Do me a favor and please read Psalm 85.
This psalm, as with all of them, are reflections on life. Understanding who and where you are – where God is in the midst of it…and what you proclaim, and know, he will do.
Whose life is perfect? No problems, no issues, no rough patches, no questions about how good of a faithful worshipper you are, or are you following as faithfully as you could? Who here feels that they are in the midst of lollipop lane where candy mountains and chocolate fountains are all of life? Many of us are not only dealing with things now – but we’ve been dealing with things for years. Many of us have given up on asking, “when will it end” and have resolved our lives to saying, “just give me the strength for today.” Well, this psalm…is for you.
This psalm is written by someone who is in the midst of life. And they’ve written it in 3 stanzas, or sections. The first 3 verses speak of the past – what the psalmist knows of the Lord through experiences, but also through oral traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Stories of God’s past works and goodness. We see how the Lord showed favor, which means he showed grace and mercy…we read how the psalmist knows that the Lord forgave the people of long ago and covered their sins and that any anger he had at any point – he sets it aside. Then verses 4-7 are the pains that are present due to the sins that have been committed. These verses are their pleas, their needs, their understandings of their present condition and how and why they got there. Finally, though, verses 8-13 come full circle back to who God was and is. Its verses 1-3 but even stronger. It’s the understanding of the past that becomes the present and the future. BECAUSE God was and is love and faithfulness and righteous…he shows favor to his people and restores them. BECAUSE of his faithfulness his people’s sins will always be covered and his wrath WILL ALWAYS be set aside.
As I read this text I’m drawn to the middle 4 verses (4-7). These verses are about a need to be restored now. They are pleas to God to restore and return favor now…not later. And what’s interesting is that there is this back and forth with the author – almost like they are pulling on different emotional strings. “Restore us” and “put away your displeasure”…matched with “God our Savior.” We have verses 5 and 6 that speak with understanding that God is angry, and that it was something they had done, but also in the same breath there is this “revival” requested of him so that rejoicing can happen once more. And the question I was hit with is why? Why would anyone want a relationship with someone who has all this power? This power to hurt and harm you, this power to knock you down and KEEP you down, whose anger can last forever and affecting people not only now but falling upon future generations as well. Why would anyone want any relationship with someone like that?
THIS is the God many people see. A God who appears to be angry every single day. A God who could very easily snap you in half if he wanted to. A God whose anger lasts from Genesis and then finally relenting in Matthew but then hitting hard in Revelation. A God who, when he doesn’t get his way, sends plagues, kills women and children, and even orders his followers to do the same. This, doesn’t sound like the loving, compassionate, heartfelt God that Christians worship! This doesn’t sound like a God who is slow to anger, teaches about loving one another and serving one another. This doesn’t sound ANYTHING like what is preached. So either this God doesn’t exist and the God of the Bible is simply made-up or God has somehow changed and gone from mean and angry to loving and kind.
Our answer, of course, is in the text. The answer, was not only in verses 1-3 and 8-13 but also in those 4 verses in the middle. The Psalmist knows, understands, and declares, that God’s anger does not come because he is hateful and murderous or simply on some power trip – the psalmist declares that God covers sin – and not just his sin…but ours too. Yes the reason for his anger and disappointment is because of sin…but God doesn’t simply stay angry and stewing in our sin – he does something about it. He actually covers that sin so that we are forgiven. You, and me, who are not PRONE to sin – we ARE in it every day…he comes in and he covers us – he atones and restores it. He restores us and makes us right again. He “revives” us as it says in verse 6. He puts breath back into our lungs. If you’ve ever seen someone doing CPR either by chest compressions, or mouth to mouth, or when they actually have to physically pump the heart…that is what God does! He gives us BACK life. Verse 7 says his love is “unfailing” – so even when he is sad and disappointed in how we’ve acted and treated him and others…his love does not cease – it does not fail.
I asked the question earlier of “why” – Why would anyone want to be in a relationship with someone who is like that? And the reason is because we, just like the psalmist, understand that what God did has always been in response to what we have done…but his actions have always come from a place of love. God IS love. Everything he has ever done is because of his love. Then and now. Love is our framework, love is what we receive, love is what was given to us and asked of us. Towards him and each other. But above all other things…the greatest is his love to us.
Psalm 85 is a psalm of love and response by God to his people who simply fail at love. And there is so much more going on (I feel I didn’t even cover verses 8-13) that I need another blog to keep going but I’ll end with love…God’s unfailing love.