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The morning after


The morning after most elections usually remind me of an interesting parallel in the epoch of Israel. God's people had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and taken into Babylonian exile. One tradition estimates they were captive in Babylon for seventy years. They were allowed to return to Judah when Persian king Cyrus defeated Nebuchadnezzar and issued a proclamation to reconstruct the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He further decreed that any of the Jewish exiles could return and participate in the temple rebuilding. The historical account of their release is recorded in the Old Testament book of Ezra.

In the second year of their resettlement construction began on the new temple. When the initial foundation of the altar was completed the workmen and the citizens of Jerusalem assembled to celebrate the restoration of their worship. Ezra wrote the following account of that time of thanksgiving and praise---

And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is

good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people

shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation

of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads

of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice

when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted

aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful

shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted with a

great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Ezra 3:11-13, ESV

There was the sound of great rejoicing and gratitude as the huge crowd shouted and sang. The trumpets and cymbals created an atmosphere of joy because their faithful God had released them from captivity and guided this first step in reviving their cultus. At the same time, however, the priests, Levites, heads of the Jewish tribes, and most likely the older people returning from Babylon remembered the first temple that had been constructed at this same place and then destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. This new foundation was no comparison to the glorious former temple. So, this segment of their solemn assembly wept with a loud voice. As a result of these two thunderous sounds Ezra wrote, "...the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping".

Of course the circumstances are usually quite different on the morning after elections. At first glance there really isn't anything spiritual about it. Each election is in many ways politics as usual and the expected passions that such debate stirs in a diverse population. But, the outcome depicted by Ezra is somewhat descriptive of the flash of emotions expected when the results of November 6 are finally certified. Certainly there will be cheering and weeping. There already is this dichotomy, even with votes still being counted. Social media will most likely explode with the good, the bad, and the uglier. The talking heads in TV land gawk and gaze and mumble after a long night of reporting, depicting, and analyzing. Campuses and the streets in many cities could be disrupted with acts of political unbelief. And, according to the vote demographics, millions more will rejoice and celebrate their victories, or more to the point, the other candidates defeat. Many will celebrate. For many it will be the mourning after. We may not be able to distinguish the cheering from the weeping.

The confusion in Israel finally subsided as the project to re-construct the temple went aggressively forward. Instead, their attention was re-focused to the external opposition they faced from outsiders who wanted to take an active role in subverting Israel's singular commitment to the worship of Yahweh. Much of the heartfelt emotion of this mid-term election will also yield to the realities of a duly elected government leading the nation in the months to come. But, nothing will erase the deep political differences occasioned by this election and the truth that our nation is so distinctly divided. The eyes of the nation are certainly alert to the appointments, congressional action, and so many other political realities that will comprise the cheering/weeping polarities of another election.

Opportunity lurks in the shadows of this dilemma. This election revealed much more than the sharp political chasm at the root of our cheering/weeping population. Even greater antagonism surfaced in the spiritual leanings of the nation. As the election moved toward decision day many Christians demonstrated an intolerance that sought to enlist God's partiality to the various camps and therefore portray their opposites as apostates or worse. We've trivialized the exalted concepts of God's favor, His will, His sovereign leadership, and our faithfulness to Him by making our voting booth decisions a test of faith.

The opportunity is for spiritual leaders to pray for and lead unity and healing in the Christian community and in the nation at large. Peter's exhortation has been so near to me in the aftermath of November 6. His words touch my heart in a special way. They will be my personal guide in the limited role this retired guy plays in spiritual leadership right now---

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings

of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd

the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion,

but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not

domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

1 Peter 5:1-3, ESV

The nation is divided. Leaders need to step up as examples of the healing and unity that can move our nation beyond the serious differences that have us cheering and weeping right now.


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