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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

Whether President Trump or former Vice President Biden won the election this Tuesday, there are millions of people in the United States who feel like the people in the opening verse of the sixth chapter of Isaiah. The first part of the verse starts shockingly with the words “in the year King Uzziah died.” In the list of successful kings of Israel, Uzziah is listed with David, Solomon, and Hezekiah. Both internal and external records show that Uzziah reigned at least 42 years and that he was a very successful king. His decisions were pleasing to the Lord, he expanded the kingdom, and the nation’s economy did well under his reign.

In 2020, there are people who are grieving and people whose lifestyles will be drastically changed because of the election. Like the people who put their hope in King Uzziah, many people in the United States feel that their hopes for the future died on Tuesday. In the Old Testament and the New Testament, God declares many times that someone or something is dead. He speaks to Joshua: Moses my servant is dead. Jesus speaks to his disciples: Lazarus is dead. Death brings our hopes, dreams, and vision to an end. It also challenges us to move forward.

That verse in Isaiah does not end with death, though: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted and the train of his robe filled the temple.” I want to develop two prayers from this verse and then add another one for the conclusion.

The first prayer is that the American people will come back to the houses of prayer. Jesus called the temple a house of prayer, and I pray that the ones who are celebrating and the ones who are grieving will come to the houses of God and fill them as they have never been filled before. Maybe this is the weekend that you will join a congregation online or go to an open church and pour your heart out before the Lord. Let God know your pain or your joy.

My second prayer is that you will have a vision of God high and exalted in this country. Daniel, a prophet in captivity, told the mighty Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar that he would be removed from his kingdom until he acknowledged “that the Most High is sovereign over kingdoms of men and he gives them to anyone he wishes.” (Daniel 4:25) In a different passage, God says, “I am the Lord, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 2:8) We must recognize that God is holy, and pray that God’s kingdom will come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

However, what I pray for us as a nation is that we will be the people of Isaiah 6:5 when we find ourselves before God. Isaiah wrote, “‘Woe to me! I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”’ Anyone who has watched the debates or speeches made by the presidential candidates or their acolytes can see how far we have gone away from anything that can be considered gentility, respect, or truth. People can look at the same thing and respond with two or more contradictory statements.

Isaiah’s confession is both personal and collective. He recognizes both his own sin and that of his country—“I  am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” A Bible commentator wrote that the further you are from God, the higher your opinion of yourself, even if you are completely wrong and live a life of lies. It is when you come into the presence of God and see things in His light then you are willing to ask God to change you, to touch your lips and your whole being so that you will be able to speak as one who has been in the presence of the Lord.

As the Israelites are preparing to enter the land of Canaan, God tells them, “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.” (Deuteronomy 28:13) May the same be true for our country.

 

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