This is a guest post from Andrew Gilmore.
“I read the paper every day and the Bible every day; that way I know what both sides are up to.” Zig Ziglar
If you were to ask just about any Christian his or her take on the status of America today, I can bet the answer would be more negative than positive. Respondents might cite moral decay exacerbated by the embrace of postmodernism, debilitating national debt, racial violence, erosion of freedoms, and the list goes on. Were I to assess the situation myself, I would be inclined to agree with such a summation. The nation appears headed in the wrong direction morally, politically, financially, and just about every other “ly” word you can think of.
But as bad as things seem to us in the 21st Century, Jews in 2nd Century BC Palestine had it much worse. Having returned from captivity in Babylon and having rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, God’s people still found themselves subject to foreign kings. Alexander the Great had come, conquered much of the known world, and died suddenly, leaving his kingdom divided into four parts as prophesied by Daniel (8:22). The Seleucid dynasty eventually held control of Israel, leaving the nation with mostly internal autonomy.
That is, until Antiochus IV became king. He began selling the position of high priest to the highest bidder and encouraged the Hellenization of Judea. When rumor came to Jerusalem that Antiochus had died in a war with Egypt, the Jews rejoiced. Problem is, Antiochus was not dead. When he heard of the Jews’ reaction, he stormed Jerusalem, slaughtering 40,000 residents and enslaving another 40,000. If that wasn’t enough, the king, who had given himself the name Antiochus Epiphanes (god manifest), entered the temple and defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the altar.1
The treachery, oppression and bloodshed eventually gave rise to the legendary Maccabees, a God fearing family who led many successful uprisings against Israel’s oppressors. The name Maccabee means “hammer of God,” and the Jews believed the family was God’s instrument of justice. But despite these victories, Israel would only taste autonomy for a brief time. As the New Testament opens, Rome holds control of Judea.
But the people never forgot about the might of the Maccabees. (In fact, that’s what Hanukkah is all about.) As a result they pined away for a savior. They longed for a Messiah. The prophets did promise one after all. But the Jews wanted a Messiah like a Maccabee who would drive out the heathen and restore sovereignty to Israel. So desperate were they that they followed just about any insurrectionist or revolutionary they could find. They would hinge their hopes on one man until he proved to be not what they wanted.
Israel wanted another hammer of God. Instead, it got the Lamb of God.
Where Is Your Hope?
I tell this long history not merely to point out that things could be worse in America, although they certainly could be. But rather I bring it up to help establish the desperate mindset prevalent in the hearts of Judea when the New Testament opens.
And as the US Presidential election draws near, I sense that same desperation in the hearts of American Christians. It is a troubling trend in the culture—the belief that one person can make everything better. I too have been sucked up into the hype, canonizing my favorite candidate and demonizing his or her opponent. In doing so, I betrayed the truth about where my hope lay. I had placed my hope in a human rather than in Jesus.
The Messiah did come. Problem is, many in Israel missed it. As John wrote, “His own did not receive him” (John 1:11). Let’s not make the same mistake.
Jesus is, and always has been, our only hope. Not just as a nation, but for salvation, for healing, for freedom. Should you place your hope in any other person, object, or organization, you will be disappointed.
I still vote and pay (some) attention to the presidential candidates. I think it is important to do so. But when faith in politicians trumps your faith in Christ, something is out of whack. The only way to have peace this election season is to remember that our Savior is already here. Every political candidate will let you down, but Jesus will never fail you. I’ve learned no matter which side of the aisle we find ourselves, no human can truly solve our problems. Turning to Christ is the only possible solution.
So if you’re unsettled about the upcoming election, take heart in the fact that Christ is on the throne. He is our savior. And nothing that happens on earth can change that.
Andrew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration you need to connect with your Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.
1 H. A. Ironside, The Four Hundred Silent Years: From Malachi to Matthew (1914).