killed at the citadel in Susa was reported to the king." Yet surprisingly, I thought four of these verses in context could possibly be used in discussions of 9/11 and other tragic events. What do you think?
- As a reminder of God's plan in tragedy - Following his deliverance after the flood, God said to Noah in Genesis 9:11, "Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you." In the greatest act of earthly destruction, the Lord was at work saving His chosen ones and entering into a covenant with them. Despite wars and terrors, God is still preserving the earth and making known His salvation through the covenant of Christ.
- As a way of identifying with those suffering - Job 9:11 says, "Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him; were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him." In his great suffering involving the loss of property, children, and health, Job struggled to understand God's mysterious presence and ways. We need to identify initially with disillusioned people as they try to make sense of painful events around them, rather than coming across like Job's friends as if we understand it all.
- As a note of warning to the proud - Psalm 9:11 states, "Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples His deeds." As the deeds this psalm is glorifying the Lord for are His judgments on wicked nations, can we see beyond the terrorists' hands to God's hand of judgment? Americans of this generation are blind to their own sin and that the targets of 9/11 were representative of our false gods, as Timothy Keller and others have pointed out. Given that Jesus Himself used the spreading news of the tragedy of a falling tower to call people to repent of their own evil (Luke 13:4), we must carefully do the same.
- As a picture of the gospel of Christ - Amos 9:11, "In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old." The apostles used this verse from Amos to preach Christ's resurrection from the dead as the true King and Restorer of the people of God (Acts 15:16-17). Just as monuments are being built from the ruins of the towers, so shattered and broken lives can be rebuilt by Christ.
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