Matt Bennett is founder and CEO of Christian Union, a Christian leadership development organization. A native of Houston, Texas, Matt earned B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Cornell University and holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He resides in New York City.
Something amazing happened the day after 9/11 in 2001. It was September 12th, and the Senate Majority Leader at the time stood before Congress, in seeking to reassure the nation and reflect upon the tragedy which took thousands of lives here in New York City, he quoted a verse from Isaiah. He was intending it to be a sort of rallying cry that we'll come back, but shockingly, he misunderstood it, and in some ways, pronounced judgment on himself and the United States because of what he said in misunderstanding it. We need to understand the Scriptures, and understand in times of calamity what the Lord expects of us and how we are to respond. In so doing, we can please Him and be in a right relationship with Him because of it.
At the time, some national Christian leaders suggested that perhaps it was a judgment of God on the nation, but mostly they were ridiculed, even by other Christians, sadly. But what if they were right? Since that time in the last 20 years, we've seen a continuous decline in the Christian church. More and more people leaving the church, more and more people having a disrespect for God, greater immorality in our society...Perhaps it was a judgment on the country, and we did not learn our lesson.
I want to read this passage that was quoted. It was just one verse. The verse was, "The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stone. The sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place." Isaiah 9:10. Sounds good, right? Sounds like a passage that we all rally behind—let's get it back, let's put in our hard effort—but notice this verse right before that leads up to it. It's astonishing. It says, "The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel and all the people will know Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart," and then here's the verse, "The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones. The sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place."
So this was written by Isaiah hundreds and hundreds of years ago as a rebuke, basically saying Israel should be taking their afflictions, the things that have been coming against them as a chance for them to repent. But instead they just arrogantly said, "We're just going to build up stronger and better than ever," and that was the very sentiment after 9/11. My concern is that it's the sentiment right now with the coronavirus, "We'll get through this, it's no problem," et cetera. And yeah, God's not going to completely wipe out the United States or the West, but all the other times we see in the Scriptures when there's been a pestilence given, it was a rebuke from God himself, calling people to repentance. Why would this be any different? The mindset that somehow it's different now after the cross of Christ is not justified by the Scriptures. There's times of judgment in the New Testament of God against both Christians and non-Christians. So we see that the principle still stands.
This is a time for repentance for the United States. Let us not miss it like we did before, and make this mistake and just say, "We'll just go on and we'll rebuild by our own strength." We need to turn to the Lord and repent of everything that's displeasing to Him. If this is true in your life, take the time, let the Holy Spirit examine you and turn to Him with your whole heart and ask others to do the same. May the Lord bless you, and may we not miss this time and may this nation return to the Lord with its whole heart. God bless.