The leaves are changing. Another fall is sprinting by, trees turning shade by shade from vernal green to autumnal gold. For months now, I have spent Sunday mornings driving down winding northern Virginia roads to church at my friends’ apartment, watching the sun dawn over those trees as they change from green to yellow to red, the change gradual but unmistakable.
The leaves are changing, and they are not the only ones. Goodness knows you and I are no strangers to it. Change is nothing if not constant, as tireless as the seasons, nature’s mirror for the passage of time. Everything changes: our bodies, our addresses, the jewelry on our bedside tables, the car parked outside, last names, schools, jobs—even the mountains, even the oceans, even the stars. Everything changes, and too often the golden-red trees against the sunrise are slim comfort for the loss of summer sun on our bare shoulders.
We know all earthly things grow and change and die, and yet we keep putting our hope in changing things, don’t we? We hope in jobs, in homes, in ourselves, in other people; and, dare I say it, we put our hope in senators and presidential candidates and presidents.
It is good to care about these things. We are exiles, but we have been exiled to a specific time and place with specific friends and families and jobs and political leaders. We are called to be good stewards of what we have been given, among which are the city, state, and nation in which we live. How we participate in them matters.
All of them will change, though, in little ways as well as big. Change is the thread shot through the fabric of this eternal story until the final cosmic upheaval, the coming of the King to establish the new heavens and the new earth. Presidents and parties and nations, jobs and houses and schools, all will rise and fall. I have written before about all the change I’ve seen this year, all I thought I knew crumbling in my hands. I know I am not the only one.
As exiles in a fallen world, our bodies, surroundings, occupations, and interests are going to change. As citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, our identity in Him will not. Were all our heartbreaks and joys to be stripped away, this truth would still remain: He is God, and we are His people (Psalm 95:7).
Though it all changes, the King we serve does not. He “is the LORD, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5). With him “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). He “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).
All we know could fall through our fingers, and He would still be God. All our plans could crumble to dust, and He would still reign. Everything could change, and He would still be our unchanging King.
“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation,” says the Psalmist. “When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:3-7).
Or, maybe, we could say this: Put not your trust in presidential candidates, in whom there is no salvation. Blessed are we when our hope is in the Lord our God, our unchanging King, who keeps faith forever.
Soon, the leaves will fall, and the trees will again stand bare against the dawning sky. The election results will come in, and we will grieve or celebrate or look warily toward the future or weep for the country or do a little bit of all four. But this November 2020 is one month among millennia of human existence, smack in the middle of the already-but-not-yet of the eternal Author’s good story. Whatever happens next, God will still reign, and sin and death will still lose. So whatever comes, let the world find us singing, “Hallelujah, praise Jehovah! Oh, my soul, Jehovah reigns.”