Friday, October 29, 2004

Grace, and not what we deserve

I was sitting in a prayer meeting the other day with one of America's preeminent Old Testament scholars. He interceded on behalf of the nation with supplication: "Oh, God, please don't give us the political leadership we deserve."

Quite a prayer.

What we deserve? A nation that countenances 1.5 million abortions a year. What we need -- churches and politicians willing to fight the culture of death that only begins with the issue of abortion and extends to all manner of life issues.

What we deserve? A growing deficit with no plan to deal with the an ungodly, titantic national debt. What we need -- a president and two houses of Congress willing to apply fiscal restraint to their spendthrift ways and growing government domination of the national lifestyle.

What we deserve? A weak-kneed commander-in-chief who goes soft on terror. What we need -- a president who will stare down the thugs of the world whether at home or abroad without sticking his finger in the air to find out which way the pollsters' winds are blowing.

What we deserve? The casting of Judeo-Christian definitions to the wind, most particularly at the point of marriage. What we need -- leadership that says just because the meaning of marriage can be found in the Bible doesn't render it illegitimate for public policy.

We could go back and forth this way for pages.

But the point ought to be clear. What we deserve -- not pretty. What we can have by the grace of God and acting as the responsible people He has called us to be -- a republic capable of renewing itself in the palm of His hand.

And what is the necessary thought leading up to the election? Evangelicals have grown used to a pat answer in the form of a line out of II Chronicles 7:14 (which is not a "pat" verse): " ... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

My hunch is that not nine in ten of the people who quote that verse know its powerful context.

Those were the Lord's words, of course, delivered to Solomon after he had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace. But that divine utterance by no means contained the full-orbed message of God's appearance to the king.

The Almighty continued: "But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods ... then I will uproot Israel ... will reject this temple ... will make it a byword and an object of ridicule ... [people] will be appalled and say, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing' ... People will answer, 'Because they have forsaken the Lord ....'"
Solomon ended up hating life, declaring his own time on earth meaningless and the latter prophecy above came to pass.

Solomon and his nation, in other words, got what they deserved.

Want a good sermon to preach this weekend, or a timely Sunday school lesson? Start in the historical account of II Chronicles 7:14 and continue, as most memorizers of Bible passages have not done, through the end of the chapter.

And then remember to pray along with my friend: "God, give us grace, grace, grace, this election. And please, not what we deserve."

And then go vote.


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