Today’s Scripture: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalm 57:1)
Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, started off to be a beautiful morning. I can still remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was twelve years ago. The sun was shining and the skies were clear blue. There was a gentle breeze blowing. In New York and in Washington, and everywhere else, parents were getting their children to school. Workers were getting a cup of coffee and beginning the activities of the workday. In Boston and Newark and Washington and Dallas, people were boarding planes. Some were on business trips. Others were on vacation trips, or maybe trips to visit family. Barbara Olson, a well-known political commentator for Fox News and CNN, had finished breakfast with her husband, Ted, and was getting ready to go to Los Angeles. At the same time, a family of four was getting ready for a vacation. They were going to Australia together. Three school children and three of their teachers were on their way to Santa Barbara to attend a special conference. Their parents were so proud and so happy for them. Little did any of them realize that Tuesday, September 11, 2001, would be their last day. Little did we realize in America that in a matter of minutes, life as we know it would forever change.
At exactly 7:59am, American Flight 11 departed from Boston, scheduled to go to Los Angeles. Shortly after takeoff, the plane was hi-jacked. At 8:45am it crashed into the face of the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, 110 stories high, striking the building at about 20 stories below the top. At 8:14am, United Flight 175 departed from Boston, bound for Los Angeles. At 9:03am it streaked like a rocket into the south tower and a ball of fire blew out the other side. The people in the towers felt the impact, heard the explosion, and knew that something was dreadfully wrong. Cell phones began to be used. People began to desperately trying to get out of the towers. Some made it. However, many more did not make it. Shortly thereafter, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed into a ten-story pile of dust and debris. At 9:40am, American Flight 77 left Dulles Airport bound for Los Angeles. Minutes later it was reported that the plane was running full throttle toward the White House. At the last minute, it turned and crashed into the west wing of the Pentagon. At 10:37am, United Flight 93, scheduled to go to San Francisco, evidently had serious problems and at 10:37am it crashed in a field near the city of Pittsburgh. It is believed that its intended target was the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. It was later discovered that Todd Beamer and several other heroic passengers fought with the terrorists on board while the plane went down. There was also on board a man named Jeremy Glick, age 31. He called his wife, Elisabeth, and told her that they had been hijacked and that a group of them had a plan. They were going to resist the hijackers, aware of the fact that he would lose his own life in the attempt. His final words to her were, “I hope you have a good life and take good care of our three-month-old daughter.”
On that September 11, America’s sense of security was lost. As has been stated numerous times in the days since, America, as we have known it, will never be the same again. There was tragedy everywhere as some 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks. Yet out of the midst of tragedy, there are stories of heroism. We think about the noble policemen and the firemen in New York City who immediately rushed to begin rescue operations and several hundred of them lost their lives. One of the firemen, when asked about their courage to go into the buildings, said, “Firemen don’t run out of buildings; firemen run into buildings.” You and I ought to thank God for our heroes who serve us in public places like our firemen and our policemen. We ought to thank God for these noble, brave individuals, who risk their lives every day for our safety.
On September 11, 2001, the American people were horrified. We ran the spectrum of emotions during the days and weeks that followed. At first, we were stunned, then there was disbelief, then there was horror, then there was grief, then there was depression, then there was anger—a real range of emotions. And even though we are twelve years removed from that day, those images still haunt us as we see them replayed on our television screens. It ought to remind us that we are in one of three circumstances all of the time. We are either coming out of the storm, or we are in a storm, or we are headed into a storm. That’s the way life is lived. When one crisis passes, it won’t be long until you find yourself in the midst of another one. For that reason, one of the best places to go in God’s Word in a time of need is to the book of Psalms. The book of Psalms is the Hebrew hymnbook, and many of them were written in times of crisis as expressions of worship. As the psalmists were going through some times of crisis, the Lord would give them a song, and we have them preserved here in God’s Word. There is something very interesting about the psalms. Regardless of what the circumstances may be and how serious or severe the situation might be, before the psalm was over the psalmist has moved from the circumstance through prayer and he ends up praising the Lord. Such is the case with Psalm 57. You will notice that the caption above the first verse reads something like this: “To the chief musician, a psalm of David when he fled from Saul in the cave.” Thus, it was a time of severe trial in his life. But in verse 1, the Bible says that he takes his case before the Lord and cries out for mercy.
There are several truths that stand out from Psalm 57:1 that will help us on this anniversary of 9/11. First, we see David’s request. He says, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!” He knew that God was a God of mercy and grace and that His grace as sufficient for His every need. Second, we see David’s reliance. He says, “For my soul trusts in You.” His hope was not in his financial stability. His hope was not in his own personal strength. His hope was not in his fellow man. His hope and confidence was in the Lord. Third, we see David’s refuge. He says, “And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” Like a mother hen takes her chicks under the protection of her wings, so also does the Lord protect His own. Our God is our refuge from the storm. No storm is bigger than He is. No terrorist attack ever gets the best of Him. The good news is that the Lord is our refuge “until these calamities have passed by.” Though the storm is fierce, it will also pass. That’s good news if you are currently in a place of struggle in your life.
Join me today in praying for our nation. I still love my country, and I believe that this is the best place on earth to live. But our nation is desperately in need of a spiritual awakening. Yes, the days are dark. Sin abounds. But never has there been a better opportunity for the light of the gospel to shine through God’s people. Many people are looking for answers, and the only place they can find answers is the cross of Jesus.