Steadfast Love and Faithfulness will meet Psalm 85

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who trust in the steadfast love of God said … AMEN! …

The Psalms are unique because they are more about what the writer is feeling, experiencing. We do get caught up in our feelings, our emotions. We can’t distinguish what is important, and what is just emotional reaction. We let emotions, instead of reason dictate our actions, and then, wonder why things went wrong.

People have emotions, we’re not Vulcans. Sometimes we need to vent emotions. In last week’s psalm: “ESV 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” It’s quoted by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, ESV 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Too often we are phoney, with our emotions, but anger always seems to be a genuine emotion. God gets angry, and rightly so. He shouldn’t have to deal with all the gratuitous ugliness and sinfulness of the world. Sin that is for no good reason then “because I can”. Even when it’s some gratification, the sinner knows it’s only temporary. Then we’re left with God’s righteous anger, and our guilt and shame. Is anger sinful? For the most part yes. But there is “righteous anger”. Certainly when we see God described as angry, wrathful, indignant as described in Psalm 85.

The writer of this psalm is almost certainly not David. Yahweh really never took anything away from David that he would be asking for restoration, revival. There was at least one time when David really messed up, and a lot of innocent people suffered. It is difficult for me to reconcile that particular incident. The obvious example with Bathsheba, he commits a grievous sin with her, than compounds it many times over by the way he had her husband Uriah killed. If there was one time when David was totally scandalous in sin, that was it. Sin is sin, it’s always scandalous, although in today’s world, we define sin differently than what God does, and justify the things that are sin and try to condemn things that are justified. Today it’s sin to criticize people’s wrong choices. Wrong choices aren’t sin, it’s being “judgmental”, even though wrong choices are over and over destructive, whereas the criticism is usually intended to be corrective, often to help. We are told repeatedly in Scripture to rebuke, exhort. But especially with the intelligentsia of today, “life style choices” are just fine, you do what feels good sweetie. God tells us they’re not fine, He tells us we have to hold others accountable, rebuke them and then of course the swell little folk tell us how wrong we are, and take no responsibility for outcomes like David’s with Bathsheba and her husband. There’s no right or wrong, it’s entirely based on whose ox is or is not being gored, whether it’s right or wrong. That’s hypocrisy, but to the world everyone else is a hypocrite.

God gets angry and rightly so, that is what this psalm is about. This psalm, called a “national lament”. Tremper Longman writes: “…composed in four parts: (1)  proclamation of God’s past acts (vv.1-3);  (2) lament and prayer for restoration (vv. 4-7); (3) anticipation of God’s salvation (v 8) and (4) words of hope (vv 9-13).

It’s believed this psalm was written sometime in the post-exilic period, after the Jewish people return to Israel from exile in Babylon. It’s attributed to “Sons of Korah”, which may refer to troubles experienced by Nehemiah/Malachi who lived about 400 years after David. Israel has had a whole history of this pattern. Sound familiar? We’ve seen the United States go through these patterns even in just 200 plus years of history. It seems our culture is sliding even farther away because we are just so smart, and above all this moralistic stuff. People can do what they want, when they want, and who’s to say? Until, of course, someone doesn’t like what the other wants, decides this is all true except in this case, because it’s now about me, and that’s what’s most important. Again, a culture full of hypocrites, who don’t care how much you harm yourself until it has a negative impact on them. The depth of hypocrisy in our culture, in the culture of Israel and other nations that have peaked and fallen would be laughable, if it wasn’t so sad and destructive. It’s a culture absolutely rife with violence, suicide, drug addiction and death by overdose, the more “progressive” we get, the worse the societal effects, and those same people will tell us that we just haven’t gone far enough. These are the very things that God tries to protect us from, with His Church, with His sacraments, by bestowing the ultimate gift on us, God the Son. We ignore Him, His Word, His Sacraments, treat them casually, because we’re entitled to everything, and then wonder why we continue to dive deeper into societal despair, greed, abuse and cynicism. God has given us the answer in Jesus, but we’re just too smart for that and know that we just haven’t been given enough, when we have “enough”, … then … everything will be just smurfy. When you’re a grown-up, have to trust God and His leading and He leads you to grow, work, strive to serve Him, your church, family, community, you know there’s never “enough”. But you also learn contentment. There are people out there who are too special for contentment, they’re waiting for their enough, and then cry out in despair, lash out, or give up in depravity of their vice of choice which is never enough. The hating world around them continues to mock and laugh at them because another person has fallen for the lies of the world and is another statistic in the mounting total of statistics. We pray and reach out and do our best to show people what life in Christ is; “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.” (v8) We as a church fail, we wander off into our “follys” and the Lord vents His wrath. Longman writes; “The ‘wrath’ and ‘fierce anger’ of God are associated with his ‘jealousy’ when his holiness had been offended by the sin of his people’” Heavens to Betsy God jealous? He says He is, right after the Ten Commandments. Lots of ignorant prattle in our society that doesn’t understand the difference between jealousy and envy. Envy is when I want what you have, aka covetousness. Jealousy is when something is mine, I’m entitled to it. I’m jealous of my wife, she’s my wife, she’s not anyone else’s wife. We are God’s children in our baptism, in our receiving the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus. That make us completely His, because He has given Himself completely to us. When we do anything less than that, it is called sin. God does not have to tolerate our gratuitous, nasty, hateful, spiteful sin. Yet He does, He sent His Son to be the payment for all of our evil. He reached His level of tolerance with Israel many times, with other nations and cultures of the world, and will with ours, if we proceed down this ugly, self-centered path to destruction. He will inflict the destruction, because He doesn’t have to tolerate it, and neither should we.

There are those, many in what is supposed to be a church, who simply chose to follow their whim, decide to ignore God’s word because, hey, that’s old – fashioned, we’re new and hip, we know what is supposed to be done now! Then simply ignore the waste and destruction that is behind them. Wonder why there is the violence, and refuse to see it is because this society has for generations ignored the hope, promise and love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the lies of the world and left generations increasingly with no hope and promise. We pass on to our children not hope and promise, but the lies and deception of post-modernism, that technology, health care, education, wealth, justice system will make everything all right. When we find out it doesn’t, it won’t, what else is left but hopelessness. The psalmist tells us what course to take; “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other”. This can only be in God, the world has nothing of faithfulness, the world is about greed, lust, abuse, gluttony. When God has led His “saints”, us, His hasids, holy ones, to where they need to be, “Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” Are you more concerned with what God has given us as the truth for millennium, or more concerned with what is popular and chic? Israel chose the latter over and over and God inflicted His discipline on greedy, gross, immature people who ignored His Word. When they were subject to that discipline, they came back to God whining and sniveling. We who are in Christ, we continue to look to Him and His Word for that guidance. We will be the “good and faithful servants” of Matthew 25:23, who will be welcomed with head held high into the eternal resurrection of true life in Christ. The worthless servants, those who think the fruit is all about them? Thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” His Words, not mine.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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