NOW AND NOT YET
“Speak, Lord, in the stillness, speak your word to me” (Emily May Grimes, 1868–1927).
Read PSALM 85
1 You, Lord, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
3 You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.
4 Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
8 I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The God of fidelity continues to open what the world regards as closed” (Walter Brueggemann). The Lord can revive and restore both us and the church!
This psalm illustrates the tension that believers have experienced throughout the ages between an assured faith in what God has done and the reality of the present in which he has become distant and what was promised seems endlessly delayed. The opening verses celebrate the divine forgiveness and mercy which form the very basis of Israel’s existence. These are historical facts and nothing can change the record of God’s mighty deeds in the salvation of his people.
However, the mood changes at verse 4, revealing disappointment and lament because of the absence of the experience of grace in the present. The possibility that this is due to divine “displeasure” and “anger” (4,5) prompts the prayer for revival and experience of the “unfailing love” of God (7). At this point an individual voice breaks in, possibly someone in the Temple with a prophetic gift who, hearing the corporate lament, announces: “I will listen to what God the Lord says” (8). He reports that the divine response is one of reassurance and verses 9–13 overflow with words of comfort: God is near those who fear him; faithfulness and righteousness pour down upon this praying people.
The experience described here is familiar to Christians who struggle with the apparent gap between the promise of the gospel and the reality of a world (and, alas, a church) which seems to change very little. We need both the honesty and integrity of the prayer of this psalm and the gift of prophets who can speak God’s word of hope and promise as a response to our anguished cries.
What pattern of faith unfolds in this psalm? What does it mean to let God’s glory dwell in your church and your life (9)?
Lord, I long to fulfill my destiny. I want to “enjoy You forever.” Revive me with Your life-giving Spirit.
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