ISIS, Evil and the Day of Atonement

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ISIS, Evil and the Day of Atonement

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Evil can only be overcome by force. That’s the hard lesson the United States is learning as it leads another coalition to move into the Middle East to destroy another Hydra-headed monster. ISIS is a manifestation of evil that should teach us a vital lesson about dealing with evil in today’s world.

Despite wishful thinking on the part of President Barack Obama, the threat of Islamic terror from the Middle East has not disappeared. The beheadings of innocent civilians plastered across social media finally moved him to action intended to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. He, who a year ago drew a line in the sand with Syrian President Assad on that dictator’s atrocities, and then retreated. Evil does not respect weakness.

Evil is not appeased. It moves relentlessly toward its goal and will not cease until it consumes and destroys. ISIS is this moment’s face of evil. Shrouded in a black mask, holding a long knife in one hand and the head of a victim in another, the figure stands against the barren desert backdrop.

This is evil today and it strikes terror in the heart of all who love freedom and life. This kind of evil does not respect any life it cannot control according to its own fanatical ideology. In the end it will consume even its own followers.

Airstrikes alone will not do the job. Evil can burrow underground and wait out the bombs from the sky only to emerge afterwards and live to work another day. Experience has proven it will take combat troops to root out and destroy this kind of enemy. Boots on the ground will have to be used.

I have been thinking about this scenario with ISIS in connection with the biblical festival the Day of Atonement. Oct. 4 this year is the observance of this solemn day of fasting and reflection. The Day of Atonement for a Christian teaches two critical facts. The first is that Jesus Christ through His death delivers the means by which humans can be reconciled to God. One sacrifice for all time makes this possible.

Secondly, the Day of Atonement shows us the source of all evil in today’s world: Satan the Devil, who exists as a real being of unimaginable deception and evil. When Christians fast on the Day of Atonement, they are doing the one biblical discipline that can overcome, defeat and destroy evil. Fasting on the Day of Atonement is a Christian’s “boots on the ground” offensive against spiritual wickedness. 

We would like to think we could take a holiday from overcoming sin and the pressures of a world not exactly dialed into the God of the Bible. But we can’t. We have to draw our own line in the sand with this world’s culture and values. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). We cannot appease evil. 

We cannot pretend with wishful thinking we live in a world perfectly tailored to produce peace, security and freedom. We don’t.

Spiritually we are engaged in a struggle “against principalities…powers…rulers of the darkness of this age…spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 5:12). This battle rages daily whether we know it or not. If we don’t see it, it is proof we are victims of the deception Satan has woven upon mankind. Western leaders like President Obama have “wished” away Islamic terror. Recent events show the folly of such actions. Evil of this nature can only be defeated by determined force. 

The Day of Atonement gives us the key to defeat our enemy: Jesus Christ in us giving us the power of God’s Holy Spirit to resist and overcome  sin, evil and Satan’s nature. When we fast we connect to God at a deeper level with this power, and thereby break the hold that Satan can employ on us individually. Fasting humbles us and allows God’s grace to work powerfully in us. Fasting is a means of submitting to God. When we do this we resist Satan and his hold is removed. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6-8).

We are living in dangerous times with daily reminders of a very real spiritual battle going on around us. God’s festivals show us the hope we have as we face these challenges. May the Day of Atonement sharpen our understanding of the great power of God.