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Don’t worry, no matter who wins the election, God is in charge.
It’s easy to worry right now that the world is spinning out of God’s control, and that the future is hanging by a thread. After all, it seems like there’s so much at stake in this year’s election. The country we call home is at a crossroads, and whoever wins the election will determine the course of the country, and our lives, for a long time. Both campaigns tend to describe the election this way, as if it’s all or nothing. The future of America hangs in the balance, and if you let the other side win, then the whole country will be changed forever…for the worse.
And because so much seems to be at stake in this election, we begin to think and act as if God could never work good through the other candidate. If the other candidate wins, it’s not just that America will go in the wrong direction, God’s will is being thwarted. It’s not just America that’s at stake, but also the plans and purposes of God. God himself stands to lose if the wrong person is elected!
But don’t worry, no matter who wins the election, God is in change. God isn’t in competition with the Democrats or the Republicans. That’s attributing way too much to Democrats or Republicans and way too little to God, as if these political parties were on the same level as God. God isn’t just the god of a party or a nation. God is the God of all creation. And so, God can’t be defeated by parties or nations. God controls parties and nations!
This is the point of our reading from Isaiah. For the people of Israel, it probably seemed as if the Lord was defeated by the nation of Babylon. It was the Lord who had put his people in the promised land. The Lord fought their battles and defeated their enemies. The Lord had given them kings to rule in his stead, even promising David that someone from his lineage would reign over Israel forever. The Lord had given them the temple, where the Lord himself dwelt among his people.
But in 587 B.C. all of that came crashing down. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it. He captured the king of Israel, killed his sons before his eyes, and took him off to Babylon bound in chains. He gathered the high priests from the temple and had them put to death. Then he took all the gold and bronze vessels from the temple for himself, and he knocked the temple to the ground. And whoever hadn’t died by the sword, he took from their homes and relocated them in Babylon. I mean, talk about the wrong candidate for president. How about Nebuchadnezzar! When Nebuchadnezzar took over, it could be easy to imagine that God had been defeated.
But the Lord isn’t just the God of a party or a nation. The Lord is the creator who uses nations and kings for his purposes. And while the nation and the kings and the temple may have been destroyed, God wasn’t. And that’s where Cyrus comes in.
“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: ‘I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.”
Cyrus was the king of Persia. Cyrus wasn’t an Israelite. Cyrus didn’t worship the Lord, the God of Israel; he worshiped the gods of the near east. Cyrus probably couldn’t have cared less about the people of Israel. But that didn’t matter, because Cyrus wasn’t in charge. The Lord was in charge. And he would take Cyrus by the hand, and give Cyrus victory after victory until he conquered the Babylonians. And then Cyrus would not only send the people of Israel back to their land, but he would give them money and supplies to rebuild the temple and their nation.
And when Cyrus did exactly that, Israel should know one thing: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God…I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” God isn’t just the god of a party or a nation. God is the God of all creation. And so, God can’t be defeated by parties or nations. God controls parties and nations! Nations come and go, but the Lord remains forever. As Isaiah says, “Behold, the nations are like a drop from the bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales…All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” The Lord raises them up for a time only to blow them away. Isaiah says, “scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.”
You see, the real battle isn’t between God and Nebuchadnezzar, or between God and that nations. The real battle is for the hearts of God’s people.
God gave his people every good thing. They had king after king from the line of David. They had the temple. They had the promised land. But what did they do with all of this? They hardened their hearts to God. They sought help from other gods, they didn’t keep his commandments, they used their prosperity to serve themselves rather than others. So God chastened them. God sent Nebuchadnezzar, who took away their prosperity and their land so that they would repent of their sin, turn to God for mercy, and give thanks for his goodness. And when they were brought to nothing so that they had nowhere to turn but to God, the Lord comforted them. God used Cyrus to restore their prosperity so that they would give thanks to the Lord, trust in his goodness, and use their prosperity to serve others.
And that gives us some perspective on this election. Don’t worry, no matter who wins the election, God is in charge. The real battle is not between God and the Democrats or God and the Republicans. The real battle is for the hearts of God’s people.
If God gives us a leader who wreaks havoc, then this is a time of repentance, like Lent. During Lent some people give something up and go without to remind themselves that our lives don’t depend on that thing, but on God. And we take that time of humility to repent of our sins and return to God for mercy. If God gives us a leader who wreaks havoc, then God has given us a time of Lent, a time to repent and return to him. And if God gives us a leader who brings prosperity, it’s a time to give thanks to God, and use the prosperity God had given us, not to forget his goodness and serve ourselves, but to trust in his goodness and serve others with what we have.
But whatever leader God gives us, it’s not a time to despair as if God is losing. It’s not a time to get angry and lash out.
We know that no matter who is elected this year, or in four years, or in 1000 years, God is in charge. And God has set his king on Zion, his holy hill. God’s king, the one God has established to reign over all his creation is Jesus—the same Jesus who cast out demons, healed the sick, ate with sinners and tax collectors, raised the dead, died for our sins and was raised victorious over death. We know that the one who is in control has already chosen who he wants to rule over his creation forever—the crucified and risen king, Jesus. And when Jesus returns, his wisdom and love, his goodness and compassion will cover the face of the earth.
And no matter who wins the election, it doesn’t change the fact that in the end, God will have his way in Jesus. No matter who wins the election, it won’t change the good news we’ve been given. No matter who wins the election, it won’t change the promise of our baptism. No matter who wins the election, it won’t change the forgiveness, life, and salvation that we’ve received in the Lord’s Supper. God, the Creator, who holds all things in his hands, and to whom nations are a drop from the bucket, is bound and determined to follow through on what he has begun in Jesus. And nothing will put a stop to that.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
2 “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the Lord, who does all these things.