Gunmen on Rooftops (and other indications you’re losing control)

Gunmen on rooftops.

That was the headline this week. Gunmen on rooftops in Libya firing at peaceful protesters.
That’s when you know a country has truly unraveled.

Got me thinking about roofs. We don’t consider them often but they symbolize all that falls under our purview, the height of our power. If a man’s home is his castle, then all that lives under his roof falls under his care and authority.

Parents say it all the time – “As long as you live under MY roof, you’ll do as I say.” Power and authority rest on the roof.

So, I looked at rooftops in the Bible.

In Genesis 19, the men of Sodom come to Lot’s home and bang on his door, insisting that he send out his guests, who are angels, so they can ravage them. Lot resists the mob, insisting these men have come under the protection of his roof.

In Deuteronomy 22, Moses reinforces the responsibility of homeowners when he tells the Israelites their liability extends to the very roofs of their homes, “8 When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” Power and authority come with responsibility.

In Joshua 2, Rahab the prostitute hides Joshua’s spies from the authorities of Jericho up on her roof. Safety resides on a good roof.

In Judges 9, Abimelek meets his death when a woman drops a millstone from the rooftop on him as he attacks her people. They fled to the rooftop of the highest tower and so gained the advantage over their enemy.

King David’s undoing was a walk on the roof of his palace where he spied a woman bathing. Perhaps from the height of our power, we are more likely to be convinced we are above all the rules.

Later on, when David’s son, Absalom, attempted to overthrow his father, he slept with David’s concubines on the roof of the palace, in full view of everyone, in order to establish his coup. (2 Samuel 16) How Shakespearean.

And, it is, indeed, a watchman on the roof who alerts David to the arrival of runners who bring him the news that his son, Absalom, has been killed in the overthrow of David’s enemies. David receives the news on the ground floor. Coincidence? Not so much.

Isaiah, the prophet, in speaking to Jerusalem, makes this proclamation in chapter 22: 1 A prophecy against the Valley of Vision: What troubles you now, that you have all gone up on the roofs, 2 you town so full of commotion, you city of tumult and revelry?” Things are really coming apart when we gather on rooftops.

From the time of the divided kingdom of Israel, there was false worship that happened on rooftops. Zephaniah 1 says: “I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place, the very names of the idolatrous priests— 5 those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molek, 6 those who turn back from following the LORD and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him.” As if all of us, like Absalom, when we rebel against our Father, insist on declaring our independence from the roof.

Ever since the Tower of Babel, humankind has tried to reach the heights of the heavens, not so much to be near God as to be like Him in power and authority. We are still climbing – building skyscrapers and cell towers, sending satellites into orbit and rocketing to the moon. In these ways, we proclaim to ourselves and to God that we are something.

But then, suddenly, there are gunmen on the rooftops.

Snipers send bullets through the hearts of innocent people and the height of our power turns on us like a dragon we raised from a pup only to learn there is no taming a dragon.

On the rooftop are power, authority, strategic advantage, safety, vision, and view. We can climb there to meet with God or we can climb there to challenge Him. The rooftop can provide safety and shelter or it can be loaded with gunmen with perfect aim.

I’m going to keep looking at rooftops in the Bible. In all the headlines out of the Mid-East right now, the recurring theme is “who’s in charge?” And you know what, that’s a recurring theme for God, too.

Who’s in charge of your life? Why are you on your roof? Are you there to meet with God or to challenge Him? Are you seeking to worship the creator of the heavens or announcing your power and authority over the earth below?

I’ll tell you this, if there are gunmen on your roof, you’re not in charge of anything anymore. You’re losing it. The curtain is falling on your reign. It’s time to flee to a non-extradition country.

But apparently, it’s important to ask yourself one question:

Why are you up on the roof?

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