While The Psalms Project is not a political organization, the book of Psalms is a political book: it reveals to those who will look the glories of the coming kingdom of Christ, and the historical backdrop for that revelation is filled with kingdoms, kings, and princes; justice, oppression, corruption, conspiracy, and intrigue. There is therefore much wisdom that we can gain from the Psalms that can guide us through this world’s varied sociopolitical landscape. And this is one of The Psalms Project’s core missions: to remind the saints of this salient practical wisdom that we can gain from God’s word, as so many of us seek the restoration of a nation.
The fact that this is an election year in the United States is in fact inextricable from The Psalms Project’s birth. Its conception is the result of an earnest desire to find God’s will and work in the revival of America, and a restoration of liberty, justice, and truth. How best to achieve such a change of political course was on the minds of many as the party primaries unfolded. And it must indeed remain on hearts and minds until it is achieved. On the desperate need for this many of us can be agreed. How to achieve it, however, and what action to take in the current general election, is another matter.
Looking at things through the lens of the Psalms however, provides great clarity.
It is with just such a circumstance that we see David struggle in the first few Psalms. There was oppression and injustice in high places, and David found himself caught in the middle of a rebellion. He sought help from God, and he received it. But that is just where the real story begins. Because in the end the real cause of David’s turmoil and pouring out of his heart to God wasn’t those who opposed him. It was the people.
It wasn’t that the people of Israel didn’t realize that there was a problem, or that they weren’t seeking to remedy it. The problem, as David understood it, was that the people were seeking material salvation, but not wholly and solely from God. They were clamoring for deliverance from oppression, corruption, and injustice. And in their fight for that, they turned their backs on God, and instead adopted the enemies’ wicked words, and exalted the most vile among them.
The problem was not that they were seeking deliverance, peace, and prosperity. In fact, God had promised them those very things. The problem was that they were seeking them in spite of God’s promise, and not through it. They were seeking a level of peace and justice that only God’s blessing can bring, and yet they were seeking to bring it to themselves, without God’s blessing or help.
Not that they never sought it from God at all. But when faced with the thought that God didn’t seem to be delivering them, they didn’t ask themselves, “Why?”, instead they assumed the position of deliverers themselves. With horrific results.
But David didn’t just sit idly by, wringing his hands and wondering what to do. He didn’t know how to solve the problem, but he did know what he could do: he could pray.
But that isn’t the end of the story. It is only the end of the beginning. Because David didn’t just pray to God for help—he received an answer. God told David what was needed in order to solve the problem, save the kingdom, and heal the nation. God told David how to restore a people, dispel injustice, and stop oppression. He gave David the means of making Israel great again, and procuring peace and prosperity.
What was God’s answer?
It’s called the book of Psalms. God answered David with his words.
And how would God’s words do all this? By purifying the people, and making them faithful and upright once more. By restoring their faith and hope in God, and his promise of deliverance. By reviving the godly.
Back to the future #
A few thousand years later, here we are. Most of us are a lot like David. We’re probably praying to God to give us the answer. But will we, like David, accept the answer? God has already revealed it. Politics haven’t really changed all that much over the millennia. What was good for David is still good to solve the same problems today. So let’s ask ourselves: aren’t these the same problems facing America?
Let’s start with this: In what is our hope?
Each election season, we are urged to look to different men (and women) to bring our nation hope and healing, and a bright future. But do those who make this offer wholly rely on God for his aid in bringing it to pass? Or are they seeking to bring material salvation to America by their own works?
“In God We Trust” is our national motto, but our words and actions belie it. Especially in election years, it seems that in truth, “In Washington We Trust.” This is often the way that many conservatives see “big-government liberals,” but in recent days it has been just as true of those on the right side of the aisle—perhaps even more so. “If our candidate doesn’t get elected, the world will come to an end.” Suddenly, Washington has become our entire world. Not that it can’t affect our entire world, mind you, but if all our hope is in someone headed from “real America” to Washington, we’re in danger of being unprepared for the Man headed from heaven to Jerusalem.
What has changed America? #
Stepping back for a moment from the current dangers facing our world and our nation, the real change in America isn’t one that started in Washington and flowed out to the people. It is one that started in the people and naturally became reflected in politics, and thus in Washington. Back during the American Revolution, trusting in God wasn’t just a quaint phrase that adorned our currency (it didn’t), but was a real conviction in the hearts of very many of our people—”real” in that it couldn’t help but spill out of their hearts and into their mouths, their lives, and ultimately, all of our destinies. It was in that reliance on divine Providence that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. And those weren’t just words, either. The founders were willing to literally “take up their cross” in defense of truth and freedom, in the dim hope that God would respect the justness of their cause, and grant them victory against a seemingly insurmountable foe.
It is safe to say that today most people, even many fervent Christians, no longer trust in God in the same way for the preservation of our nation. Instead, we look to Washington politics with an eye to winning at all costs, because “it is up to us” to save America. But that is exactly what David saw as the root cause of the problems in his day: the people believed that they had to deliver themselves using whatever methods were at hand, rather than trusting in God, walking uprightly before him, and forsaking the wicked.
Only when we, like David, are willing to admit that we can’t save America, and that she is in fact unworthy of it, will we be ready to fully trust in God to do it.
No, I didn’t say that that was when God would swoop in and everything would be OK. Because the truth is, if we are really trusting in God, then we will come to a point where that doesn’t matter. One day Christ himself will indeed sweep in in-person, destroy the wicked, and set up a perfect kingdom. That is called the “blessed hope,” and it should indeed be our greatest hope in this life.
Living out hope #
And no, I’m not here to tell you that elections don’t matter, that the future of America doesn’t matter, and that we shouldn’t care. David did not sit idly by while his nation perished. He lived out that hope of the upright, by seeking with all his heart for God’s preservation of his people. And so we too should be motivated to restore our nation. But Jesus said something to his disciples that we’d do well to consider: “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loose his own soul?”
What does it profit us if we succeed in “saving” America, and yet her people still loose their souls? What if every man, woman, and child in America is given the fullest measure of peace and prosperity, and yet they still don’t get to be a part of that Great Kingdom to come? What will it have profited them, if they gain the whole world, but in the end loose their souls?
But David’s revelation was that it doesn’t have to be that way. That the best way, God’s way, of restoring a nation, is to first save their souls. Then, the rest doesn’t really matter. The end of the story will be happy. It will include an eternal kingdom filled with peace and prosperity, beyond our wildest imaginations. What happens during the rest of history up to that point becomes irrelevant.
But that doesn’t mean that we won’t get a taste of God’s goodness in the mean time, as Israel would during the glorious golden days of Solomon. The natural result of a reviving of the godly is a dispelling of injustice and oppression, and a restoration of peace and prosperity. But the problems which faced Israel, and which face our nation, cannot be solved by men with impure hearts. They can only be solved by the God who purifies the hearts of men. And he does so with his word.
The solution: trust in God’s words, not in men’s; and in God, and not in men.
Simple, but not easy. David and those who followed him could have lost their lives for it. They were outnumbered, in flight, and afraid. Even afterward, when David resumed the throne, all was not well with the world. Anyone who rejected man’s salvation could become a target for murder. In truth, only David himself was really safe, and even he was despised by many.
But through God’s answers to his prayers, David understood that being faithful was what was needed, and that only an increasing of the godly, a purifying of the hearts of the people, could defeat the wicked and save the nation. And he knew that only God’s word, proclaimed by the upright, would purify the people’s hearts. And so David shared God’s word with them, in his Psalms of prayer and praise. And through them, the people came to see their folly, and their hearts were purified, and their hope in God restored.
And that is how a nation is saved.
What about the elections? #
Yes, this does relate to the elections. But my point is not to tell you who to vote for, or not to vote at all, or that your vote doesn’t matter. Rather, the message is that no man can restore a nation. Even David failed to fully deliver his people. It was only the word of God, purifying their hearts, and causing them to place all their trust and hope in Him, and not in men, that could do that. If a revival of America is what we are seeking, then this is how we must do it. Politics is often a distraction at best, and the crux of the issue at worst. Voting indiscriminately can result in us doing exactly what the people were doing at the time of David: participating in exalting men who are trying to bring deliverance without God’s guiding hand. That was at the very heart of the problem, not a part of the solution.
But since you asked, here is what we can learn from David’s experience. In making a decision of how to vote, we should ask ourselves if the candidate is wholly relying on God. Do they understand, as David did, what is necessary for the restoration of a nation such as ours? Is the LORD an integral part of their hope for America?
If the answers to these questions aren’t obviously “yes”, then they are very probably “no”. In that case, voting for such a candidate is not a step toward a revival of America. It might even be a big step in the wrong direction. And casting such a vote anyway would seem to indicate that we don’t see God as our only hope, that we’re still willing to partake in the exalting of the ungodly to try to fix our problems.
Does this mean that for some offices we might choose not to cast a vote at all? Yes. What does that accomplish? On its own, absolutely nothing. So why do it? Maybe because your hope is in heaven, and not in Washington. And because your hope for America is in God, and not in men.
Our duty is not to restore a nation at any cost and by any means. It is to put all our trust in God, and all our hope in Christ’s coming kingdom. To proclaim the word of God, and leave the rest up to him.
And so it’s time that we acknowledge that nothing anybody can do in Washington can save America. That true restoration can only come through a revival of the godly. And that that can only come from the LORD, and through his word. And so if we want to do something that can truly save America, we’ll take up the pure words of the LORD, and seek that they might purify the hearts of this people. And let this be our true motto: “In God is our trust.”
We will explore how this can be done in future posts, so stay tuned!