A REFLECTION ON PSALM 85
Psalm 85 seems to come from a time in Israel when they could remember that, not too long previously, God had restored their fortunes. Verses 1-2: “O Lord, you were gracious to your land, you restored the fortunes, you forgave our iniquity and covered our sin.”
But then, from that good situation, they’d fallen again and seemed to be suffering under God’s displeasure. Verse 5: “Will you be displeased with us forever?” “Will you not give us life again?” (verse 6).
Perhaps we can feel some resonance with our situation in which we thought God had brought us through the COVID crisis; we were amazingly blessed with basically zero cases in the country. Life had returned to normal. Perhaps we thought it was through our own cleverness.
But now we’re stuck in a lockdown with no immediate prospect of it being lifted. We can’t gather as church. We can’t run kids’ club and go into schools to share the good news. And we cry to God in the words of verse 6: “Will you not give us life again, that your people may rejoice in you?”
But the psalm finishes confident that God will return to his people. It prays those very familiar words: “Show us your mercy Lord, and grant us your salvation”, and is full of confidence that God will answer.
Verse 9: “Truly his salvation is near to those who fear him, and his glory will dwell in our land.”
The glory of God is his presence. Those wonderful pictures which the psalm ends with are pictures of God’s presence:
Righteousness and peace kiss each other
Truth shall flourish out of the earth.
The Lord will give us all that is good.
And our land shall yield its plenty.
But if we’re talking about God’s presence, remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Surely I am with you to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). For us as Jesus’ disciples, Jesus is with us. He is with us now, to the end of the age.
And so, when we read in Mark 6:50 about Jesus stepping into the boat with his disciples, and saying to them, “Take courage. It is I! Don’t be afraid,” we can hear those words as the words of Jesus to us.
If we are those who, like the psalmist, “will hear what the Lord God will speak”, “will fear him”, then we know that Jesus is with us right now. And that in his presence, “righteousness and peace have kissed each other”.