Who’s in Charge?

refuge_1702cWe are between two political conventions, one of which has, and I suspect the other will, assure us that we face horrible consequences if the other major party wins the election. What about God’s people? What about the church? Should the church, as church, be telling people how to vote? Is God in the camp of one or the other parties (an alleged benediction seemed to make that point!)? What does the future hold for the people of God? Far more important than any convention or candidate’s speech is what God says. Listen to Psalm 9:7-10, and the surrounding context. Do not identify the kingdom of God with the rulers and authorities of this world.

God’s people ask, “Why is the Lord far off?” The proud enemy harms God’s people. Psalms 9 and 10 seem to belong together. They are songs of praise and thanksgiving, but transition to cries to the Lord for deliverance. We don’t know the exact situation David faced, but he saw the enemy, not first of all as personal adversaries, but as opponents of the rule of the one prefiguring the messianic King. The foe has brought him to the very gates of death, Psalm 9:13. The contemplated possible triumph of the enemy, Psalm 9:19-20, develops into boastful arrogance in Psalm 10:2-11. The political atmosphere of our society breathes a similar spirit.

In that context, pray, “Arise, O Lord!” See Psalm 9:19 and 10:12. Notice where David puts his hope: not in military might or political power, but in the Lord. The people of God in this country face a repeated temptation to fix their hope on the right political candidate, on the party which seems willing to offer them influence. Certainly Christians can and should be involved in political process—the Lord has give us a country in which we can not only vote, but can engage in seeking to affect the direction of positions taken by those running for office and by their parties. Beware, however, of placing your hope, your confidence in what mere men can do. Why can you pray this confidently?

The Lord reigns forever! The Lord will judge. Notice the emphasis, surrounding the prayer, on thanksgiving for the Lord’s work as Judge. David looks away from himself to his God. “Where lesser men boast of success and talk of power, David sees God as his rescuer and sings of justice. More than this, his thought leaps ahead of his own story(my enemies, my just cause) to what it prefigures: God’s total victory and reign of justice, world-wide and everlasting.” (Derek Kidner on Psalm 9 in Psalms 1-72, p. 69 [verse references omitted]). He gives thanks for what God has done as he prays for deliverance in the present. As Christians, recognize that your ultimate allegiance is not to any kingdom (or political party) in this world. Jesus, before Pilate, affirmed that his kingdom is not of this world. Although we live in this world, although we vote in this present age, our hope and our trust lies in the One who has ascended through the heavens.

So, trust the Lord who never forsakes you. David recognizes, and calls on you to recognize, that God is sovereign. It takes that knowledge to respond in a godly way when the world lashes out at you. Christians in the first century faced death for refusing to say, “Caesar is lord.” Christians today in this country may not face death, but the do face, not only scorn, but sometimes deep economic penalties, if they insist that the standards of God’s Word are absolute, and that they rise above the standard of political correctness. Regardless of the outcome in November, Christians need to be prepared to face increasingly challenging times. Your confidence then needs to be grounded in something far deeper than simply saying, “I supported candidate A because he or she was not candidate B.” David’s hope is in God’s sovereignty, but it is not hope in an abstract expression of power. God’s sovereign, triumphant power comes to expression in specific circumstances. For David, it was a stance in a valley facing a nine foot tall giant. This was not just a triumph for the brave underdog, but rather the place where, at that moment, the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman came to expression. The triumph of the Lord came to expression as David the king, defeated his and the Lord’s enemies. David functions as the anticipation of his far greater Son. That Son is the ultimate one in whom you can trust. How did he achieve his victory? Not through swords and armies, but by humbly doing his Father’s will. The problems he dealt with could not be solved by political reforms or military might. He died bearing the guilt and punishment for the sins of his people. Yet, that obedience leads to his exaltation and triumph. The picture in Revelation 19 is majestic—but it is a fearsome one for his enemies—and for those who are the enemies of his bride. Political candidates are hollow reeds in which to trust. But the Rider on the white horse will never fail his people. “Jesus’s appearance, names, and companions call believers to rest our hope confidently and completely in his almighty power to vindicate his saints and eradicate his enemies.” “When Christians are victimized by injustice and cannot fight back, they must not despair. The strong and righteous Judge is coming. When they can fight back, they need not and should not retaliate, replaying evil with evil, for their strong Judge assures them, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:17-19).” (Dennis E. Johnson, The Triumph of the Lamb, pp. 270, 272).

The memory of last week as well as the prospect of this week may be grim. But remember that today is the Lord’s Day. It is the day of resurrection. It is the day of his triumph, and an anticipation of his final victory. That is where your hope lies. Trust that Savior.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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