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For several years, America has been under what Romans 11:8 calls “a spirit of stupor.” More on that in a minute, but first a story…
You’ve probably heard the old German legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. When the town of Hamelin was suffering from a terrible rat infestation, a charismatic man dressed in multicolored clothing appeared, claiming to have a solution. The desperate townspeople gladly promised to pay him for his services, and the man proceeded to play a musical pipe to lure the rats into a river, where they drowned.
Despite this success, the mayor of the town refused to pay the piper the full amount of money due. The piper angrily left the town, vowing to return and seek revenge.
Sure enough, the piper came back, this time when the townspeople were in church. He played his pipe again, but not to lure away the rats this time. The seductive sound of his music drew away the children of Hamelin out of their town and into a cave, where they were never seen again.
Why has this story endured for so many centuries? Because we’ve all experienced some version of its plot: The guy hired to fix one problem ends up creating other problems that are even worse.
We see this in the Biblical story of the woman who suffered with a hemorrhage for 12 years. We’re told that she “had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:25-34). Notice that this poor woman (1) suffered at the hands of the very ones who were supposedly trying to help her, (2) spent all her money on worthless cures, and (3) ended up getting worse instead of better.
And it’s also crucial to notice that this woman apparently persisted—for 12 long years—in a treatment plan that actually made her situation worse. No doubt, her worthless (or evil) doctors assured her that improvement was right around the corner. “Just stay the course,” they advised her. “We’re surely making progress.”
You see, there are Pied Pipers everywhere. Politicians, financial planners, sports coaches—we’ve all heard the “stay the course” message when it made no logical sense at all.
That brings us back to “the spirit of stupor.” Romans 11:8 says this unfortunate condition came from God Himself, a judgment for people’s idolatry, hardness of heart, and failure to seek His ways. Those overcome by this spirit had “eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear.”
Our English word “stupor” comes from the Latin stupure, meaning “insensible.” Dictionaries define it as “a lack of critical cognitive function, where a sufferer only responds to stimuli such as pain” … “suspension or great diminishing of sensibility, such as the effect of narcotics or intoxicants (e.g., a drunken stupor)” … “mental apathy.”
Just as a person usually needs several drinks to become inebriated, America’s stupor didn’t happen all at once. The Pied Piper spirit began to weave its seductive web decades ago, but its tune surely came to a crescendo with the intoxicating rhetoric and promises of 2008.
If you see this as strictly a matter of party affiliation you’ve completely missed the point. There are Pied Pipers on all sides of the political spectrum. We have to address the spiritual roots of many people’s trancelike political preferences. The stupor is, after all, a “spirit”—something that must ultimately be broken through prayer, fasting, and spiritual warfare.
Have you ever tried to persuade a drunken person to follow any kind of sensible path? Good luck on that. First, the intoxicated person must sober up and come to his senses.
In the same way, God graciously wants to return America to “sobriety” and sensibility. Prayer is a powerful thing, and the curse of spiritual stupor can be broken. But time is running out, and our children’s future depends on it. We must boldly cry out to awaken those still mesmerized by the piper’s seductive spell, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14).