Sunday, June 10, 2012

Harbinger critic David James totally misses the point of the defiance of God in Isaiah 9:10

Did finally start reading David James' review of The Harbinger which is pretty much an expanded version of his comments in the interview of Jonathan Cahn I reported on in the last post. I don't know how far I will get into this, but I thought I'd at least highlight his comments about Daschle and Edwards' quoting of Isaiah 9:10 again. Sorry to keep repeating myself but this seems to need to be soundly trounced. If he so completely missed that point certainly he's missed others, and maybe I'll eventually get to some of the others as well.
Israel knew that the Assyrian attacks were a judgment they had brought upon themselves. When they declared that they would rebuild, they were shaking their fists in defiance of both their enemies and their God.
I don't know, were they? israel was often in defiance of God's will with their idols and violations of the Law, but sometimes they simply rationalized it all away, not thinking much of it. Matthew Henry says they were "willingly ignorant" of God's threat of judgment, and David Guzik says they trivialized the threat, treated it as something they could overcome. Both suggest they were conscious of the threat but also denying it. But I don't think it's crucial to know for sure.
This is not what happened in the wake of 9/11. Yet, in both the book and the documentary by World Net Daily, the author attempts to build the case that America’s leaders were proudly and arrogantly acting in defiance against God when they spoke of rebuilding (even though they didn’t realize it).22This is very misleading because although standing in defiance of America’s enemies, they were demonstrably not standing in defiance of God.
This is at least incredibly naive. Simply quoting Isaiah 9:10 in a positive way is "demonstrably standing in defiance of God." Whether America was more or less intentionally and consciously defiant of God than Israel was is not that easy to determine, but Isaiah 9:10 is a statement of defiance, period. And defiant we were. All Daschle and Edwards really did was echo the nation's feelings that we were hearing every day, and Isaiah 9:10 spoke for those feelings only too well.

The defiance was very clear at the time to some of us, not many but some. The choruses of "God bless America" were to my ear clear statements of this defiance, though this was unrecognized by most, and David James in this review has exactly that same attitude himself, not recognizing the defiance but in fact insisting it wasn't defiance. America seemed to think she was acting as a godly nation by calling for God to bless us. Terrible misunderstanding. Since so many were calling on God and thought they were standing only in defiance of our enemies, to their mind as to James' mind this means they were not in defiance of God.

This is a major way we fail to recognize God's hand in events, by seeing only the human hand in them -- or the hand of Nature as it may be. But our enemies cannot act independently of God, even Satan can't act independently of God, Nature also can't act independently of God, but Christians have been so badly taught Biblical theology that this basic fact of God's sovereignty escapes the majority.

For months and years after 9/11 patriotic macho-toned cries of defiance against our enemies were raised. When I would try to point out that 9/11 was God's judgment of the nation I was hooted down and sometimes accused of siding with our enemies. Or they'd accuse me of lack of sympathy with the victims. The main objection always was that God "wouldn't do such a thing." "Our God is a good God." Always the focus is on the human side, God is ignored. I answered with references to God's judgments against ancient Israel and other peoples of that time. I quoted Amos 3:6:
If there is calamity in a city, will not God have done it?
David James no doubt also failed to see God's hand of judgment at the time, and now his blindness keeps him from getting the most basic message of The Harbinger.
The explanation of the ninth harbinger seems even more misleading. In the book, Cahn gives the impression that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle concluded a speech on 9/12/2001 by quotingIsaiah 9:10.23 But, that was not the end of the speech. In the documentary by World Net Daily, Cahn specifically states that Daschle closes the speech with, “That is what we will do and we will rebuild, and we will recover.”24 However, this is not how the speech ended. There were two more sentences not shown in the documentary:
The people of America will stand together because the people of America have always stood together, and those of us who are privileged to serve this great nation will stand with you. God bless the people of America.25
By invoking God and thinking he was comforting Americans by using the Bible (albeit wrongly), his intent was clearly not defiance against God—it was exactly the opposite. To fail to include or mention his last two sentences is very misleading.
It's very odd, it seems to me, that James thinks the inclusion of the last sentences changes anything about the message. It was already clear from the quote itself that Daschle's intent was to give a message of hope and reassurance, and ending with a compliment to the people for standing together is really just another statement of defiance against God in spite of his intentions and and in spite of James' take on it.

The emphasis on the virtues of the people, what the people can do, or in Biblical terminology, what "the arm of flesh" can do, is always a way of describing human reliance on self rather than on God. That's what the whole message of Isaiah 9:10 is about. WE will rebuild with stronger materials, WE will replant with stronger trees, WE will do this in our own strength... WE will stand together. WE are a great nation and a great people, they can't keep US down. In other words, James seems not to get what could even be described as THE most basic message in the Bible -- human reliance on human strength instead of reliance on God, and that IS the message of defiance of God. We don't need God, we can do it ourselves.

And this is all of a piece with complete blindness to the fact that God is working in ALL events ALL the time, to bless or to curse, and that we CAN'T ignore Him except at our peril. This is how we miss the most obvious act of God's judgment on the nation.

This spiritual obtuseness of His people could be a way to explain why God decided to bring these literal material tokens of His judgment into our midst, these signs or harbingers. The idea here is that if we are spiritually blinded maybe we will notice such a gracious and merciful accommodation to our weakness. Kind of how the Lord so graciously condescended to show Thomas His wounds after Thomas had refused to believe the witnesses who had told of His having risen from the dead. Sometimes the Lord will accommodate our weaknesses like this. And obviously many have understood the message in the signs or harbingers, but there are still some whose eyes aren't opened.
On September 11, 2004, then vice-presidential candidate John Edwards was speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Prayer Breakfast. Cahn attempts to frame his speech as another unwitting act of defiance against God. However, an honest reading of the speech26 shows that defiance of God was the furthest thing from his mind.
Uh, that's what makes the defiance "unwitting" Mr. James.
However, he explains that both Daschle and Edwards were defying God without realizing it. In spite of their intentions, Cahn postulates that God was inspiring them to unknowingly pronounce judgment upon America.27
He isn't "postulating" this, he's pointing it out as something as plain as day to anyone who knows the God of the Bible. That Mr. James doesn't see it only underscores how far today's Christians are from a real understanding of the character and attributes of God.

We KNOW that Isaiah 9:10 is a statement of defiance of God. That's what the leaders of Israel were saying, this is acknowledged in all the commentaries as the tenor of that verse, and it can only be the same for anyone who quotes it today as well. It IS a statement of defiance. And again, although one might want to claim that the "heart" of the speaker is not with that attitude of defiance, in fact simply to embrace it is to have that attitude because it IS defiance. The only alternative is recognition of God's hand in 9/11 as judgment on the nation, calling for repentance. That's what NONdefiance would be, and that was the substance of pastor David Wilkerson's preaching of this very same message. He pointed out that this defiant attitude is America's attitude, and the remedy for it is repentance. THAT is the Christian take on Isaiah 9:10.

ISAIAH 9:10 IS A STATEMENT OF DEFIANCE OF GOD. It just IS. We WILL rebuild is a statement of defiance of God. It's not a matter of interpretation, there is no subtlety to it. It ignores God's hand in the attack, has no inkling of the nation's being under God's judgment, no thought about why God would have done such a thing or what we need to do to respond properly to it. It's just a bald statement of intention to come back better and stronger than ever.

Since Daschle and Edwards quoted it straight, as a simple statement of the intention of America to rebuild, they pronounced the attitude of defiance on behalf of the nation in their official capacity as representatives of the people. Unwittingly.
But how does he know that God is inspiring America’s leaders to prophecy? Unfortunately, he presents his speculation as fact. This is undoubtedly not part of the fictional storyline.
This degree of spiritual blindness is really sad. There is no "speculation" going on here at all. If America's leaders pronounce a message of defiance of God in the exercise of their elected office, while thinking that they are saying something reassuring and inspiring instead, then this is God's own doing. It's open and shut. With all the other signs or harbingers of God's doing already having been accumulated and recognized, these speeches of what is KNOWN to be a message of defiance are just further aspects of the same message GOD HIMSELF IS BRINGING TO US.
The author attempts to defend his theory by referencing Caiaphas, who unwittingly prophesied concerning the death of Christ (John 11:49-52) Cahn concludes that Daschle and Edwards intended to say one thing, but their words carried a far different meaning. However, that is not what happened with Caiaphas. His words were inspired to mean exactly what he intended. He just didn’t know how right he actually was. Once again, the author’s exposition of the biblical text does not stand up to scrutiny and the supposed parallel is simply not there.
But Caiaphas is an excellent comparison to make the point, not an exact parallel, no, but a case of a man's unwitting declaration of God's intention. His motives were NOT God's motives as he meant to murder the miscreant and take him out of the way -- he certainly didn't intend the WAY Jesus would "die for the people" saving them from their sins -- but his actual words described God's intention and stood as true prophecy. Daschle and Edwards' conscious motives were to bless the nation but God had them speak words of defiance that seal His intention of judging the nation.

Unless we repent.