Remembering Sept 11, 2001

World Trade Center.jpg

At the beginning of this day nine years ago, two massive buildings, each 1362 ft high composed of 110 stories, dominated the skyline of New York City.

The next day, however, if you were to have visited those same buildings, you would have only seen piles of rubble approx. 100 ft. tall at their highest point. Where did the remaining 1200 ft go? 

What happened to the 43,600 windows,  the 600,000 sq ft of glass, the 200,000 tons of structural steel, the 5 million sq ft of gypsum, the 6 acres of marble, or the 425,000 cubic yards of concrete?

Structural engineers now tells us that most of the building was pulverized into the massive clouds of dust that enveloped lower Manhattan. Samples of the dust revealed not only large amounts of concrete and gypsum from the drywall, but also specks of steel from the massive girders and marble from the lobby facing. In other words, the strongest structural elements in the building were ground to powder because of the force of the blast and the building’s collapse. 

By all accounts, 9-11-01 was a unique day that lead to a number of firsts. 

  • For the first time in over a decade, an American commercial jet was hijacked. Only this time it wasn’t one, but four.
  • For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article V — an attack on one is an attack on all. What is so ironic is that the United States was never meant to be the beneficiary of this article in NATO’s charter.
  • 2,997 lives were lost. To put this into perspective, when the Titanic sank, approx. 1500 passengers were lost. The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor cost the United States 2,403 lives. 
  • After the first attack there were no more commercials for the rest of the day an any of the major networks. No commercials at all. The news channels that usually fight so fiercely for exclusive video of such events now shared freely with one another.
  • MTV, when it returned to it’s normal music video programming, ran special public service announcements geared toward their particular audience. They reminded their viewers that in order to give blood you had to be at least 17, weigh at least 110 lbs, and have no piercings or tattoos for the last 12 months.
  • Prior to the attacks, our military was preoccupied with questions of whether female Marine recruits would be permitted to wear lipstick with their fatigues. That question quickly vanished.

I must confess that it will be difficult for me to forget the spectacle of Palestinian youths and mothers dancing in the streets of East Jerusalem over the slaughter of Americans. Of course, the festivities weren’t confined to the West Bank. Reuters reported, “Ordinary Egyptians said Tuesday the United States deserved the wave of deadly attacks toward its cities, saying justice was being served for Washington’s ‘bias’ toward Israel and against the Arabs.”

Well, what are we to think of these things? Just like you, I have been trying to order my thoughts and think in a Godly manner concerning the events of that day and the years that have followed.. So here are a few thoughts, not in any particular order.

It occurred to me that when the Muslim clerics call the United States “ the Great Satan,” they do have some evidence for their argument. Despite the economic problems of the past decade, our nation is still the symbol of conspicuous consumption and untroubled affluence. Our detractors see us losing ourselves in the quest for material gain, personal fulfillment and mere pleasure, and they are deeply offended. The 18th-century English writer Samuel Johnson believed ‘there are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.’ For those outside the the Western world, however, it is the biblical notion that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim 6:10) that is still held as true. This biblical perspective makes America’s centers of commerce, such as the World Trade Center, look like a pit of iniquity. And I think this viewpoint is largely correct.

Not only is the US the world’s largest exporter of materialism, but it is also the largest exporter of corrupt culture. As any traveler abroad can testify, the sins of Hollywood do not stop at our shores, but instead have crept into every culture around the globe. Our popular culture’s glorification of sin and its ridicule of righteousness should be an affront to us all. And those countries now infested by this imported disease have the right to be offended.

And so, while it is appropriate to feel a righteous indignation at this cruel and unprovoked attack, we should not feel overly righteous ourselves.

Along these same lines, I also thought on God’s treatment of his sinning people in the OT. God there speaks using the King of Assyria to punish the land of Israel (Isa 7:17) and of my servant Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 25:9 among others), when he foretold of the coming judgment of Judah. In fact, the entire book of Habakkuk concerns the question of why God would use a more sinful nation that Judah to punish Judah. 

In the same way, I really do believe that God can use those who are opposed to him in principle to punish a wicked nation such as ours. Therefore, part of our proper response to this attack should be deep contrition and humble repentance before God for our national sins.

Thirdly, we should remember the words of the Psalmist: No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.” (Psa 33:16-18)

We have heard a great deal of talk about the military might of the US, both immediately after these attacks and in the prosecution of the two wars that followed. And while I have nothing but admiration for the brave men and women that serve in our armed forces, I also recognize that it is God that ultimately determines the course of battle.

Finally, we need to heed the warning of the the book of James:

Now listen, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say,  “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16 NIV 84)

I don’t think it’s hard to see the truth of that statement, is it? Who would have thought on Sept. 10 that two fully fueled passenger jets would be used as missiles to destroy, not only the world trade center buildings, but the buildings around it, the Pentagon, and the lives of countless unsuspecting people? 

If you had stood at the entrance to one of the buildings nine years ago with a bullhorn and a large sign that said, “Prepare to meet your God,” you would have been discounted as a kook. And yet, even though Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 was a unique day in so many respects, it was a day just like any other in one regard.

On that day, thousands were ushered into eternity. Some were prepared, others were not. The only thing that makes that Tuesday nine years ago as unique is that so many were in the same place when it happened. But every day, thousands and thousands from all over the globe find themselves stepping into eternity. For some, God has graciously given them time to prepare in that they knew the end of this life was coming. But for others, just like last on 9-11-01, there was no time to prepare. There was no chance to make amends, no opportunity to say goodbye, no time to be made right with God. 

The World Trade Towers were the symbol of America’s economic might. Some of the wealthiest people in the world worked in that building. And yet, when the time came for them to stand before God, it made no difference who was rich or poor, who was male or female, who was black or white. The size of the portfolio that seemed so crucial to their existence the day before, suddenly made no difference at all.

All that mattered was that person’s relationship with the Savior. I’m convinced that many taken in that catastrophe heard that promise of grace and believed it. In a tragedy of this magnitude, there are undoubtedly a large number of God’s people represented among the fallen. And now, they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. We rejoice in God’s grace for all those who die in the Lord, because it was God’s grace alone provided for them.

 But I am also convinced that many were taken quite by surprise. There were undoubtedly many who were not ready. 

The Word of God says that for anyone to receive the gift of eternal life and the promise of a home with God, they must have Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

I must remind you that although God’s grace is sufficient for you no matter what you’ve done in the past, you dare not spurn it. God is not only a God of love and grace, he is also a holy and righteous God—a God who must and will judge those who refuse to accept his free gift of eternal life. 

You need to know that before God we are all sinners.  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  There is not a person reading these words who has not sinned. Every one of us has disobeyed God and rebelled against his standards. The Bible clearly teaches that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). The death of a believer is an entrance into life. But for those who don’t know the Savior in a personal way, physical death merely leads to eternal death. The last book in the Bible defines this death as being cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-14).

The Good News is that a provision has been made. But it must be accepted. Because Jesus died, he can offer to us forgiveness. He offers it as a gift, but a gift must be accepted. 

One day when Jesus was teaching his disciples, he mentioned to them an incident somewhat similar to what we’ve witnessed this past week. He spoke of a tower at a place called Siloam. This tower collapsed and killed 18 people. And then Jesus said this, “Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will perish.”

Why not come to the Savior today, while there is still time, while God has still graciously allowed you the opportunity? For who knows what will happen tomorrow?