Psalm 85:8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. (NRSV)
Psalm 85:8 is a wonderful place to start a Monday morning… or any morning, for that matter. A prayer to be open to what God will call you to do is a powerful prayer. I used to teach my recruits that “Oh God help me” was the most common prayer around boot camp, but the most powerful prayer is “May God’s will be done.” The difference is in the focus. The first one focuses on me and my strength, my goals, my will. The second one focuses on God; God’s strength, God’s goals, God’s will. It allows me to let go of my preconceived notions, my own expectations, my own need to be on top of things. It means I let God be God. (Which is the only way it really is and me trying to do anything else is just me wasting my energy and giving away my peace.)
Praying to hear the word of the Lord is akin to praying for God’s will to be done. We cannot do God’s will unless we know it. We cannot know it unless we listen to what God’s Word, both in the scriptures and that which comes to us in the moment through the power of the Holy Spirit, says to us. And how will you recognize God’s voice or God’s will among the chatter of the world and our own thoughts? The next few verses of Psalm 85 will fill you in.
Psalm 85:9-13 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps. (NRSV)
“Salvation” could also be translated “solution” or “rescue” and really, either one fits pretty well. When God’s word is heard, honored and put into practice, we will be saved/rescued/our problem will be solved. God’s solution fills the scene with a strong, long-lasting fulfillment that is life-giving to all. “Shalom” is the Hebrew word for it. Right(eous)ness describes it. Not the nasty judgmental way the word has recently come to be associated with, but in its pure form, righteousness means something that is good for all. It is the right solution because everybody benefits.
The poetic language of this psalm reminds us that the whole universe is balanced in goodness. Faithfulness and trustworthiness go together. We rest on that. Righteousness (goodness for all) showers down over us, refreshing us like a spring rain. They surround us above and below and are part of what provides for our physical needs (the produce of the land) as well as our spiritual needs (the path through life.)
God’s will is not always done because human self-will inserts itself into the balanced system and creates the imbalance that both causes and is caused by strife and discord. But all this goodness is available to the one who breaks the chain of self-will and ‘fears the Lord.’ (Psalm 85:9) Remember “fear” here is more about respect, honor, be in awe of, rather than be afraid of… and yet, being “afraid of” in a healthy way is part of it. I was in no way afraid of my parents, but I still didn’t want their punishment. I had a healthy respect for their authority and tended to discipline myself to avoid their punishment. That is the kind of nuanced picture the psalmist is trying to paint. The one who fears the Lord in this way is the one who then will resist the powers and pull of self-will and lean into God’s word and God’s will. Peace prevails (in the long run… the short run is another story. Come back tomorrow for more on the long run vs the short run.)
So for today, open your ears and your heart to what God will say to you today. Open your life to what God is calling you to do. May God’s glory fill your life.
blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.