Today is primary election day – when we exercise our right to pick up a ballot and make choices about our desire for the future of our communities, our counties, our states and even our country. While we may disagree with many of the candidates, we have a right to express that displeasure at the polls and, of course, we also have the chance to support and vote for those individuals who best exemplify the traits and positions that we personally endorse.
Aside from the primaries, we also hold elections for a variety of other reasons. Juries decide on the guilt or innocence of defendants through voting, usually while they are sequestered and immune from public persuasion or inadmissible evidence. We also hold elections for school board members, the general elections in November, judges who serve on the bench in our legal system and things as mundane as officers in area homeowner’s associations, in addition to electing the most powerful leader in the world, the President of the United States.
The truth of the matter is that we have come to expect that we will vote on almost anything that needs to be decided. And we believe that it is a fundamental right of ours – yet many people throughout the world don’t have the right to vote at all. And in many other areas of the world, elections are rigged and people are intimidated into voting for corrupt officials, even heads of state. Many of us take the right to vote for granted, yet it is one of the primary foundations upon which this country was founded.
Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t talk very much about voting on things. Most of the time, we read about the casting of lots, which was a traditional way of invoking God’s blessing, or choice, when a decision had to be made. We aren’t sure whether the practice involved dice, or different kinds of markers which were “cast” and the results were thought to have been consistent with God’s will for the outcome of the particular question at hand. There are also stories about the Urim and Thummin, which were used to make decisions, but nobody knows what these items were – they are never described in the Bible. I guess they will remain a mystery until we can ask God directly when we arrive in heaven.
There is really only one incident in the Bible that directly refers to the process of “voting.” It has to do with voting as to whether to kill Christians or not. The main character in the story is Paul who, before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus when he was struck blind, was a staunch opponent of Jesus. In fact, he lived life as a Pharisee and was even a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling class of the most elite Jews. Paul was incredibly well educated and had spent his life living in such as way as to emulate the most dedicated followers of God under the Old Testament law.
The story unfolds as Paul re-lives his life a Jewish leader who believed that he should do everything possible to oppose Jesus. When Christians were being considered for execution, Paul was involved in the “voting” process and even admitted that he voted for their deaths. It was only after his divine experience with Jesus that he changed his ways and got on fire for the kingdom of God. It was the fact that Paul was so highly trained and so committed to the Jewish way of life that made his testimony for the Gospel even more remarkable when his conversion experience occurred. Many people wouldn’t accept the fact that Paul was no longer interested in persecuting Christians, but eventually he convinced people that he was for real in his new life.
The verses for tonight capture Paul’s state of mind during the only time in the entire Bible that we see the word “vote” being used. In Acts 26:9-11, Paul tells us, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.”
Wow! This is the same Paul who in later years started churches at Ephesus, Philippi, Galatia, Corinth and a host of other cities. In fact, he became the most prolific church planter in the world – on fire for the Lord, when not so long before he actually voted to kill followers of Christ.
My encouragement tonight is that God can use any of us for His glory. Paul was probably the most unlikely candidate ever to become a supporter of Jesus, yet God used him in powerful ways. My prayer is that you will be responsive to God’s call on your life and that you will “vote” to follow the living God instead of any other pretender to the eternal throne. Grace and peace…