Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
As I write this on Thursday evening, our nation is still waiting. We are waiting for many things. Right now, at the foremost for many of us, we are waiting for all the ballots to be counted so we can have results for the presidential election. Waiting is not easy.
Some kinds of waiting are exciting: waiting for Christmas presents! Waiting for Spring Break! Waiting for family to arrive for a visit! Other kinds of waiting are dread-filled: waiting for test results. Waiting for the dentist. Waiting for the hurricane. Still others are mixed-up sorts of waits: waits that oscillate between excitement and dread with no rhyme or reason. Waiting for the roller coaster to get over the first hill. Waiting for the cast list or varsity roster to be published. Right now, waiting for election results.
It’s worth pointing out that this is nothing new. Most states take weeks to finalize the ballot count every election cycle. But in an era of constant news and immediate updates, waiting even two days seems unbearable.
So what shall we Christians do? Shall we shut ourselves away with the news on full blast, eyes glued to the screen until a final number is called and a winner is declared? Shall we place our hope in princes and presidents, or in the Lord our God who made heaven and earth?
Seems like it ought to be an easy answer. God, of course! And yet human rulers are so much easier to deal with. When they do what we want, we embrace them. When they don’t, we reject them.
In the Bible, God’s people often let their hope and trust slide away from God toward a human ruler. Too often, it is easier to see the power and charisma of a human being than see God’s power and glory. Whenever this happened, God sent messengers to the people and to the rulers. To the people, God asked why they have abandoned their Lord, even though God is always faithful to them. To the ruler, God’s messenger observed the many ways that ruler has disobeyed God’s law, especially if that ruler themselves claimed to be a follower of God. The more a king associated himself with the religious authorities, the greater the critique when he acted against God’s will.
One thing we all need to do, whether we feel rising dread or rising joy, is to take a firmly honest look at ourselves. Why do we care so very much about this outcome? Have we placed our hope in a mortal instead of in God? Are we willing to overlook someone’s very real flaws if he gets us what we want in one way or another? Or are we more willing to listen to God’s messengers who hold every leader accountable to God’s will of justice and peace?
No election official can answer these questions for us. That’s a question for you and your conscience to face. All of us. As we wait, what are we waiting for? If the answer is a hero who’s come to save the day from the forces of evil, well, you won’t find him on any ballot.
But through all the waiting, all the ups and downs, all the dread and joy, we know this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In a few weeks, we will celebrate Christ the King Sunday, a day that demands to remind us that the only one who rules forever is Jesus, a reassurance to us who need a leader and a warning to all who seek power. As the psalm says, “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!”
O Lord, you alone rule over life and death. You alone rule over me. Turn my hope toward you, not toward mortals whose power is nothing compared to yours. Be my help and hope now and always. Amen.