For the past several weeks, and especially the past few days, the daily news cycle has been filled with stories and opinions about the American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Last week following the suicide bombing at Kabul airport, President Biden responded to the attack, honoring the slain soldiers by quoting a surprising, and very inappropriate Bible verse.
Here’s the context of the President’s remarks:
“Those who have served through the ages and have drawn inspiration from the Book of Isaiah, when the Lord says: ‘Whom shall I send? Who shall go for us?’ The American military has been answering for a long time. ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me. Here I am, send me.’ Each one of these women and men of our armed forces are the heirs of that tradition of sacrifice, of volunteering to go into harm’s way to risk everything, not for glory, not for profit, but to defend what we love and the people we love.
The Bible text describes Isaiah’s incredible vision of God’s majesty, sitting on His throne, holy, exalted, and awe-inspiring. Isaiah’s initial response was one of humility, contrition, and confession.
“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips; and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Isaiah’s divine mission was to go to a nation of people who in their affluence, prosperity, and pride has forgotten God. To preach to a people whose heart was calloused. Whose ears were dull. And whose eyes were closed.
“Here am I send, send Me,” was the prophet’s ready and willing response to Jehovah’s mission to call Judah to repentance.
Isaiah 6:8 has nothing to do with and no possible application to the United States military, or any other army, fighting wars in foreign countries. There are plenty of Bible verses to pay “honor to whom honor” is due (Romans 13:7), but this isn’t one of them.
Throughout our history, both liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, have been guilty of misusing, misappropriating, or even misquoting Bible verses to combine Christianity with American patriotism to further and justify their political agenda. This practice, observed, Ed Stetzer, professor, and dean at Wheaton College, “is inappropriate at best and blasphemous at worst.”
Stetzer, continued with this observation, in a post by Religious News Service.
A history of bi-partisan attempts to merge God and country can tempt us to play whataboutism with Christian nationalism: “Yes, Biden should not have said this, but what about when Rumsfeld did … or when others did?” This response not only reveals our own political idolatry but severely underestimates the danger of Christian nationalism that transcends party and policy.
Senior writer, Tyler Huckabee for the online Relevant Magazine expressed the problem this way.
There’s nothing new about the conflation of biblical prophecy and American policy in U.S. politics. Elected leaders of both parties are fond of using biblical imagery to baptize their rhetoric with a sheen of spiritual respectability or even divine right. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s OK, and American Christians have been far too willing to let the Bible be used as a political tool.
If any application is made from the ancient prophecy to modern-day Christians, we ought to see the relevancy in four ways:
#1 God is awesome. He rules and reigns today through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
#2 Like Isaiah, we ought to prostrate ourselves in God’s presence and admit our sinfulness, unworthiness, and “unclean lips.”
#3 We, like Judah of old, may be deluded by our prosperity, privilege, and pride. Sadly, our hearts may be hardened to hearing God’s will for us today.
#4 “Here am I send, Me,” ought to be the response of preachers, pastors, and all Christians to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our call is not to an earthly, military mission, but a divine, celestial mission. Our message is not political, but spiritual. And our ministry is not worldly directed, but heavenly focused.
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” is not a call to join the U.S. military, but an invitation to enlist in the Lord’s army and obey the orders of our “Commander-in-Chief.”
Who will answer, “Here am I! Send me.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman