Right after giving his address at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln believed his speech a failure. It is now considered by many the greatest Presidential speech of all time. When Beethoven premiered the 9th Symphony, he believed it poorly received, unable to hear the rousing applause due to deafness. Masterpieces of word and craft are sometimes not recognized by either the author or the audience until the passage of time. A couple of weeks ago, Eric Metaxas delivered what may one day be considered the greatest speech ever given at a National Prayer Breakfast. The National Review has written of Metaxas' address in a remarkable article entitled The President and the Prophet: Obama's Unusual Encounter with Eric Metaxas. After Metaxas delivered a speech for the ages, the President followed with his own speech, amply illustrating with his words Metaxas' mantra that "A dead religion uses the words of God to do the opposite of what God does. It’s grotesque when you think about it. It’s demonic. Keep in mind that when someone says ‘I am a Christian’ it may mean absolutely nothing,”
The Review summarized Metaxas' speech and the President's follow-up address in this manner: "One got the feeling that this was a modern-day, and perhaps more humorous version, of what Old Testament prophets regularly did to Kings of Israel: deliver brutally honest messages from Yahweh with little regard for their personal safety. Only this time, there were no beheadings, only the difficult-to-watch spectacle of seeing a president forced to uncomfortably read a speech which had just been shredded to pieces by a man who couldn’t possibly have known what was coming. And as he did so, the audience in that room likely left with Metaxas’s four-word condemnation, intentional or not, of the 44th United States President ringing in their ears: 'God is not fooled.'"
I have spoken with Eric a couple of times on the phone, mostly in relation to coming to Enid, Oklahoma. I found him as humorous in our personal dialogue as he was on the platform with our President. Humor serves a wonderfully grand purpose: It allows the incredibly sharp words of truth to slip less painfully into the soul. The laughter in the auditorium anesthesized the crowd. What they had just heard, and I'm sure with the passage of time my judgment will be affirmed by many others, was a speech that will go down in history as a masterpiece. I urge you to fast-forward to the 35 minute mark of the embedded video linked here and listen to the introduction of Eric Metaxas, followed by his 30 minute speech. Continue watching the video and listen to the President, who immediately follows Metaxas. The irony and dichotomy of the two speeches juxtaposed against one another is jaw-dropping. Well done, Eric Metaxas. May your tribe of fearless prophets increase.