The abandoned corpses, in white body bags with number tags tied to each toe, lie one above the other on steel racks inside a giant freezer in Detroit’s central mortuary, like discarded shoes in the back of a wardrobe.
Some have lain here for years, but in recent months the number of unclaimed bodies has reached a record high. For in this city that once symbolised the American Dream many cannot even afford to bury their dead.
Unburied bodies piling up in the city mortuary — it reached 70 earlier this year— is the latest and perhaps most appalling indignity to be heaped on the people of Detroit. The motor city that once boasted the highest median income and home ownership rate in the US is today in the midst of a long and agonising death spiral. [The number seventy symbolizes perfect spiritual order -- or in this case, the exact opposite: perfectly ghastly decay and disorder.]
The word ‘strait’ carries very different connotations from its homologous cousin, ‘straight’ (i.e., not crooked). In Hebrew scripture, it is translated from Strong’s H6887, צרר, and pronounced tsä·rar’, meaning:
to bind, be bound, or make narrow; to cause or suffer distress, to besiege; to tie up or shut up; to be scant or cramped; to show hostility toward, to treat with enmity; to vex, or harass
The word that first shows up in 1st Samuel 13:6 (key to establishing meaning):
When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
If we were to hop from Hebrew directly to an Engligh-French mash-up, the verse might read, “…they were in Detroit… distressed…” In the ESV, with the preceding and following verses (i.e., 1st Sam 13:5-7) it reads:
And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
Israel’s enemies were massing against them from what is now the Gaza strip, the latest land ceded (in 2005) to the so-called Palestinians.
No credible defense was being mounted in King Saul’s time. Israel’s doom seemed imminent. He waited for instructions from the Lord, via the prophet Samuel, but got impatient and decided to make unauthorized offerings to the Lord on his own. Samuel arrived shortly thereafter to tell Saul he shouldn’t have done that, that the Lord was not pleased, and that he should absolutely not go into battle. If he does, Samuel warns, he will lose. Saul does anyway. Israel is badly defeated.
The hiding in caves bit should remind any astute Bible reader and student of end-times prophecy of Revelation, chapter six, in which the Lamb (Christ) is opening the seals. When he opens the sixth, we read (Rev 6:12-17, KJV):
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo , there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together ; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come ; and who shall be able to stand ?
It describes a time (likely soon, IMHO) when the world is in its biggest strait – or in French, its greatest “detroit”.
Last month, the city of Detroit hosted its annual marathon footrace with the motto “You can do this”. It hardly stands out in a culture of me-me-me, where self-esteem and self-centeredness are the measure of everything. Detroit native Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” recommends exactly the opposite to what it’s title might seem to imply: become self-absorbed, he urges… and screw everyone else.
Despite my longstanding enthusiasm for long-distance running, and the many positive, transformational aspects of it, the sport, as generally practiced in the U.S. nowadays, is inherently a selfish endeavor. It has a veneer of fellowship, but of a kind that is fleeting at best compared to the real thing, in Christ.
It shares many characteristics with any other “pride” parade. Look at me!! I did it!! There are exceptions, of course (e.g., U.S. Olympian Ryan Hall who acknowledges quite explicitly, the source of his athletic gift) however most of the non-generic shirts you see at Boston (or any) marathon have the person’s name in big, black, bold letters. Look at meeee!!!! they seem to scream.
As I once did, a large number of people in this country have made physical fitness their fixation; their idolatrous, substitute god. The real one can’t like that. Our bodies are temples, but we must not worship them over the holy which dwells inside. It’s fine to keep them fit (in fact, responsibility for just that is implied in scripture), but like any good thing, it can become a spiritual wasteland at the extremes. Ultimately, one’s investment in it is temporary: it defaults to zero. We all die, even the fittest among us.
The race took place on Sunday morning. Now I’m hardly a paragon of virtue on this point (nor a stickler for Sunday vs. Saturday sabbath as doctrine) but unlike Eric Liddell (portrayed in the film, Chariots of Fire) who stood up to his own (British) monarch, refusing to run for his country and mortal king in the Olympics on a Sunday eighty-five years ago despite what must have been enormous pressure, I doubt that more than a handful ever even considered running a different race on a different day that might not interfere with the conventional day of Christian rest and worship.
Is it common? Of course. Right? Different question.
The marathon’s co-sponsor: Flagstar Bank. Flag. Star. Is that not clearly symbolic of the USA? This was the headline, ten months prior…
Dec 31, 2008 (Detroit Free Press…) — Flagstar Bancorp. Inc. (FBC) said today that it has received preliminary approval to obtain $266 million from the federal government’s $700 billion bailout program for the nation’s banks.
The interesting part of this story is that in November of 2008, one month prior to seeking approval for tax payer funds, Flagstar enacted a moratorium on new business loans. The ban was so strict that it even included existing customers. Flagstar will not extend business loans and there is no anticipated date when the new loan moratorum [sic] will end…
Is this an outrage that a bank could seek taxpayer money under the premise of increasing lending to revitalize the economy while eliminating new business loans at the same time?
The story takes another twist when you consider that within two months a group of investors purchased a majority interest in Flagstar Bank shares. In effect, our government used tax payer money to subsidize Flagstar Bank while private investors moved in to scoop up the shares at approximately a 90% discount. Who the the TARP money really benefit here? Certainly not taxpayers! Did we subsidize wealthy investors?
During the race, three men died. For even one person to die in a marathon is unusual, though hardly unheard-of. Three is highly unusual. Three in the space of just a few minutes is extraordinary… unprecedented… bizarre. The event thus made national headlines. This piece in USA Today provides a simple overview and chronology:
The men — Daniel Langdon, 36, of Laingsburg; Rick Brown, 65, of Marietta, Ohio, and Jon Fenlon, 26, of Waterford— died within a 16-minute span during the marathon in downtown Detroit.
Langdon collapsed on Michigan Avenue between the 11- and 12-mile markers at 9:02 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, Brown collapsed near the same spot.
The youngest victim, Fenlon, collapsed at 9:18 a.m. just after finishing the half-marathon in 1:53:37.
One might think that older people are more likely to die in marathons, but this is not the case. Most who die are in their 40′s and 50′s. For someone over sixty or under thirty to die in such a race is unusual. To have two outside the typical range die in the same race only adds to the already-high odds against this series of events. In short, both young and old died.
I’m reminded of Jeremiah 51, verses 4 & 22, in which the prophet says:
They shall fall down… in her streets… I break in pieces the old man and the youth…
Lest that seem a wild tangent, Jeremiah 51 is probably the very book from which Daniel drew the prophetic insight that gave rise to Chapter nine and verse two (see below). It’s headline subject is “The Utter Destruction of Babylon.” With this audience, I hope I don’t have to expand any further on the potential parallels between that and Babylon/America.
And lest anyone think that Daniel’s prophecy is past, note that ancient Babylon was never destroyed, only conquered. The “utter destruction” speaks of a time yet-to-come. Consider also Lamentations 2:21 –
In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old…
Like the bank that sponsored the race, Detroit is highly symbolic of America’s decline and corruption, in multiple dimensions. It’s economic plunge from greatness is well-known. As of Friday, November 20th, Michigan had the highest official unemployment rate in the nation, at 15.1%. [The actual rate, nationally, is even higher than that.]
Detroit and its environs are a locus of social and racial strife and urban decay — an extended hangover from the 1970s riots. It has become a haven for desperation, giving rise to foul-mouthed media self-aggrandizement (e.g., Eminem). The woes of nearby Flint launched the career of self-styled cultural commentator, Michael Moore.
The Detroit metro area is also home to one of the largest concentrations of muslims in the U.S., (Dearborn, MI) and the site of some of the earliest islamic immigration to the U.S., all marking another axis of decline: a retreat from our Judeo-Christian roots towards a religion that lauds deception.
With all due reverence for the grief and shock that these men’s families must be experiencing, I find it potentially noteworthy that the first runner to die, Daniel Langdon, was celebrating his 36th birthday, as his wife notes here. In Biblical terms, six is a number of incompleteness, corruption, perversion and enmity towards God. It’s square, therefore, even more so. (Please note that I do not, in any way, mean to imply or ascribe such things to the late Mr. Langdon himself.)
Daniel Langdon collapsed at 9:02AM and presumably died a minute later. It’s essentially the same time that the first plane hit the twin towers on 9-11-01 (9:02 vs. 9:03). In the Book of Daniel, chapter 9, verses 2-3, we read:
…in the first year of his [King Darius'] reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
It’s one of the most pivotal prophetic realizations in all of scripture — prelude to the most pivotal prophetic chapter in all of scripture. (In addition to having been referenced by Jesus himself in Matthew 24:15 as the place to look for end-times insight, especially as regards the abomination of desolation; it’s also the most thoroughly validated book in all of scripture.
Daniel’s humble of repentance for the sins that brought his people into captivity in the first place is so instinctive, honest, heartfelt and intense that he gets interrupted by the Angel Gabriel, bringing prophetic word of the “seventy weeks” prophecy that every end-times aficionado and Christologist is (or should be) intimately familiar with.
I find it notable that Gabriel’s visit to Daniel occurs in the first year of the reign of a foreign (Median/Persian) king (ruling the Chaldeans in Babylon) just as we are in the first year of a very different (foreign) kind of reign by a man (who may also be a foreigner by birth), over the modern Babylon that is America.
This is one of a small handful of footraces that crosses an international border, as this pdf map notes, with four of the 13.1 miles run in Canada. All three runners died just a few miles after re-entering U.S. territory. Prophetic significance? Not clear, but it brings to mind the 1999 Port Angeles, Washington interception of would-be terrorist Ahmed Ressam attempting to infiltrate on a false Canadian passport with 100+ pounds of high explosives in the trunk of his car: in hindsight, one of the more significant (and fortunate) early-warning signals of what was to come. As this obscure but recent article notes, Canada (along with Mexico) remains a potential weak-spot in our terrorism defense.
The last runner to die was named Jon (no ‘h’, just as Abram prior to having his name changed and being dedicated to God lacked an ‘ah’). He was also the youngest and the only one to finish the race (a half marathon).
John the Apostle was the youngest among Jesus’ crew of initial eyewitness disciples… and the last to die. (The marathon is a quintessentially Greek event; John wrote most if not all of his masterful scriptures in exile on the Greek island of Patmos). Recall also that, in the 2009 Detroit marathon three died within sixteen minutes. Three. Sixteen. You with me?
John 3:16 is super-familiar to any spectator of a major American sporting event.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…”
1st John 3:16 (also written by the Apostle John) may be even more apropos:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
If there is prophetic meaning to be found in any of this — perhaps a stern final warning to America to repent and take John 3:16 seriously (I can think of no other prophetic/ symbolic meaning that fits all these clues) — then this Jon did not die in vain, any more than did the other runners… or John the Apostle… or Christ.
Is there a specific symbolic message to be discerned in this strange and highly unlikely sequence of events? I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t suspect that there was, though I’m going to be very cautious about the timing other than to say: soon.
One of the three who died made it to the finish line (of the half marathon). Two thirds died close to the end, during the period of highest intensity. Could this relate to a judgment on America? On America’s role (or dissolution) in end-times prophecy? To the time of Jacob’s trouble (aka, the second Holocaust, aka the Tribulation) during which it is prophesied that two-thirds of the Jews will die? To the Harpazo and/or the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel?
I don’t know.
What I feel confident in identifying is the block of prophetic time we now inhabit: the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel.
I and other observers believe that the 70th week of Daniel began with one of the events surrounding BHO’s election. Not everyone agrees on which one, or who the antichrist is, but time will reveal that. Despite having identified BHO as the antichrist back in July, I maintain an open mind as to exactly who is who. He’s at least a major player. In the meantime, watch Al Gore closely. Much more to come on him in subsequent posts.
Ron Reese confidently marks the date of the start of the 70th week as October 29th, 2008, when BHO ran a half-hour prime-time advertisement/speech that very likely sealed up his election the following week. Ron sees that as the half-hour silence in heaven and the critical “covenant with the many” of Daniel 9:27. I would not argue with him, though evidence for January 20th, 2009 is also significant.
Either way, it seems clear that the block of time we now inhabit is the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel, prior to the antichrist’s full, bold revelation of himself to everyone and his inhabitation by satan. In street parlance: when the poo hits the fan.
(Just as Judas allowed himself to become inhabited in stages — see John 13:2, 11, 27 — it seems likely that whomever it is has free choice up until that point.)
UPDATE I: I had not read Joseph Herrin’s meaty last post (before going “off-net”) when I wrote the above. In it, he makes ample reference to running as a metaphor for following Christ. Highly recommended (as is all of his wise, thoughtful stuff).
UPDATE II: I am made aware of a theory (three raptures, outlined by JRed: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI) that may or may not be valid and (if so) may or may not relate to the events chronicled here. But there seem to be some parallels…