Psalm: Psalm 85:1–2, 8–13
Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin. Selah
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.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way. (ESV)
Recently, my husband and I stepped into a new and uncertain season due to him severely herniating a lumbar disc and needing a total disc replacement. To relieve some of our nerves during our pre-surgical appointment, the neurosurgeon decided to use humour. Paul asked, “What will I be allowed to do with a disc replacement—can I go skydiving?” To which the neurosurgeon responded, “Of course . . . as long as you bring a parachute.” That brought us peace for about a split second because after this we were given a ten-page document that outlined all of the surgical and post-surgical complications that could result in fatality or permanent injury. Suddenly a new and dark narrative was creeping in and challenging the hope and peace we had been given from God in making this decision.
Psalm 85 takes place during a dark and uncertain season for Israel. Yet, in the midst of this difficult season, the psalmist makes some profound declarations of who Yahweh is and finds hope in a different narrative—one based on Yahweh’s promise of shalom. The psalmist’s words of hope in verses 8–13 are carefully chosen terms that reflect Yahweh and his rule. Words like “steadfast love,” “faithfulness,” “righteousness,” and “peace” were derived out of Israel’s experience and revelation of Yahweh. This language was adopted and passed down through generations. The Israelites invoked these terms in their prayers to usher in a reminder of the cloud of witnesses before them and their testimonies to the faithfulness of Yahweh. In this, we see a transformation take place in the heart of the psalmist as he journeys from despair to praise.
The Gospel of John invokes this ancestral language while writing about Jesus. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (NIV, emphasis mine). These final attributes describing the Son are ancestral terms that bring revelation to who Christ is as the incarnation, the coming One who would fulfill Yahweh’s promise of redemption and renewal. Invoking these words and attributing them to Christ as the Messiah brought about a new and world-altering narrative into the prevailing darkness. This was a profound revelation of a new reality in Christ as the one to usher in the kingdom of God.
In this Advent season, as we face incredible darkness in our world and with it a bleak narrative, may we too proclaim a different story through invoking the good news found in the coming of Jesus. In our confidence of Christ’s faithfulness, may we invite others on this psalmist’s journey from despair to praise as we experience the hope and peace found in Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us.
Tanya Gericke – NAB Missionary in Romania