06 November 2008

If Our Children Live to See the Future

In his rhetorical remarks regarding Ann Nixon Cooper, the 106-year-old woman in Atlanta who voted on Tuesday, the president-elect offered this consideration: "If our children live to see the next century . . . what changes will they see?" That is a provocative question, especially posed by a man who condones and advocates the murder of unborn children; who has said that he would not want his daughter to be "punished" with a child, if she were found to be pregnant out of wedlock. Such positions are ironic in the case of a man who was himself conceived outside of wedlock, but of course that was prior to the legitimizing of abortion in this country. For all the fear of "back alley butchers," perhaps the laws against abortion actually helped to spare the life of the man now elected to the highest office in our land. Not only Ann Nixon Cooper but Barack Obama himself has lived to see a future, which is now, when it is permissable to put our children to death. "If our children live to see the next century," indeed.

When I recently questioned the propriety of a woman serving as (vice-)president, a number of people made assumptions which had no real bearing on my question, and most of which were not accurate in any case. Some people assumed that I was "campaigning" against the McCain-Palin ticket and, ipso facto, in favor of the Obama-Biden ticket. That never was the case. There was never any doubt that I would cast my vote for McCain and Palin, even though I wasn't altogether thrilled about it. McCain's an honorable men with an impressive track record of service to his country, but I don't agree with all of his political positions. Palin's an impressive woman in many respects, and I deeply appreciate her pro-life posture, but I think she was out of her depth when it came to many other aspects of national politics (not because she's a woman, but because she lacks the knowledge and experience). I do still question the propriety of electing a woman to a chief executive office, but there is a difference between impropriety and sin. Given the viable options before us, I had no qualms about voting for McCain and Palin. By contrast, I could not in good conscience vote for Obama and Biden.

The fundamental purposes for which God has established the governing authorities on earth are the praise and promotion of the good, the prevention and punishment of the bad. In particular, in this fallen world, the government is charged with the protection and defense of human life, also by the means of capital punishment for those who have taken human life: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed." The governing authority does not bear this sword for nothing, but as God's minister, for the sake of serving and supporting His gift of life in the face of sin and death. The use of such power and authority to assist the strong in destroying the weak is wickedness, which God will avenge according to His own judgment. We, for our part, exercise good judgment and wise discretion in the fear of the Lord, to whatever extent we are permitted to participate in the polity and governance of our land. That is why I could not in good conscience vote for Barack Obama, who has been forthright in his support of abortion; not only in his political rhetoric, but in his voting record. In this, he has shown himself unfit for office.

So now what? President-elect Obama's inauguration will not be the first time that a man unfit for office has been placed into office anyway. It's not a good thing, but it's nothing new; nor does it happen apart from God's permissive will. The first king of Israel was not a man after God's own heart, but he was the Lord's anointed, and by his hand the Lord delivered His people from their enemies on several fronts. Barack Obama's wickedness is not worse than King Manasseh's, who made his sons pass through the fire and filled Jerusalem with the shedding of innocent blood; yet God permitted Manasseh to reign for fifty-five years in Jerusalem, and not only that, but the Lord humbled Manasseh by the hand of the king of Assyria, so that Manasseh repented of his wickedness and did what was right. The Lord has always exercised His kingdom of power for the benefit of His Church, usually by calling His people to repentance, but also by delivering them from evil. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks and Romans, pagan nations all, but the Lord took them in hand to serve His good and gracious will. Kingdoms rise and fall at His command; their rulers have no authority except what He gives them, and He is never powerless to remove or reform them.

With Dr. Luther I confess that I, too, am unworthy and unsuited for the office to which the Lord has called me. Were I to lack His gracious help, "I would have ruined everything long ago." So I pray that He would not forsake me, but that He would use me as an instrument of His mercy; "for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all." As I pray thus for myself, so do I pray for my brother pastors, for all the people of God, and for the governing authorities; indeed, I am commanded to do so, as a matter of first importance (1 Timothy 2:1-4). In obedience to God, under His Word, I submit to the governing authorities and serve faithfully, by the grace of God, where He has placed me in His ordering of His creation. Where my sinful heart is prone to prideful rebellion or faithless despair, I pray that He would bring me daily to repentance, to faith in His forgiveness, and to joy in His salvation, through Jesus Christ my Lord.

It is for Jesus' sake that God our Father hears and answers our prayers. It is for Jesus' sake that He orders all things in heaven and on earth for the benefit of His Church, for the life of His beloved sons and daughters. Indeed, His good and gracious will is done even without our prayer, but we do pray that it would be done among us also. Otherwise, our children and our children's children would never live to see another day, far less another century, nor the good land that the Lord our God has promised to all who love and trust in Him.

It is with fear, love and trust in the one true God that we proceed in faith and confidence; that we submit to the governing authorities and pray for them; that we humbly carry out our own vocations and stations in life; that we welcome and gladly receive the children God gives to us; and that we serve our neighbor in love, the orphan and widow, the sick and imprisoned, the outcast and the stranger, the Lazarus laid at our gate. Our works shall not save us, but they are not in vain; for they are embraced by God, for the sake of the sure mercies of David His Servant. He is the one Shepherd of His flock; the one King who reigns in grace, mercy and peace from the Tree of His Cross; the one Preacher and Teacher and Leader who rules with the Breath of His Mouth, the free and full forgiveness of His Gospel. So is there one God and Father by whom all fatherhood on earth is named.

If our children live to see the future, what changes will they see? "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded," declares the Lord. "There is hope for your future, and your children will return to their own territory." That was the sure and certain promise of the Lord to Israel, in the face of Babylonian captivity. It is His sure and certain promise to us, all the moreso, perfectly fulfilled in the Person and work of His beloved Son. When the vile and viscious King Herod put the sword to all the infant boys of Bethlehem, his hand was prevented from touching the Christ-Child with His Mother. Not Herod but the Lord would strike down His Son, the Shepherd for His flock, that He might gather His lost and wandering sheep from the four winds, from every nation, tribe and tongue, unto Himself in safety, peace and rest. His innocent blood shed for us is our forgiveness and our life; the promise is for us and for our children, and for a people yet unborn.

Change and decay in all around I see. O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

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