These Our Turbulent Mercies

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Introduction

A little over a week from now, we will be selecting our next president. In preparation for this, and because Christ is Lord of everything we do, we need to consider the adverbs that will need to accompany our application of the infinitive of that troublesome verb to vote.

This year such caution is more far necessary than it usually is. I am not old yet, but I think I can see old from here. And over all these decades of active political interest, I do not recall any political season that even remotely resembles this one. These are indeed tumultuous times, but God never abandons His people during such times. He shakes what can be shaken (and which needed to be shaken) so that what cannot be shaken might remain. And we are in fact receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:27-29). And that is why we should consider these times to be the times of our tumultuous mercies, our turbulent mercies, our tempestuous mercies. More on this shortly.

The Text

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8–9)

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:3–4).

Summary of the Text

There are two places in the psalms where we are instructed not to put our confidence in princes. Psalm 118 is the one where God promised us that Christ, the rejected stone, would be made the head of the corner (v. 22). Because of the Lord’s mercies, I will not die but rather will live (v. 17). The right hand of the Lord does valiantly (vv. 15-16). This is the context of the exhortation not to put your trust in princes. They are not like the Lord. Trusting the Lord is always better than trusting man. Trusting the Lord is always better than trusting the leaders of men.

In Psalm 146, we are told that God is the one who made the heavens, the earth, the seas, and everything in them (v. 6). Not only is His sovereignty in evidence at the bottom of the deepest sea, it is also plain in the back alleys of the deepest slum (v. 7). He undertakes for the widow and orphan (v. 9), and He takes the way of the wicked, turns it upside down and shakes it. That includes the wicked who happen to be princes. Do not put your trust in princes (v. 3). Do not look to the sons of men, in whom there is no help (v. 3). Why is there no real help there? His last breath goes out through his nose, and at that moment he is a spent force.

Political, Not Partisan

The Christian church is inescapably political, but this is not the same thing as being partisan. Our elders have had a long-standing practice of not allowing partisan politics any place in our worship services. In other words, it would be completely out of line for us to preach the Word, serve communion, and “campaign for Murphy.” When worship services are allowed to drift into that kind of thing, the church is being played. This mistake is how evangelicals have slowly become a demographic voting bloc, represented in Washington by lobbyists. In other words, we are represented the same way that Big Tobacco and the gun lobby are represented. But that is not where our true authority lies.

But believing in the separation of church and state (as we do) does not mean that we believe in the separation of righteousness and state. Who could possibly be for an unrighteous state? We do not believe in the separation of morality and state, or the separation of God and state. To believe in the separation of God and state is tantamount to desiring a godless state. And to desire that is to declare war on all humanity. A Christless civil order is the stuff of nightmares.

This means that the Christian church is essentially political. We represent a new polis with a citizenship in Heaven (Phil. 3:20), a new way of being human, and an assigned mission to disciple the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). How could our assigned mission be to teach all the nations to obey everything Jesus taught, and yet not get into political issues? Abortion is evil (Ex. 20:13). Same sex mirage is an abomination (Lev. 18:22). Inflation is theft (Is. 1:22). You get the picture. And Ahab would not have been able to cover up his wickedness regarding Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:13) by calling it something like land reform, or making the rich pay their fair share, or a simple matter of rezoning.

Four Possible Options

Where are we exactly? Take for example four variables—calm and turbulence, and judgment and mercy. There are four ways these could go together. We could have calm and judgment. They were eating and drinking right up until the day when Noah entered the ark (Matt. 24:38). We could have calm and mercy. We are told to pray for this, so that we might live quiet and peaceable lives with evangelism in view (1 Tim. 2:1-4). We might have turbulence and judgment—such that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle (1 Sam. 3:11). And we could have turbulence and mercy. This is where everything seems unsettled because God is shaking things that need to be shaken, in order to establish what cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:27-29). I think it is the last of these.

God was willing to spare Sodom if there had only been ten righteous men in it (Gen. 18:32). And God reassured Elijah that things in his day were not quite as terrible as they appeared to be. Seven thousand had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4). And we still have millions who are looking to Christ for deliverance. So strengthen your knees, and lift up your heads—regardless.  

Prepare to Pivot

In a conservative congregation like this one, I don’t need to wave you off from the perils of voting for the Democratic candidate. That is not your peculiar temptation, or at least it had better not be. Most of you will be voting for the president, and it is not my place to tell you anything about that choice one way or the other from this pulpit. Remember what I said earlier—no partisanship. But what I can tell you is that you must not put your trust in princes.

Rejecting the left is the duty of every Christian citizen who has an open Bible. We despise all of it—anarchy in the streets, tax policies riddled with envy, arbitrary and capricious government, blood-soaked abortion policies, and all the rest of it. But rejecting this is not synonymous with bringing in the kingdom of God. If the left goes down hard in this election, which should be our prayer, it will not be the case that sin and temptation will have thereby gone into retirement. And, as the saying goes, no matter which way the election goes, the government always seems to get in. Christlessness will then beckon from the right.

If the left goes down hard, there will be a temptation for those Christians who voted for the president to treat it as an emotional investment, rather than a tactical decision. But on LGBTQ behavior, the president is awful. And on fiscal restraint, he has the same general approach held by a shrewdness of apes that got into a warehouse full of trade gin. You can be grateful for all the conservative federal judges without putting your trust in princes. In short, the leftist threat to us and our liberties could be dealt with entirely, and yet our children and grandchildren will still have to deal with threats to the faith once delivered to all of us. We must be prepared to pivot accordingly.

Christ the Lord

We worship and serve Messiah the Prince. Our first and foundational allegiance is to God the Father. We are Christians, and this means that we are called to a life of layered loyalties. Some of those loyalties of necessity involve people who do not love Jesus Christ the same way we do. We are, most of us, Americans, and so we should love our nation the same way the apostle Paul loved his nation. This is lawful and, I would argue, even required.

“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Rom. 9:1-3 (KJV)

When it comes to spiritual matters, and the authority of the Lord Jesus over us all, America is an insensate oaf, a bewildered palooka. And we need to be in a position to declare the truth of this to everyone, regardless of who is president.  

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Daniel
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Really good stuff, as always. I preach for a somewhat rural church in Oklahoma. Down to earth, conservative bunch of folks. I’m quite certain everyone in our fellowship will be voting for the POTUS. I’m glad for that. And yet, I have preached to them often on how they misuse their social media with either political slander or an all-in embrace of the president. I fear there’s too much of a tie between cold republicanism and the Christian faith, such that some can’t see where one ends and the other begins. So long as the points were scored for “our… Read more »

Ken B
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Ken B

It never ceases to amaze me just how culturally different the USA is from the UK when it comes to politics and voting. Any indication of how to vote by a minister is out of order by common consent on this side of the Pond.

Somewhat speculating, but the identification of Christianity with Victorian capitalism of the sort Dickens wrote about in his novels did the churches’ witness untold harm, and it is best not to repeat the mistake.

Nathan Tuggy
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Nathan Tuggy

I’m not sure the US and the UK are so different as all that, since Pastor Wilson uses several paragraphs to justify the necessity of the church taking political stances at least on obvious moral issues. So, on the one hand, it should be obvious that there are quite a few people over here that are just as resistant to the idea of ministers getting even slightly involved in politics as anyone in Great Britain might be, and on the other hand, it should also be evident that Pastor Wilson does not consider such total disengagement to be a valid… Read more »

Ken B
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Ken B

Hi Nathan – I think all too often UK and US comparisons end up not comparing like with like. The Labour party in Britain is left of centre, but if it ever became socially conservative, as it used to be a long time ago, even I might consider voting for it. The current Conservatives have got to a stage where they only want to protect the interests of the rich. In theory they are free market and personal responsibility, but in practice they only now seem to put the boot in to the poor. I cannot imagine either UK party… Read more »