They share our foxhole but not our truth
Say what you want about Saul, I like the man. As he was finally closing in on David (Saul's dark obsession) in the Desert of Maon, a messenger came with news that the Philistines were raiding, and Saul broke off his pursuit of David in order to lead as a king should. And when it was confirmed, on that ominous night at the home of the witch of Endor, that the Lord no longer heard his prayers, and had become his enemy, and that on the very next day he would join the souls of the slain in the land of the dead, Saul fought like a man on Mount Gilboa against the Philistine foe.
It was not entirely a public-relations move on David's part when he eulogized the fallen Saul in this lament: "O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, ... For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul.... How the mighty have fallen in battle!" (2 Samuel 1:21, 25).
Fault the Israelites under Joshua from your armchair ease, if you will, for the sin of Achan that saw 3,000 men routed from the battle of Ai, and chased all the way back to Shebarim. What strikes me is their strength and soldierliness; these are the same who had bravely leveled Jericho, destroying in it everything that breathed.
Will you not weep when valiant men are abandoned by their God, even when they themselves are the cause? Purely as a human, will you not have your heart broken by the tragedy of those to whom the prophet says: "O king, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel.... Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy" (2 Chronicles 25:7-8)?
Does America not have courageous men? Did she not once hack a path to freedom on the beaches of Normandy and Inchon to keep the fires of democracy burning? Do I not love my country? Do I not grieve to see her fall from the faith of her fathers?
Is God with America? On a Monday the Taliban seems to be winning and I say no. On a Tuesday the Taliban is losing and I say yes. There will be inches of ground lost and gained till kingdom come. You can choose to read the Bible through the newspapers, or you can read the newspapers through the Bible.
I remember the "old days" (before Sept. 11) when the bad guys were the liberals, and the good guys were other Bible-believing Christians. Now the lines are redrawn in a strange way, with "pro-choice" people (who have no regard for life) locked arm in arm with "pro-life" people against the Taliban (who have no regard for life). Patriotism makes strange bedfellows. (Herod and Pilate, Scripture notes, became friends on the day of Jesus' sentencing.)
I remember the old days when Christians warned about God's impending judgment on a nation of backsliders (meaning their own beloved America)-and now that a disaster has come that would have made any 17th-century Puritan fast, pray, and call for repentance, some say it is treasonous to talk so.
I remember when Christians loved Francis Schaeffer for saying things like, "Our generation needs to be told that man cannot disregard God, that a culture like ours that has had such light and then has deliberately turned away stands under God's judgment" (Death in the City). Such talk is in the last few months unpopular and even anathema within the circle of believers.
Schaeffer also coined the word "cobelligerent," a valuable addition to the lexicology of warfare (and contribution to clarity of thinking), a way to distinguish between the "ally" who shares our vision, and the fellow gun-toter who shares our foxhole but not our truth. Is not "America united" a fiction? Should we not rather say that American followers of Jesus (on whom rests the pleasure of God) wage war against bin Laden side by side with Americans rejecters of Jesus (and on whom His wrath rests)?
In another war, at an earlier time, a man named Jonathan Blanchard (1811-1892), friend of Harriet Beecher Stowe and founder of Wheaton College, made common cause with abolitionists to eradicate the terrorism of slavery. After the war was over, he retired the weapons of civil struggle, and took up the pen to write his fellow abolitionists words to this effect: We have been through so much together, and now, hooray! Slavery is dead ... But now, repent! I am praying for your salvation!
Christians in America: Wield the sword and preach repentance. There is no contradiction. There is no fitter time. King Saul was a man's man. But Jonathan Blanchard, a model for our times, was a man after God's own heart.