Why is that many people will spend a lot of money to be warned about a potential danger, but will spend no time or money considering how they need to respond when the warning really comes? More puzzling still is the situation where there is a clear warning of imminent danger that is ignored or denied. The following story describes such a scenario.
It had been advertised as the best fire alarm system that money could buy, and the price of the system had caused Zac and Noella to hesitate. But they had done their homework and had checked the reviews. They had even visited one of the local fire stations and gotten the advice of the fire crew chief: “I have never seen anyone who owned that fire alarm system get lost in a blaze. That system will definitely give you a clear warning that there is a fire! Of course, when you get the warning, you better escape as fast as you can. But when that alarm goes off, you better believe that the building is on fire.”
And so Zac and Noella had plunked down some serious coin for the system and had the system professionally installed and had felt safe and secure. And the years had passed and they had added three children and they had gradually stopped thinking about the danger of a fire. Despite the occasional news story about a tragic house fire that claimed victims, Zac and Noella’s awareness of danger ebbed low. And besides, they still had the best fire alarm system that money could buy.
Then one night, Zac and Noella were rudely awakened out of a sound sleep by the shrill, piercing blare of an alarm. “The best fire alarm system money could buy” had been triggered into action and the message was loud enough to wake the dead. The crew chief’s words had certainly proven true: “That system will definitely give you a clear warning.” Zac stumbled out of bed, then cursed under his breath when he tripped over a stray pillow in the middle of the bedroom floor.
“Zac!” Noella’s voice had an obvious edge of fear as she wrestled to suppress a rising panic. “Zac, we need to go get the kids and get out of here . . . NOW!”
Zac’s reply, however, took Noella by surprise. “No, honey, we do not need to get the kids and get out of here.” His voice betrayed irritation and annoyance.
“What do you mean, Zac?”
“I mean that this is a false alarm. There is no danger and there is no fire. I mean that the so-called ‘best fire alarm system’ has awakened us for nothing. All this warning and shrill alarm is just the result of a short circuit or a malfunction in the system.” By now Zac had found the step ladder and was climbing up with screwdriver in hand. “Man, this thing is loud!” After a couple of minutes work with the screwdriver, Zac had detached the first siren which had been mounted on the ceiling outside their bedroom. Even though detach, however, the alarm continued to blare in Zac’s hands. Finally, after several more deafening minutes, Zac was able to locate his hammer and smash the offending siren on the concrete floor of the garage. The first alarm had succumbed to Zac’s hammer.
Meanwhile, across the street, Roger and Phyllis had been wakened up by Zac and Noella’s fire alarm system and had gone out onto their front lawn. They were worried as they heard their neighbor’s fire alarm continue to wail and as they watched the yellow and orange flames begin to leap into the night sky from their neighbor’s attic. Roger muttered to his wife, “Where are they? Surely they hear the alarm! Why aren’t they coming out?” Then they heard what seemed to be hammer blows and then the volume of the alarm noticeably decreased. “What in the world is going on? And why don’t they get out?”
Zac was encouraged by his victory over the first alarm unit and, with stepladder in hand, he charged up the stairs to dispatch the two remaining units.
Noella called up the stairs after him, “Zac, are you sure this is a false alarm? I think that I smell smoke and the temperature seems to be rising.”
“Trust me, sweetheart, there is no danger. Our house is not going to burn. The alarm is not functioning well, but I will fix this problem.”
All three children were by now in the hall, their sleep having been shattered by the urgent blasts coming from the two fire alarms on the second floor of the house. The oldest child, a boy almost five year’s old, cautiously questioned his crazed father. “Daddy, I think that I smell smoke, too. Maybe there really is a fire in the house. Maybe the building really is on fire.”
“Nonsense. Impossible,” said Zac as the third alarm unit came off the ceiling and into his hands. “We’ll stop this once and for all,” he said, as he ran toward the garage with the two live sirens blaring out at an unmeasurable number of decibels. A series of sharp cracks followed as plastic and metal and battery collapsed under the assault of superior firepower. An eerie silence ensued, but the silence was broken by the sound of flaming wooden trusses and insulation and shingles crashing through the ceiling into the second floor of Zac and Noella’s home.
“Five Perish in House Fire” were the headlines in the brief article in the news. “A family of five died in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Zac and Noella Baker and their three young children were apparently trapped in their home and did not escape the blaze. A neighbor was an eyewitness to the fire and was quoted as saying, ‘It’s tragic, really. Really sad. Their alarm woke us up across the street. We kept watching and waiting for them to come out, but they never did. They seemed to have plenty of warning, they just never got out. Really sad.’
The fire trucks arrived too late to save the home or the Baker family. After getting the flames under control so that they did not spread to other houses, the fire crew chief shook his head and said, ‘Not sure what happened, exactly. Three neighbors were wakened by the Baker’s alarm and they all called 911. Can’t understand why they didn’t take the warning and escape. Really strange . . . and sad.’
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
APPLICATION: As you were reading this story, you may have been saying to yourself, “This is silly. Everyone who receives a warning about a life-threatening danger will heed the warning and will run for the escape. No one would ever despise or ignore such a dire and critically important warning.”
But here is the truth: Virtually every book of the Bible warns the sinner about the coming judgment of God, when the unrighteous will be finally and forever condemned to eternal punishment in hell and the lake of fire, and the righteous will be rewarded with an eternity in heaven. So, even though the Bible gives crystal clear warnings of the coming disaster of the holy judgment of God, the vast majority of men and women never pay the slightest attention to these warnings. Instead, they despise and ignore.
But not only does the Bible warn of the eternal danger confronting every unrighteous man and woman, but every Sunday from pulpits and platforms and podiums in churches all over the globe, every faithful preacher proclaims the same warning to every listening sinner, declaring to them the certainty of God’s terrifying judgment and urging sinners to escape the Judgment by fleeing to Christ for refuge. And still the hearers sit in stoic, bored indifference, unmoved by the alarms blaring in their ears. The building is on fire and they refuse to smell the smoke. The frustrating reality is that most people who hear the gospel are irritated by the noise and, figuratively speaking, seek to smash the sirens on the concrete floor of the garage.
What, then, are we to do as those whose message is often ignored? The answer to this question is unambiguously clear from the Scripture. We are to continue to scatter the seed of the gospel (Matthew 13:3). We are to continue to fish for men (Matthew 4:19). We are to continue to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26). Knowing the fear of the Lord, we are to continue to persuade men (2 Cor. 5:11). On behalf of Christ, we are to continue to beg men and women to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). We are to make disciples until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Our task is plain from the pages of the New Testament: We are the messengers of the gospel, chosen by God and called by God to be witnesses for Christ, “in season and out of season.” “We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” as we commit ourselves to the gospel work. Our task is to proclaim the gospel “in His name to all nations (Luke 24:47; also Mark 16:15),” and then to trust that the Lord “will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” We proclaim so that God will receive all the glory by saving some.
SDG rmb 5/12/2019