Waiting for the Cliffhanger Ending: Justice or Mercy?

002-1032x1280It was very quiet at our suburban precinct here in Columbia, South Carolina. Thousands had voted on the way to work, but at mid-morning there were eighteen people in line—a peaceful interlude in this shock-and-awe campaign story. The quiet before tonight’s high-drama conclusion to Election 2016.

(If you are still struggling over your decision today you may want to read these two previous posts.)

As we’ve heard one stunning development after another, I’ve heard journalists and pundits exclaim, “Nobody could write this story.” But clearly, Someone is writing it.

Only God could write such incredible plot twists, expose such secrets, and reveal hearts at such a deep level. He famously writes stories with a “fearful symmetry,” a term coined by William Blake to describe a tiger–beauty and balance and artfulness that also exposes a moral dimension that terrifies us. Who could create such a beautiful killing machine?

God. Especially when he brings judgment to call us to repentance.

For example, when David has committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, God tells David, “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.”

His “neighbor” turned out to be his son Absalom, who conspired against David and ran him out of Jerusalem. He had his father’s concubines, left behind to protect the palace, brought to the rooftop where he had sex with them “before all Israel and before the sun” to establish his kingship in place of his father’s.

Again, when God declares judgment against the houses of Israel and Judah, he clearly explains his reasons for raising foreign armies who will decimate the land and carry them away into captivity: “And when your people say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’”

The stories he writes are artful, symmetrical—what you sow you shall reap. And what you sow in secret will be broadcast for the world to see.

the one presidential race sign at our polling place

the one presidential race sign at our polling place

Jesus said, “…for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

God can and will reveal our secrets and we should take it to heart.

Wikileaks, FBI investigations, 10-year old tapes, word spoken in private—like never before in an American election, these candidates’ secrets have been revealed. Their sins of immorality, vindictiveness, lies and corruption are the sins of America made flesh in two individual lives.

How will the story of fearful symmetry end? Will God ramp up his judgment? Will the brutal process itself be a call to repentance that America will respond to? Will God show mercy?

In Scripture we get glimpses of two possible outcomes:

The prophet Habakkuk sees the evil in Jerusalem and cries out to God, “How long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

God, what will you do about all these attacks on each other? These lies, corruptions and injustices? God responds with news even more astounding than Wikileaks or FBI announcements:

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk, nobody could imagine the story I’m about to write!

“I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand.”

I hear your cries Habakkuk and I am responding.

001-1021x1280As we pray for our country today, we pray that God will respond, not with raising up our enemies, but with giving us a good leader. Whether he or she follows Jesus or not, we hope for a leader like Cyrus.

As the Lord “grasped the hand” of the Persian king and appointed him to be “a shepherd who shall fulfill all my purpose” and rebuild Jerusalem from its ruins, so we pray that he will have mercy on us as he writes the conclusion of this chapter today.

Whether we get an ending that is more like the judgment of Habakkuk or the mercy of Cyrus, may we watch or read the returns tonight and respond like Habakkuk,

Even if the news is bad, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

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