The Mighty are Falling

by | Jan 22, 2012

Joseph Herrin (1-22-2012)

Lamentations 5:16
The crown has fallen from our head;
Woe to us, for we have sinned!

The news of this day is reporting that Joe Paterno, longtime head football coach for Penn State University, has died. He was 85 years old.

Joseph Vincent Paterno

My attention was drawn to the life of this man a couple months ago when a string of remarkable and unusual events occurred. The first news item reported that Joe Paterno had won his 409th game as head coach of a Division I college football team. This put him in sole possession of first place, having the most wins of any coach in this category. He was at the pinnacle. He stood head and shoulders above all others.

This would have been a noteworthy milestone, yet it was what occurred next that arrested my attention. Having reached the zenith as college football’s most winning coach, Joe Paterno would not be allowed to savor his success. He would not coach even one more game, though the season was not over. A scandal erupted around one of Joe Paterno’s former assistant coaches who had been sexually molesting young boys. It was reported that Joe Paterno knew about the allegations, but fell short in his response. Public outcry was swift and very vocal. Joe Paterno was fired from his position. He had been head coach at Penn State for 44 years (44 is 22 x 2, signifying cutting off wickedness, and a double portion of flesh cutting).

The timing of events interests me greatly. Why did this scandal emerge at this precise moment? The allegations were years old. The man at the center of the scandal, Jerry Sandusky, had not coached at Penn State for nearly a decade. The Bible tells us, “The mind of man plans his way, but Yahweh orders his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

On October 29th, 2011 Joe Paterno won his 409th game. On November 5th Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on forty counts, being accused of abusing eight young boys over a fifteen year period. Joe Paterno held a news conference and said he would retire at the end of the football season which was about a month away. Outcry was such that the University acted quickly and forcefully. Rather than allowing Joe Paterno to finish the season, they fired him immediately. He had been with the University for 62 years.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of King David’s counsel to his son Solomon just before David died. David gave commandment to Solomon regarding two men who had acted very wickedly in their lives.

I Kings 2:5-9
“Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet. So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace…  Behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by Yahweh, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood.”

David deemed it to be unfitting for wicked men to end their lives at ease and in peace. I do not doubt that David had the mind of God in this matter, though there have been many wicked men who have appeared to die at ease and in the midst of their prosperity. Yet, for these ones, God chose a different fate.

As with other blogs I have written that have reported on individual’s lives, it is not the person in the story that is of greatest concern. Rather, it is what is being spoken through their lives. God sets up men as signs to others on the earth. He speaks through many means, and in various ways. Those who have eyes to see will ponder and seek instruction through what they observe.

Joe Paterno is a symbol of both men and nations that have attained to great heights, yet their lives have been unworthy of the honor and success they have received. Joe Paterno was idolized by Penn State football fans. A statue of the man was erected on campus while he was still living (is this not what an idol is).

Joe Paterno Statue

Paterno’s success in winning games endeared him to the legions of fanatical supporters of their college and its teams. This idolization of the man was not renounced by Joe Paterno. He accepted the multitude of accolades that came his way. Perhaps it is also a parable that he spoke the following words during an interview in 2006 as he was being questioned about his insensitivity to the sexual abuse of women by football players.

“Most people know me. I am what I am,” Paterno told

The highlighted words above should trigger a memory in those who are familiar with the Bible. When Moses met God at the burning bush, he asked God what name he should be known by.

Exodus 3:13-15
Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Had not Joe Paterno become like a god to many people? Was not he elevated even in his own mind? Joe Paterno’s success was not met with a corresponding humility. He did not acknowledge that it was God that had given him success. He took the credit to himself. He accepted the idolatrous worship of his fans. He became insensitive to his own personal failings, and those of his players and staff. The Jerry Sandusky affair was not an aberration.

In 1995, Paterno was forced to apologize for a profanity-laced tirade directed at Rutgers then-head coach Doug Graber at the conclusion of a nationally televised game. He was also accused of “making light of sexual assault” in 2006 by the National Organization for Women which called for his resignation, and was involved in a road rage incident in 2007…

In 2008, due to a litany of football players’ off-the-field legal problems, including 46 Penn State football players having faced 163 criminal charges according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports dating to 2002, ESPN questioned Joe Paterno’s and the university’s control over the Penn State football program by producing and airing an ESPN’s Outside the Lines feature covering the subject. Paterno was criticized for his response dismissing the allegations as a “witch hunt,” and chiding reporters for asking about problems.

His hubris was further revealed when he dismissed criticism that he was overpaid during a time when budgets were tight and many people were struggling to make ends meet. He sought to keep his compensation secret, but when it was finally revealed he responded pridefully, rather than humbly.

After five years of court battles, the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) revealed Paterno’s salary in November 2007: $512,664. He was paid $490,638 in 2006. The figure was not inclusive of other compensation, such as money from television and apparel contracts as well as other bonuses that Paterno and other football bowl subdivision coaches earned, said Robert Gentzel, SERS communications director. The release of these amounts can only come at the university’s approval, which Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said will not happen. “I’m paid well, I’m not overpaid,” Paterno said…

Let me state again, it is not the life of Joe Paterno that I find important, for he serves only as a type and pattern for many men and nations who have grown prideful in their fortune and success. Yawheh is surely speaking something through this man’s life. At the height of his success he was cut down. His judgment came unlooked for. It was swift and the stroke was unanticipated.

On the very same day that Joe Paterno won his 409th victory, the Los Angeles Times reported on a story that I believe is related, though it would not become apparent until another week had passed and Paterno was fired.

Giant sequoia falls, raising questions about what to do next
October 29, 2011|By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times

Along the Sierra Nevada’s famed Trail of 100 Giants, the mammoth sequoia had stood sentry since King Arthur’s knights gathered at the Round Table.

It witnessed the arrival of the first European settlers and the flurry of miners in search of gold. The onset of the Medieval Warm Period and the passing of the Little Ice Age. It stood, unperturbed, through the Great War and the one that followed.

Then a month ago, as a handful of amazed tourists looked on, it toppled — crushing a bridge over a small stream and blocking the path.

Now, the U.S. Forest Service must decide what to do…

“This has not happened in the Sequoia National Forest before,” said public affairs officer Denise Alonzo, explaining the indecision.

The now-prone twins — two-thirds the height of Los Angeles City Hall — were among the bigger specimens in Long Meadow Grove, part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. About 17 feet in diameter at their common base, the trees are middle-aged for giant sequoias, which can live 4,000 years and have the greatest mass of any living organism on Earth.

The Forest Service isn’t sure why the trees hit the dirt Sept. 30, because they appeared to be healthy.

A German tourist, one of only a few people on the 1.3-mile loop trail at the time, recorded the crash on video.

“It can’t be possible,” Gerrit Panzner told the Visalia Times about what went through his mind when he realized the sequoias were falling.

“I wasn’t afraid,” said his wife, Sigrun Rakus. Her only thought was to get out of the way.

The trees may have toppled because the wet winter left the ground too soggy to hold the roots, which are relatively shallow.

“Sequoias do fall. That’s how big sequoias die,” said Nathan Stephenson of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Following is a video of the falling giants.

In 2010, as I traveled across this nation, I was blessed to be able to visit Sequoia National Park. I learned some things about the giant sequoias at that time. The largest and most mature of the trees are referred to as “monarchs.” They are kings among all living things. The tops of the trees are referred to as their “crowns.” It is typical for the mature sequoias to have their crowns fall off. It seems that Yahweh will have even the trees to give obeisance to Him.

More words of David come to mind as I consider the correspondence of events between these giant sequoias falling, and the fall of Joe Paterno.

II Samuel 1:19
Your beauty, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How have the mighty fallen!

David was lamenting the death of King Saul and his sons. Saul was struck down as a judgment of God. Saul was renowned for standing head and shoulders above all others in Israel.

I Samuel 9:2
He had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.

Before Saul was made king, he was humble in his own eyes. Yet after he became king he became proud. He did not honor Yahweh with his words and actions. He did many wicked things, therefore Yahweh judged him. Saul was brought low, and the humble man David was exalted in his place.

I believe that we are entering a time when many of those who have been accounted as mighty in the earth will fall. Now is an hour when God will abase many who are proud. He will also raise up some who are exceedingly humble. These events will come swiftly and unlooked for among both categories of people. There will be those who receive promotion at God’s hands like Joseph of old. In a single day they will be taken from the prison and given ruling authority.

Isaiah 57:15
For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Isaiah 66:2
“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

A time of shaking is at hand for the nations. As was revealed in the recent devastating earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, a time of shaking is also at hand for Christ’s church. Those who have exalted themselves, who have lived luxuriously, who have vaunted themselves, who have acted wickedly, will be laid low. As John the Baptist testified:

Matthew 3:10
“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Let those who understand the times take note. Walk in humility before God and man. Remember the poor. Take care of the widow and the orphan. Seek humility. Seek righteousness. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of Yahweh’s anger.

Me Standing Next to a Giant Seuoia at Sequoia National Park

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Joseph Herrin
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  1. J.E. and Christine

    This is an insightful post Joseph. You can discern a deep flow of "truth" in it.

    On another subject, do you see any symbolism in the facial wounds suffered by Senator John Kerry?

  2. Joseph Herrin

    Dear Jay,

    I had to look up what you were referring to regarding John Kerry as I did not watch the State of the Union address. I have no revelation of any symbolism in this matter.

    Thanks for asking,



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