“Vows of Defiance” by Paula Yingst

“We make our decisions,

and then our decisions turn around and make us.”

— F. W. Boreham


“I won’t let this happen to my church!”

I remember uttering those words of defiance back when I believed that my home church was under attack. I wasn’t sure who was behind the sudden dysfunction, but I was determined to find out and FIX the problem…. I’ve learned since that my assertive passion — no matter how well intended — was simple-minded and doomed to fail.

Israel’s response following the Assyrian attack on their nation (in the 730s B.C.) was also one of defiance. In essence, they shook their fists and vowed to rebuild what had been destroyed. They pledged to come back even stronger than before. But in doing that, they disrespected the One who had allowed the Assyrians to breach the wall of His protection.

So the Lord God once again sent warnings through His prophets to try and wake up His naive chosen people and to help them understand why their enemies had managed to attack them so unexpectedly. But the people would only believe what they could see with their eyes — devastation, collapsed buildings, and fallen handmade bricks.

An obscure verse in Isaiah gives us a window into Israel’s response to what happened. With pride and arrogance of heart they replied: “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars” (Isaiah 9:10).

According to Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, an official response to national calamity can only be recognized if it is given by a leader with authority to speak publicly on the nation’s behalf.

In 1865, toward the end of the Civil War (a catastrophic event similar to when the Assyrians breached the Israelites’ wall of protection), President Abraham Lincoln responded appropriately by humbly laying the whole bloody mess at the feet of Almighty God. In his Second Inaugural Address, President Lincoln stood on the Wast Portico of America’s capitol and proclaimed: “The Almighty has His own purposes…. Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away…. Yet … it must be said, that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

On the contrary, America’s response to the attacks of 9/11 was not humble, but defiant — similar to that of the ancient Israelites. That response was pronounced on September 12, 2001 by the Senate majority leader. Out of over 30,000 verses in the Bible, Senator Daschel chose to read Isaiah 9:10! And after he finished proclaiming the ancient vow, he added his own words: The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stones; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars. That is what we will do.

The speaker was oblivious to the prophetic role he was playing in the grand scheme of things. And he wasn’t the only one used by God to pronounce judgment on America. In autumn of 2004, the Democrat’s candidate for the office of Vice President, was invited to speak in the nation’s capitol on the third anniversary of 9/11. He started his speech with these words: Good morning. Today, on this day of remembrance and mourning, we have the Lord’s word to get us through: ‘The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.'” He (or perhaps his speech writer) chose the same defiant words chosen by the leaders of Israel!

President Barack Obama has also unknowingly taken part in reiterating the call for defiance. During his first State of the Union address, given before Congress and the nation in 2009, President Obama said: “I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this — WE WILL REBUILD…. The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation.” Later in his address he added one more declaration: “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

Though his intent was to inspire the nation, the President actually voiced the central declaration of Isaiah 9:10! Amazing? Yes, but there’s more. In June of 2012, Obama set aside politics and visited the sleek glass and steel building under construction to replace the Twin Towers at Ground Zero in New York City. The structure has been named “Freedom Tower” and when it’s completed, it will be the tallest building in the country at 1776 feet. (The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.)

After his tour, the President of the United States signed one of the construction beams with a red marker. He wrote: “We remember, we rebuild, we come back stronger!” And he signed his name.

Is America actually capable of of recovering by its own efforts — without returning to God and asking for reinstatement of His divine protection — and emerging stronger than before?

“But the people have not returned to Him who struck them,

nor have they sought the Lord Almighty …”

(Isaiah 9:13)

THINK ABOUT IT: Is there anything wrong in your life that could be put right by simply giving God credit for the blessings He has bestowed on you? Are there curses that could be removed by the Protector if you humbly submit to Him? Do you feel like you’re at a dead end in your job or relationship? Think about what God said through the prophet Jeremiah before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

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