Today’s passage: Psalm 85
Here we have a psalm that takes us through all three of Walter Brueggemann’s stages of experience, from orientation to disorientation to new orientation. Psalm 85, a psalm of the sons of Korah, begins by recalling God’s past forgiveness toward Israel, then asks God for mercy concerning its present sinful state, and finally looks toward a future where God saves his people and blesses their land.
I’ll be honest: forgiveness always gets my attention because I need it on a daily basis. Fortunately, God’s got a history of mercy. “You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin. You withdrew all Your fury; You turned away from Your burning anger” (2-3). But while I tend to seek forgiveness for my own personal failures and shortcomings, these verses take a communal view of sin: many people, one iniquity. It’s the sins of the nation we’re talking about.
Moreover, I tend to think of salvation in terms of God saving me from myself. And while there’s some merit to that view, this psalm points out that, in a sense, God saves us from himself. Israel has a history of evil–of doing the things that make God justly angry. If they’re spared, it’s only because God decided to show mercy and withdraw his wrath. Thankfully, he does just that.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of God’s forgiveness to me is that it gives life to our spiritual deadness. The sons of Korah ask, “Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (6). And yes, he will. When we walk away from God, we’re dead men walking, communally a nation of alienated zombies. But when God brings us back to him, we come alive and remember how to rejoice again. It’s as Switchfoot puts it in their song “24“: “You’re raising the dead in me,” and honestly, I couldn’t put it better.