Publication: Pastoral Letter, August 2011
Dear Friend in Christ,
This month’s letter has an unusual title, but I believe the topic is very relevant and timely for us to consider: How is it that evil strikes unsuspecting people when there are those appointed to guard their safety? That is the issue that Isaiah addresses in Chapter 56:9-12. He calls those watchmen and leaders “dumb dogs that cannot bark,” or will not. Of course, the reference to dogs is metaphorical, but does give us a clue as to God’s attitude toward those that fail to warn against dangerous “beasts”.
Many years again there was song that asked, “How come my dog don’t bark when you come round?” Good question. Dogs are supposed to be a deterrent to thievery and violence, and they usually are. Barking awakens the household and neighborhood. Of course, there are nuisance dogs who bark for little or no reason, but far worse is the dog who does not bark in the face of danger. Such was the case 2700 years ago in Isaiah’s day when Israel faced great dangers, first from Assyria and later from Babylon.
Isaiah’s rebuke to leaders who gave assurances of peace when destruction lay ahead was extremely sharp. He called them ignorant, blind, lovers of sleep, greedy for their own benefit, falsely optimistic, drunks, dumb, sons of harlots, and sons of sorcerers. You could hardly imagine a more vociferous denunciation! Why was he so severe? More importantly, why was God so severe in describing their irresponsible leaders?
To answer that question, one would need a close up look at the ravaging that took place because leaders failed to warn. The devastation of life and property was indescribable. The blood of those destroyed was upon their hands (see Ezekiel 3:16-21; chapter 34). And there was a lot of bloodshed that came upon those caught unaware of the beast. Many, many innocent ones perished (millions).
God appoints leaders and holds them accountable. We respect the “Paul Reveres” of history who warned their constituents and delivered them from danger. Our Lord was foremost in that regard at the cost of crucifixion. We can add to that list of respected leaders, the long honor roll of faithful guardians: the prophets, apostles, and more recent faithful servants of God and the people. Numerous names come to mind such as Luther, Bonhoeffer, Churchill, and others. Given that God honors faithful watchmen, why do some become derelict in duty?
WHY NOT BARK?
Isaiah gives us some reasons why leaders do not warn:
Fear – Those leaders fear the consequence of speaking out. They may fear the beast and do not want to call attention to themselves. Or, they may fear the people who may become agitated at their “barking”. In any case, they “tuck tail” and hide. Having seen the cost of speaking out, they want no part of retribution.
Blindness – Some leaders just do not see the problem. Blinded by naivete, prejudice, or some other condition, they fail to discern good and evil. They may view the beast as reasonable or benign.
Dumb Dogs – These are unable to bark. They are muted in the face of danger, perhaps totally incapable of controversy. They have the position but lack the power to warn. They are just nice people who got the job because they were nice people. Others are blind and dumb due to the hypnosis of tradition. Repetition has left them in a stupor.
Greedy Dogs – These dogs are consumed with the consuming. Their noses are in the trough, perhaps battling the other dogs for more of the spoils of position and power. They do not see the beast who is also ravenously hungry. Isaiah says, “They look to their own way,” unconcerned about those that they should guard with their lives.
Drunken Dogs – Drunk at the post are these dogs. They literally have too much to drink to see and speak clearly. A drunken guard is no guard at all.
Lovers of Sleep – The sleeping watchmen is also extremely dangerous. Recently several cases of sleeping air traffic controllers have been discovered. I wonder their fate if an actual crash had occurred. Metaphorically, societal crashes have occurred and are occurring due to sleeping watchmen.
Optimistic Dogs – There is another category of derelict dogs, the one who believes that tomorrow will be just like today. They believe that good times are a permanent condition, perhaps even an entitlement. They are so positive that negatives do not exist. So they put off preparing for the evil day (see Amos 6:3).
We could add to Isaiah’s list of irresponsible “dogs”: the “over-educated dog”, the “elite dog”, the “busy dog”, the “vengeful dog” … all of which fail to bark because it is beneath their nature or beyond their ability for some reason. Their designations “sons of harlots” or “sons of sorcerers” raise other possibilities. All of the above types leave us to the beasts.
WHO ARE THE BEASTS?
It would be simple enough to say the beast is the devil, but then he seldom arrives looking like himself. The “devil with horns” was probably invented by the devil himself. The scriptures portray him as cunning, beautiful, deceptive, and appearing as anything but himself. He uses people with seeming good ideas and smooth words. It could be Hitler, Marx, or some more contemporary character who initially seems likable or persuasive. The horns only appear later. Whatever the tool, the beast is extremely dangerous.
Good dogs have a sixth sense. They “smell” bad intentions and immediately become protective and proactive. Looking at the situation, we might question their hostility to the stranger, but they are doing their job. We should pay attention. Nietzsche was a beast and so was Darwin; both paved the way for Marx and Hitler. Many dogs still do not recognize those beasts or others that are on the horizon, gazing at our children. Margaret Sanger was a beast, feeding from Darwin and the geneticists of her time. The mother of Planned Parenthood had minorities in mind, to eliminate the “inferior”. Our government funds and feeds that beast whose teeth is stained with the blood of millions of babies.
Of course there are many kinds of devouring beasts; wild evil ones who shoot at innocent people and commit atrocities against the defenseless. But we have trouble with the word “evil”, choosing a more benign response to malignant danger. A danger to children is sometimes treated seriously and even parents can be arrested for “child endangerment”. If parents can be arrested, what about leaders who close their eyes to the beasts who are devouring our children? We all have a role and responsibility to recognize and speak about danger.
Are there serious changes facing our society? And should leaders be “barking”?
I remember the stock market forecasts in 2008; the market would go to 14,000! But within months it went to 7,000. I remember the “buy real estate, get rich” advice. One person had scores of properties when the crash came, then committed suicide. There were others. Am I suggesting pessimism? No, I am suggesting that we can be optimistic only if we deal with the brutal realities, the beasts that threaten us. So what are the dangers?
REALITIES TO FACE
We must face the reality that we a losing so many of our youth to secular culture. Given that God alone can reveal truth, that is the greatest threat to our future.
We must face the reality that our educational system, for the most part, seems unable to teach our youth how to think in depth or abstractly. We need to love God with our minds as well as our hearts. Churches face that reality as well. Our youth are our future.
We must face the reality that many worship the earth or creation, and not the Creator. This year Earth Day fell on Good Friday. In many areas, the Earth Day holiday overshadowed the Crucifixion Holy Day.
We must face the reality that more and more and more Americans are looking to the state for security, and vote then accordingly. By allowing someone else to solve our problems, we become less able to do so ourselves. “Benefits” become addictions, and make us slaves on the government plantation. We must face the reality of the weakening dollar. The dollar is the currency of our culture and tells us the value of our society. Prices are not going up; the dollar is going down, and future obligations will be paid off with extremely cheap dollars. Likewise, we must face the reality of indebtedness to those who do not like us. This is extremely dangerous, but a lot of dogs will not bark.
We must face the reality of a politically correct ideology that equates the values of all cultures and does not acknowledge exceptional values. All religions are now considered equal and equally important.
We must face the reality of the failure to identity the end goals of radical Islam and how the Islamists plan to achieve them. I find this blindness utterly amazing in the light of history.
Am I being “too negative” in my comments above? Some would definitely say yes. But I would ask, were the prophets too negative? Those who despise facing reality probably do not read the prophets . So, was Winston Churchill too negative before World War II? They probably didn’t like him either. But true prophets use the stones thrown at them to build monuments to reality.
I am not pessimistic in that I trust God and His eternal purpose. But I am not so fatalistic as to think that He requires nothing of us. Our hope and optimism must be based upon obedience to Him and dealing with life’s realities.
Good dogs tell us to awake, prepare ourselves, to avoid the devourer, and to take our stand with courage. In prophetic terms, they tell us to repent, put our trust God, and do as He says. They tell us that time is of the essence, to move quickly before it is too late, and to arm ourselves against the present dangers.
After we have done all of that and realize that the “dog” did his job, we say “Good dog! Good dog!” Yes, indeed, thank God for the dog that saved us a lot of pain.
I pray for leadership in the Church, in America, and across the world. May we see leaders who follow the example of true prophets who, at their own peril, told the truth. If that happens, I’ll be truly optimistic. Pray for that.
And please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your giving this month. When you support us, you enable us to declare truth in this generation. We face many ongoing challenges, but our hope is in the Lord. Thank you for your friendship!
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, Ezekiel