The Politics of Psalm 33: Biblical Reflections on Election Day

3 November 2020

Today is election day. Likely you’ve voted. Perhaps you are outspoken about your vote; perhaps you’re private about your vote. Either way, I’d like to pose that you’re not political enough!

Politics is theological – the way we vote shows something about how we view God’s world. Theology is political – the way we trust and obey God has ramifications for how we steward our voting and acting in God’s world. Your candidate is looking for your trust. Their platform is looking for your obedience. Yet, as Christians, our trust is not in men – but in the Maker of men.

The Unseen Ruler

We like to judge by appearances. Ever since the first televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon, Americans have been judging candidates – not as much by policies, but more so by polish and power. Who looks more presidential? Who is most eloquent or quick on their feet? Yet, we’ve learned time and again that even the most polished president is still a mere human being.

There is an Unseen Ruler whose person bears no flaws and whose policies bear no miscalculations. He is the LORD. “For the word of the LORD is right and all his work is trustworthy (Psa. 33:4). His platform is righteousness, justice, and unfailing love (v.5). His record is impressive: the creation of the earth, skies, and seas –  all through divine fiat (v.6-7, 9). So great is the LORD that the whole earth ought to fear Him, and stand in awe (v.8).

The story of our world is that people have rejected the Unseen Ruler and looked to mere mortals for salvation, identity, and purpose. Our political moment can be summed up quite well as idolatry. What is an idol? Andy Crouch sums up this concept quite well:

“The first move of all idolatry is from good to great–more precisely, from created goodness to unrealistic greatness. We start with a good created thing, but then we ask it to be great. We seek not to enjoy the created good’s own proper goodness, within it’s intended limits, but to use it to free us from the limits and usher us into an elevated kind of life. We invest it with our deepest hopes and look to it to address our deepest fears. Initially, all idols seem to deliver exactly this escape from mere goodness into transcendent greatness…. Idols ask for more and more while giving less and less, until eventually, they demand everything and give nothing.” (Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power)

So what does this mean for us today? Should we even go out and vote? Emphatically – yes. In American democracy, it’s a matter of stewarding our God-given authority. A nation that’s to be ruled by the people and for the people requires conscientious, God-fearing voters. Theology is political – love of God cannot excuse love of neighbor. And God is watching. “The LORD looks down from heaven; he observes everyone. He gazes on all the inhabitants of the earth from his dwelling place. He forms the hearts of them all; he considers all their works” (v.13-15).

We should ask of our vote: does this vote reflect the words and works of the Unseen Ruler? Am I seeking to advance righteousness and justice? In a fallen world, no political candidate will uphold all the ethics of God’s kingdom. This means we need wisdom from above, and charity toward those who may vote differently from us for different reasons. But the question bears repeating: am I stewarding my vote to love God and neighbor according to His platform?

The Unpredictable Ruler

We cast the vote, and then we rest in His sovereignty. An idolatrous heart that sees political outcomes as ultimate won’t be able to rest in God’s sovereignty. This is why rightly orienting ourselves to the Unseen Ruler is vital. Because often times, God’s providence seems strange to us. “The LORD frustrates the counsel of the nations; he thwarts the plans of the peoples” (v.10). Why would God do that? The answer is this: “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart from generation to generation” (v.11). Whatever the outcome of this Election Day, one thing is for sure: the Unseen Ruler “works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will” (Eph.1 :11). He says, “I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will” (Isa.46:10). “Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

America will be a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of human history, and a passing molecule in the grand scheme of eternity. What a poor place to invest all our hopes and dreams. Though we vote, though we pray, though we seek to be active in working for righteousness and justice, all of our activity takes place under the sovereign plan of God. We are responsible, and yet He is totally sovereign.

The Happy People

This should make us happy people. No matter how dark it gets, no matter how great things are going, our ultimate security isn’t found in the current political moment. Our ultimate security is found in the King who is never up for re-election: Jesus the Messiah. “Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD – the people he has chosen to be his own possession” (v.12). This psalm wasn’t speaking of the United States, but God’s covenant people. Those who trust in Jesus as their King are “a holy nation, a people for his possession” (1 Peter 2:9). As we come under His rule, we declare His praise as the one who rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into His kingdom of light.

Therefore, on this election day, may we…

  • Rejoice in the LORD and sing a new song to him (v.1-3)
  • Declare Him as our Sovereign LORD and display His glory (v.12)
  • Fear Him and depend on His faithful love (v.18)
  • Wait for the LORD and trust Him as our help and shield (v.20)
  • Trust in His holy name (v.21)
  • Put our hope in him (v.22)

No matter what, we can be happy and hopeful. Get more political today. Vote, pray, and then sing!

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run,
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.
To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.
People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song,
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.
Blessings abound where’er he reigns:
the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.

Let every creature rise and bring
the highest honors to our King,
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen. 

(Isaac Watts, 1719)

 

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