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The Lord’s 9/11

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

— Psalm 91:1

Early this morning my 17-year-old daughter rode with me into work. We stopped at a grocery store Starbucks to get coffees, and as she ordered her frou-frou coconut milk choco-yaya, I watched over her shoulder as a TV in the corner showed footage from today’s 9-11 memorial preparations. It took me back to that morning, 17 years ago.

My morning had been routine up until the moment, sitting cross-legged on our master bed, my 3-month-old daughter cradled and snoozing in my lap, I watched the Today Show cut to footage of “a plane crash” in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At that time, of course, nobody really knew what had happened. The perspective was skewed. The impression was of a small passenger plane that had had an accident. Then watching live, I saw the second plane explode into the South Tower.

More was clear then. But more was cloudy too. I looked down at my little girl and remembered feeling afraid. In the days and months that followed, all the talks of bombings and anthrax and war dominated the news. A year later, a couple of snipers terrorized the Washington, D.C. area. My 1-year-old was toddling around, and like any parent, I wondered, What kind of world will she grow up in?

I sort of know now. Terror hasn’t gone away. Anxiety is at record levels, if pharmaceutical sales are any indication. If you have trouble thinking of things to be afraid of, you probably haven’t looked at a screen in a while. I’m the kind of parent who worries less about Islamic terrorists and more about the crazy driver racing down I-35 while my daughters are figuring out that, inexplicably, the Kansas side is wilder than the Missouri side, as if the Indy 500 begins immediately at the border. But there are daily new things to be frightened about. I don’t think 9/11 didn’t create that, but it is a landmark in our history of fear and of the tragedies that define generations.

Lots of things have changed since 9/11. But at least one thing hasn’t. The Lord reigns.

No, I don’t know all the ins and outs of his reign. I do believe that the one true God is sovereign over all things (Isaiah 46:10, Proverbs 16:4, Colossians 1:17) and that the Son of God upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3). I know that that is cold comfort to some, but it is a world of hope to me. I don’t have to know how this works to be glad it does. At running the risk of trying to be too clever here, I think the Lord’s 9/11 —Psalm 91:1, and the rest of the song—are well worth meditating on over days like this, and days like these.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 9:11 is good too.)

Several years ago I was a guest on a Canadian radio program, and while I was invited under the guise of speaking to the attractional church phenomenon, it turns out that the host and the other guest wanted to grill me as a “Reformed guy” about predestination and such. The conversation was strange, as there was no genuine interest, just ridicule and “gotcha”-type maneuvering. They gave me 30 seconds until the commercial break to resolve how God was sovereign over the Holocaust. But neither God’s sovereignty nor the Holocaust are soundbite kinds of subjects. Declining to defend a view they were clearly trying to set up as horrific, I meekly suggested, “Consider the alternative.”

I thought of that the other day when I posted on Twitter this quote from John Newton: “There is one political maxim which comforts me: ‘The Lord reigns’.” A commenter—one who professes faith in Jesus, as far as I know—replied shortly thereafter, “I’m sure that was a real comfort in Auschwitz.”

Well, I don’t know. Perhaps not. But I can think of one thought much less comforting: “The Lord doesn’t reign.”

Wherever your fears find you today, remember as well as you can that the Lord is sovereign over our 9/11’s. And remember his 9-11, Psalm 91:1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

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