Reflections on Awe: What Have We Learned in 9 Years After 9/11?

Will We Choose “awe” or “shock and Awe”?

A Shofar, or trumpet made of ram’s horn

[Originally published on Associated Content, 10 September 2010]

Religions in various forms have struggled with the issue of evil. In particular, why does evil happen to people who seem good?

9/11, now officially known as Patriot Day, was a defining moment, particularly for Americans everywhere.

Time and chance happen to all (Ecc 9:11; cf Lk 13:1-5). Like those who were killed at the Tower of Siloam in Jesus’ day, those who died in 9/11 weren’t necessarily any more evil than anyone else. However, notice Jesus’ warning, “but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (vv 3, 5). That is just what happened 40 years later when Jerusalem was destroyed.

So, is there a lesson in all of this, or is it all just meaningless and random acts of evil? What are good people to do?

I want to point out some “coincidences” on this ninth anniversary of 9/11.

EW Bullinger

The scholar EW Bullinger believed that 9 is the number for judgment.1 He points out that Hag 1:11 is enumerated in 9 parts.2

And I called for a drought upon the land,
and upon the mountains,
and upon the corn,
and upon the new wine,
and upon the oil,
and upon that which the ground bringeth forth,
and upon men,
and upon cattle,
and upon all the labour of the hands.

Perhaps more striking is what he said in the same chapter, “The number nine is a most remarkable number in many respects. It is held in great reverence …”

Reverence is a form of awe.3

Days of Awe

This year, 9/11 falls between the Jewish high days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These days are commonly called the “Days of Awe”.4

It is the customary time of reflection according to Jewish tradition. During this time, one is supposed to examine oneself and repent of wrongdoing. If possible, penitence should be made. Fasting, giving to charity and prayers all mark this time.

Perhaps this year we should look at the Jewish customs surrounding the Days of Awe and apply them as a nation to 9/11.

We could start with a list of questions:

1. Why did God allow this? Is He trying to tell us something?

2. It is often said that the USA is the most hated nation on earth. Is there something we can and should do to rectify that?

3. Have we learned anything from 9/11? Have we learned the right things?

4. Who determines what the “right” things are?

While these questions only barely scratch the surface, is there any more important question to know the answer to than the last one?

Who Decides?

Adam and Eve took the prerogative that did not belong to them and chose to disobey God. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was probably not some magic tree that somehow made a person ashamed to be naked all of a sudden. Rather, it was likely a mere symbol. It was in the act of choosing to partake of the tree that changed everything. It meant that Adam and Eve no longer looked to God for the answers, but rather they would choose among good and evil and experience the results thereof. It was an experiential knowledge that would be gained from the school of hard knocks.

The results have been with us humans ever since. Look around at the wars, famine and disease epidemics, most which are related to human selfishness and greed.

9/11 should have been our wakeup call. Unfortunately, so many in the US sat up, rubbed their eyes for a moment, then lay back down and went back to sleep.

It should have been a reminder that God is in control, and if we don’t seek Him out first and foremost in our everyday lives, then bad things happen.

Awe or Shock and Awe?

After 9/11 was the resulting invasion of Iraq in 2003. Whether it was a direct result or contrived result is not the point here. A new expression came into being: Shock and Awe.

Think about the contrast. Days of Awe are a time of reflection, perhaps even quiet reflection. Shock and awe is all about loud and brilliant effects. Days of Awe are about self-reflection. Shock and Awe is all about getting someone else’s attention. Days of Awe are about penitence, restitution and restoration of relationships. Shock and Awe are all about fear and dominance.

The Christian who has studied the symbolic meanings of the fall holy days can see where this is going.

Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish festival. It is literally “the head of the year”, or the Jewish New Year. However, it is also a commanded holy day as outlined in Leviticus 23. It is “Zicaron Terua”5, or the “memorial of the blowing of the trumpets”. Those who belong to the Church of God movement know it as the “Feast of Trumpets”.

Why is it significant to Christians? If for no other reason, it is a foreshadowing of the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. When that occurs, at the last trumpet sound in the Book of Revelation, the saints who are dead will be resurrected and those alive on the earth will be changed into spirit beings.6

The “Day of the LORD” was a phrase used by the prophets to describe God’s day of wrath to punish the earth. It is important to realize that this is not the Tribulation. The Tribulation and the Great Tribulation lead up to this time. God is angry because of what human beings are doing to themselves, to others and to the entire earth. It is a time in which He must use “shock and awe” to shake the foundations of what people believe, to force them to submit to Him before they destroy the entire planet.

The seven trumpets herald this time and announce the coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In spite of everything, He will make His appearance and the nations will band together to fight Him (Rev 19:19)! They will bend their knee to the King of the Universe, even if He must break them in order to do it!

Why such a use of force? Because they will be so deceived they will believe they can defeat Him, just as Lucifer once thought (and apparently will again) believe he can ascend up into Heaven itself and defeat God Almighty. The breaking of mankind’s pride will come at a very heavy cost.

Yet, no one has taken away choice. Adam and Eve had a choice. Each of us has a choice. Will we choose to humble ourselves in awe of God, or will we be found among the majority who will have to be humbled in shock and awe of the wrath of God?

Shock and Awe on a Smaller Scale

God has blessed the USA tremendously in its history. However, He will not continue to bless it if we continue to turn our very backs on Him. If you carefully read through the prophecies of the end times, you will notice that any power that could be considered the USA will be visibly absent just prior to Christ’s return. Why? Because apparently we will not have heeded the warning of 9/11. The shock and awe of the US will come sooner than the rest because to whom much is given much is required. God has blessed us, but we have forsaken Him. How long will He allow that to continue?

During the times of OT Israel, God caused many wars and calamities upon the nations of Israel and Judah in order to get them to repent. They did not heed, and eventually they went into captivity by Assyria and then Babylon respectively. Do we really think that mankind is not capable of the atrocities of war in this day and age? Do we really think war is some antiseptic procedure that you view on a video screen? Ask anyone who has been in Iraq or Afghanistan about that!

Eventually, the entire world will be swallowed up with evil on a scale that has not existed since the time of Noah. The shock and awe will not start with Christ’s return, but He will end it.

Meanwhile, it actually is possible to keep the nation alive – if enough desire to repent and turn to God wholeheartedly. This does not mean standing on the Capital steps singing, “God Bless America”, either. It doesn’t mean crying out to God in the bad times and putting Him on a shelf during the good times.

It means change – real change. Not political change – real change. It requires change from within. It requires enough people to say, “I am not God. I must change to suit my Maker.”

It means we have to stop picking fruit from the wrong tree. We need to stop all the social experimentation and turn to the Source of true knowledge – God.

To do otherwise will make 9/11 look like a walk in the park.


1. Bullinger, EW. (1921). Number In Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance. Retrieved from:

2. Ibid.

3. reverence. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved September 10, 2010, from website:

4. Ten Days of Repentance. (n.d.). Retrieved on 10 September 2010 from Wikipedia:

5. Rosh Hashanah. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 September 2010 from Wikipedia:

6. See complete explanation at


  1. The last time 9/11 fell on a Sabbath was 2004. My pastor led a congregational prayer about the anniversary — then gave a sermon on food.

    Today the pastor gave brief recollections of 9/11/01 at the start of announcement time, calling it this generation's "day of infamy." Then he gave a sermon on "The Giving Commandment" (aka the 8th). He only referred 9/11 in passing at the end, quoting Todd Beamer's "Let's roll" in heading for the Feast.

    Am I the only one who considers the lack of 9/11 focus a little odd?

  2. @Richard: The holy days was the topic of the sermon here today. With the fall holy day season already kicked off, I am not that surprised it would overshadow it. It was mentioned at the beginning of the sermon, though, and while the sermonette did not directly mention it, it certainly was indirectly related.

    Looking over my notes, it seems that 2004 had even less of a reference, though. I see one "ground zero" reference. It could be just my note-taking, though.

    It seems that there were other years when it did not fall on a Sabbath that it received more attention. Not sure what to make of that.

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