Isaiah is Not Nostradamus

(If it comes to that, even Nostradamus is not Nostradamus.) Somebody told me yesterday that Isaiah 30:25 is apparently a trendy verse to quote in some Bible prophecy circles, being taken as a prediction of great victories for the United States Kingdom of Heaven in the wake of 9/11. It reads:

And upon every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.

And now for some context. Read the whole chapter. This passage is set in the midst of a number of warnings and encouragements to the kingdom of Judah (the southern rump kingdom that is left behind after the northern kingdom of Israel has been wiped out by the Assyrians, who were sort of the Nazis of the ancient world). Isaiah warns Judah not to go trusting in worldly power by looking to Egypt for a political alliance that will defend them from Assyria. He insists rather that help is only to be found in trusting God and remaining faithful to the covenant. He promises that good days are ahead when Judah is willing to do this. It is in this context that he speaks of the “towers” falling. In short, the “towers” are probably a biblical image of the pride of Assyria falling and of the ruin of Assyria and its destruction by the wrath of God (which eventually did come to pass). Those who wish to identify the Twin Towers with the towers of Assyrian pride (an uncomfortably close match when we contemplate some aspects of western culture) are not exactly backing the winning horse.

This is not to say “We deserved 9/11.” It is, however, a warning against too closely identifying the relative justice of the War on Terror with the mind of God. America, says Chesterton, is a nation with the soul of a Church. We tend to conceive of our wars as Holy Wars and to view as blasphemers as well as traitors those who suggest during wartime that we are not entirely righteous. I favor the war on terror, but I do not flatter myself that our culture stands foursquare for the things of God. I think the West is, on the whole, preferable to what Radical Islam stands for. But once Radical Islam is history, we will have to face a West that is stronger than ever and more able to pursue abortion on demand, fetal harvesting, cloning, the consumerist will to remold God into room temperature paganism, and many other grave evils that are the products of our civilization, not the products of Radical Islam.

It is all too easy to forget that, if Christianity is true, then the whole history of the world makes sense only in light of the progress of the gospel. Radical Islam presents one clear and present menace to the gospel and that must be dealt with. But the dissolute West presents another–and who knows?–perhaps an ultimately greater danger. It would be foolish to mistake the relative rightness of the West’s cause in the war with Radical Islam for the divine kiss of approval on whatever the West henceforth chooses to do. Isaiah was a patriot of Judah. He was also one of Judah’s severest critics when Judah ignored God. Christians must also stand in this peculiar relationship with their country. The United States is ultimately a human creation. It is not the Kingdom of Heaven. It too is subject to the Fall and to the ravages of original sin. Love your country, but don’t place saving faith in it.