WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–America is becoming a nation of over-entertained sensualists, James T. Draper Jr. said in urging a seminary chapel audience to be aware of the follies of misplaced celebrations.
Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke as part of LifeWay’s three-day spring conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Preaching March 20 from Isaiah 22, Draper explained that the Judeans had just been delivered from the hands of the Assyrian conqueror Sennacherib. Instead of falling to their knees thanking God or going to the temple to praise God, they celebrated the victory on the rooftops by dancing and partying.
Draper then laid out four follies of the misplaced celebrations in Isaiah 22 that apply to America today in light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
First, the Judeans misjudged the celebration.
“They were on the rooftops dancing and partying and celebrating a deliverance they did not deserve and could not explain,” Draper said. Instead of celebrating, he said, the people of God should have been repenting and turning back to God.
“It’s a timeless truth that God’s people may inappropriately celebrate a divine intervention,” Draper said.
The response of the Judeans in Isaiah 22 parallels the response of Americans following the attacks of Sept. 11, Draper said.
“There was a brief respite from the horror of Sept. 11, but now we’re having a party. People turned out to church that next Sunday after the attacks but the crowds dropped back down, until today we are certainly no better than we were before Sept. 11 and our nation, it seems, is more interested in the stock market than in finding a message of God in the midst of these circumstances.”
Repentance must come before celebration, Draper said, noting that “this nation needs God and we have had an opportunity that we have let slip by us very quickly.”
Second, the Judeans of Isaiah 22 misunderstood the impending danger of foreign nations, Draper said.
Verses 5-7 point out that danger was imminent because the Assyrian conqueror Sennacherib was still a military threat. Isaiah prophesied there would be a day that the danger would return, but the people went about their partying.
In the same way, Draper said he believes America misunderstands the danger of Islam.
“Christianity and Islam cannot coexist,” he said. “A clash between the two is inevitable…. There is a danger in militant Islam.”
Third, the people of Isaiah 22 miscalculated their resources, Draper said.
Verses 8-10 recount that the people recognized that their fortress walls, water supply and weapons were insufficient, yet “they didn’t consider their own hearts,” Draper said.
The people of Isaiah 22 inventoried their own resources and concluded they had been deficient for quite some time but they never called on God to intervene.
“All God’s resources were at their disposal but they never ask him for help,” he said.
Fourth, a misplaced celebration can result in a final condemnation, Draper said.
Verses 12-14 explain that God called for weeping and mourning, but there was joy and gladness. The Judeans, in verse 13, say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
God’s response in verse 14: “Surely, for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, even to your death.”
“If you persist to stay away from God,” Draper said, “you will get to a place you cannot respond to God.”
Urging the seminarians to heed to the solemn warnings of Isaiah 22 and meet intimately with God on a daily basis, Draper said, “I believe in what you are doing here. I believe we ought to study and keep keen minds, but all of that cannot take the place of an intimate relationship with God.
“You must walk with God and have his presence in your life.”
Few preachers want to be prophets and few people want to hear one, Draper concluded. “But will we be God’s spokesman in today’s crisis?”