Reflection by Dr. Abidan Shah

REFLECTION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: This weekend, it has been 20 years since September 11, 2001. Anytime people talk about what took place on that day, they always add where they were that morning – “I was on my way to work and the radio was on,” or “I was getting breakfast at a restaurant and the TV was on,” or “I was asleep and my family/friend called me and told me to turn the TV on,” and on and on. How many of you remember what you were doing that morning? Personally, it was a busy morning in our home. My dad was visiting with us. In fact, he was preaching revival meetings at our church in Henderson, which was in a different location at that time. Nicole’s mom had also come to help us. Nicole had just returned from taking Rebecca to school. My dad was watching the news on TV and there was something about a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. We didn’t think much of it until 17 minutes later another plane hit the South Tower. Then the most chilling words that I’ve ever heard came from the TV announcer – “Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe we are under attack. America is under attack.” I also remember my dad saying, “That is the work of Bin Ladin.” I had never heard that name before, none of us had, but it didn’t stop there. At 9:37 am, a third plane hit the West Side of the Pentagon, where our very own David and Evelyn Woodson were working. They narrowly escaped. Finally, about 10:03 am, Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvnia. It was probably targeted towards the White House or the Capitol Building. Through the heroic efforts of the passengers, the plan of the hijackers was foiled. Altogether, about 2,977 people died, among them were 340 firefighters and 72 police officers. Thousands were injured and billions of dollars were lost in damages. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in history. The attack was on much more than life and property. It was on our American way of life, a life that our founding fathers envisioned, and many gave their lives for it. Before I preach this message titled “REFLECTION,” let’s stand together for a moment of silence.

Micah 4:4 “But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

Context: This verse was a very important verse in the founding of these United States. In fact, it contains the ideals that make us a great nation, and the solution to how to get them back. Before we see why that is, we need to understand its original context. Micah was a prophet of the southern kingdom of Judah who lived around the same time (740 BC – 690 BC) as Isaiah. Although he primarily preached to the southern kingdom, he also prophesied to the northern kingdom. In particular, he addressed the royal cities of Samaria (north) and Jerusalem (south). The problem was on two fronts: moral decadence inside and military invasion outside. Spiritually, it was very bad in the north, but the south was not too far behind. Some prophets were promising that God was going to come through and everything will be fine, but they were false prophets (Micah 1:3-7). Micah warned the people that God’s judgement was on the way. He told the southern kingdom not to try to build an alliance with Assyria. The Assyrian army under Tiglath Pileser was going to march south against Israel in the north. Once they were done destroying them, they were going to come after the south. Just as prophesied by Micah and others, the Assyrians came down Israel’s coastal plain into Philistia and one by one captured every city along with way, starting with Damascus in Syria and then Galilee. Then, he died, and people thought that it will be all good, but his son, Shalmaneser, came to power. He put down the rebellion and deported the people of the north into exile (722 BC). This was the Assyrian Exile. Now, the remaining southern kingdom tried to make a deal with Egypt and then with Babylon, even though God had warned them not to go here nor there but turn to him. After Shalmaneser came Sargon and after Sargon came Sennacherib. He was ruthless. He laid siege to 46 strong cities and countless villages along the path. In fact, in a place called Lachish, archaeologist found a huge pit where the Assyrians dumped some 1500 bodies, throwing pig bones and trash on them and covering it up. Next, he turned towards Jerusalem and had Hezekiah hemmed in as a “bird in a cage.” He bragged about it on his prism which is now in the British museum. Jerusalem was overrun with refugees and had become about 3-4 times its size. Micah 2:12 “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.”

Application: Can you imagine what the south, especially Jerusalem, must have been like? Can you imagine how the people must have felt? Can you imagine how they must have looked back to the glory days of David and Solomon? Can you see the parallels?

Then, King Hezekiah repented. Listen to his prayer – 2 Kings 19      15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.” Listen to God’s answer – 2 Kings 19      32 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, Nor shoot an arrow there,Nor come before it with shield, Nor build a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the LORD. 34“For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ” 35And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.” His own sons killed him as he was worshipping in the temple of Nisroch, his god. According to Herodotus (Greek historian from the 5th century BC), Pharaoh Sethos of Egypt had a dream that a deity was going to fight Sennacherib and that night an army of field mice got into the Assyrian camp and destroyed their weapons. More than likely, this was the bubonic plague.

Application: With all the craziness happening in our country and our world, are we stopping to ask what is God trying to tell us? Could it be that God is bringing us to a point where we are like a “bird in a cage?” Are we going to repent like Hezekiah?

When we truly repent, then God gives us a message of hope. After there was repentance, God gave Micah a vision of the New Jerusalem. Micah 4        1 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. 2 Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. 4 But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, And no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

The Vine and the Fig Tree – It is found 2 other times in the Old Testament. First one is the past glory under Solomon in 1 Kings 4:25 “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.”Second one is like Micah about the future New Jerusalem in Zechariah 3:10 In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, “Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’ ” These two things (Vine and Fig Tree) were symbols of life, vitality, and fertility (Daniel Dreisbach). They both take years of patience and cultivation. They are symbols of peace and security.

Micah 4:4 was George Washington’s favorite Bible verse. He quoted it as much as 50 times, especially in the last half of his life. People often question his faith because he did not say much in public about Jesus Christ. Most of the time, he used vague terms like Providence (270 times), The Governor of the Universe, Higher Cause, Great Ruler of Events, All Wise Creator, The Great Spirit, and the Supreme Dispenser of all Good (Thomas Fea). Sometimes, clergy would try to pin him down, but he would always wiggle his way out. Hence, some claim that he was a deist or a 17th century Anglican or a Latitudinarian. What is the truth? Washington was a very wise man. He was operating from a Christian perspective and there were many Christians denominations at that time. He wanted to make sure that all of us would have the freedom to exercise the faith according to our conscience. In his personal letters and church involvement, you find out that he was a very religious person who knew Jesus Christ as his Savior. What is the connection to Micah 4:4? He knew the peril that we were in as a newly formed nation. He knew that without God we were doomed. His hope was to help create a nation that would exemplify what the New Jerusalem would look like one day (from Lillbach):

  • To Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788: “…every one (under his own vine and fig-tree) shall begin to taste the fruits of freedom…”
  • To the Hebrew congregation of Newport, August 17, 1790: “…every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
  • To Landon Carter, October 17, 1796: “…in the shades of Mount Vernon under my Vine and Fig Tree; where at all times I should be glad to see you.”
  • Doctor James Anderson, April 7, 1797: “I am once more seated under my own Vine and Fig tree, and hope to spend the remainder of my days…”
  • To the Secretary of the Treasury, May 15, 1797: “…if ever this happens it must be under my own Vine and Fig tree as I do not think it probable that I shall go beyond the radius of 20 miles from them.”
  • To John Quincy Adams, June 25, 1797: “I am now, as you supposed the case would be when you then wrote, seated under my Vine and Fig-tree; where, while I am permitted to enjoy the shade of it, my vows [i.e. prayers] will be continually offered for the welfare and prosperity of our country…”
  • To the Earl of Buchan, July 4, 1797: “…as my glass is nearly run, I shall endeavor in the shade of my Vine and Fig tree…”

His “vine and fig tree” was his ancestral home, Mount Vernon. He had to go away from it for extended periods of time, but he loved coming home. Before and after office, they constantly had guests over. It was rare not to have guests and even strangers at their dinner table. It was his refuge. It brought him happiness. This is what he wanted for everyone who came to this land and was willing to work for it. His “vine and fig tree” represented 3 things that the founding fathers believed represented America (from Dreisbach):

  1. Freedom from Want
  2. Freedom from Fear

How about the slaves that he had? Yes, we cannot ignore that question or bulldoze it, especially in today’s culture. When Lafayette asked him about abolishing slavery, Washington was concerned about the Union. Also, when the Quakers wanted to do the same, he knew it would tear up the Union. He made his statement by his own example. He freed all 123 of his slaves when he died.

Today, we will be taking up on offering for the refugees that are here. They are the Afghan families that were working with our troops and had to flee when Taliban took over. The Raleigh Baptist Association contacted us for help, and we are. What if there are some bad people? If they take God’s money and use it for evil, God will retrieve it. We will do our part as Americans. That’s what makes us different.

  1. Freedom of Religion

John 8      34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Invitation: Has there been repentance in your life? Are you truly free? Are you ready for the New Jerusalem? Are you praying for our nation today?

Under God by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God

UNDER GOD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Lately, I’ve heard a lot of “I can’t believe what’s happening in our country” and “We need a lot of prayers as a nation.” I agree—It is sad what’s happening in our nation and we do need a lot of prayers. But, sometimes, I also hear things like “America is a horrible nation” and “Other nations are so much better than us in this or that.” Once in a while, a Hollywood actor will also claim that he/she is leaving America. I want to ask them “How soon can you make that happen!” To be honest, most of these people won’t last 5 minutes out there! And, I’m not talking about living in some gated resort or on a movie set. Here’s my point: America is not a perfect nation. It has its faults. Having said that, I still believe that it is the greatest nation on earth. The secret of our success in the face of some incredible odds is that we were built on the foundation of “One Nation Under God.” It is up to us, the church, to fix our faults by God’s help and continue to be that “One Nation Under God.” That’s the title of our message today—UNDER GOD—from Psalm 33:12. Let’s turn there. By the way, this is part 1.

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” This verse is often invoked as the source of our Christian or godly heritage in America. It’s essence can be found in some very important places. First, it can be seen on our nation’s monuments, like the capstone on the Washington Monument has the words “Laus Deo,” which is Latin for “Praise be to God.” In the Capital Building, over the east doorway of the Senate Chamber are the words “Annuit coeptis,” which is Latin for “God has favored our undertakings.” The same statement is also found on the Great Seal of the United States. Then, the slogan “In God We Trust” is found over the south entrance of the Senate Chamber, in the House Chamber (Behind the President in the State of the Union address), and on our money. Then, our Pledge of Allegiance also carries the phrase “One Nation Under God.” All these examples show that Psalm 33:12 is a very important scripture for us as Christians in America. Even if the verse is not quoted, the idea is everywhere.

Personal Testimony: Having grown up in a country that was not built on this verse, I can attest that this nation is unlike any nation on the face of this planet.

Context: Before we start studying this verse to see how it applies to us as a nation today with all that’s going on, we need to back up and notice that this psalm does not have a title or a superscription like the other psalms around it. In other words, we don’t know for sure who wrote this psalm or why it was written. But, there is some evidence from early manuscripts from Qumran that this was probably a psalm of David. Then, why was this description omitted in the other manuscripts? Maybe, it was because Psalm 33 was seen as a continuation of Psalm 32. It was understood that they were connected. To understand that we need to notice the similarities between the last verse of Psalm 32 and the first verse ofPsalm 33. Listen carefully to Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Now, listen carefully to how the very next psalm begins—Psalm 33:1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” Did you hear the similarities? In fact, in the Hebrew, the same exact word “ranen” is used for “shouting for joy,” “tsedek” for righteous, and “yasher” for upright.

What does all this mean for us? Before we can start talking about “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” in Psalm 33 we need to make sure we are in line with what Psalm 32 has to say. What is Psalm 32 saying? A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.”Meaning: David, the man after God’s own heart, has written these words. 1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Before we can talk about being blessed as a nation, we need to talk about the blessing of being forgiven. 2 “Blessed isthe man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”In just these 2 verses, three different words are used to designate evil: “Pesha” = rebellion against God; “Chatah” = sin, turning away from the true path; “Hawon” = distortion, absence of respect for God’s will. What is needed? Confession and Repentance. What happens if this is not done? 3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.” In recent days, we are seeing a lot of people talking and screaming, but we are not saying what needs to be said. What needs to come out of our mouths are words of repentance! 4 “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Can you feel the heaviness of sin?

Now begins his Confession and Repentance. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him.”Notice: The command to pray is to the godly, the righteous. Maybe, the reference here is to Noah’s flood. If so, then we are to stand in the gap for others. We are to pray in confession and repentance for our collective sins:

  • removing prayer and Word of God from our schools;
  • legalizing abortion, the killing of unborn children;
  • redefining human sexuality, marriage, and family;
  • glorifying sex and violence through entertainment;
  • living self-centered and complacent lives;
  • embracing any and every view that is sent our way without checking with the Word of God.

We are facing the consequences of decades of these decisions.

Will we be okay? 7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Like Dad guiding me in how I should be at the dinner table with special guests.

9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” It seems like we went from one pandemic to another, from a physical to a cultural pandemic. Could it be that God is using this time to harness and draw his people to himself? Are we being mule-headed and stubborn? 10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.” When proper confession and repentance happens, then comes verse 11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The problem with us is that we want verse 11 without going through verses 1-10.

Question: Have your transgressions been forgiven? Have your sins been covered? Have you truly asked God what he is doing in your life and our nation through these pandemics?

Having gone through Psalm 32, we can now begin Psalm 33     1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4 For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; (tsedek and mishpath) The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Next week we will look in detail on how the founding of our nation was based on the values that come from this book.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you forgiven? Have you repented of your sins? Are you praying for healing in our nation?

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

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