Go Vote. But…

Psalm 146:3-10 “3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. 4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. 9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. 10 The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.”

I believe that every presidential election in which I have participated has been billed as “the most important election ever,” or “the most important election of our lifetimes.” Perhaps. It is possible that the importance of each election has grown progressively for nearly four decades. I wouldn’t expect the candidates to tell us, “This election isn’t really that important. You may want to stay home and do something else instead.” They need their supporters to come to the polls.

This year’s election has been no exception for the urgency with which it is promoted. While I am not sure how to measure “most important election ever,” this one may be inducing more hand-wringing than any I have seen. Political pundits on both sides warn that if we choose the wrong man, our nation is doomed. The republic will come to an end. All we hold dear will disappear. We will descend into anarchy, economic collapse, totalitarianism, environmental catastrophe, maybe even civil war. Many of my friends on social media seem convinced that this is true, judging by the things they post. It doesn’t matter whether they lean left or lean right. We need to pick the right candidate to avert catastrophe.

Humanly speaking, our political situation may be as dire as some say. This election may affect our future like none before. Even if not so much is riding on the outcome, we should all fulfill our duty as citizens to go to the polls and participate in the process. Because of the political system in which we live, the individual citizen wields this governing power and the responsibility that goes with it. Over 90 years ago Professor J.P. Meyer wrote in a seminary journal:

“Ours is a government of the people by the people, a government based on the consent of the governed. Again we must bear in mind that it is God who has ordained this government, it is God who placed us under this government and asks us to be subject for His sake.  This involves that we Christians of America have special duties to perform in this country from which Christians in (some) other countries may be absolved.  We must concern ourselves with the public welfare, we must give attention to the problems confronting our government, we must study the men seeking office, and cast our vote for the men and measures that we consider best…” (Theologische Quartalschrift, July 1928).

As a matter of civic and moral duty, go vote. But…

The words of Psalm 146 provide a sensible balance and some calming perspective to the hysteria surrounding our election. The ultimate government of the world in which we live does not lie in the hands of the people we elect to lead us. A survey of kings and emperors, prime ministers and presidents, across the ages reveals deeply flawed humans fumbling and bumbling through the solemn responsibility they had been given. They misused and abused their power. They inflicted pain on their people. They made serious misjudgments.

There are no exceptions to this rule. No exceptions. The greatest and godliest leaders and kings of Scripture all committed glaring failures of leadership. The stories of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and others all expose their obvious shortcomings. Choose the best candidate you can. But don’t be surprised when he lets you down. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.”

Thankfully, our human leaders are not all we have. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” No matter who wins this election, or any election to come, the LORD God still sits on his throne. His power remains unchallenged and uncontested, “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them…” He still runs history according to his plan. A nation or leader will succeed or fail as it suits his purposes.

This God runs this history not to enrich himself at others’ expense. Look at the list of those who served and saved by his administration: “…the oppressed…the hungry…prisoners…the blind…those who are bowed down…the righteous…the alien…the fatherless and the widow.” These aren’t mere campaign promises. This is the record of his rule spanning thousands of years. This selfless public service reaches its climax at the cross of Jesus Christ, where our true King died to free us from sin, spare us from hell, and deliver us from death.

So, go and vote. Make your best choice. But remember, “The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.”

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