“Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.”
– Psalm 85:9
Most of us cannot remember a time that has felt as grim as 2020 has felt. For many, this year has been one intense grieving. COVID-19 has taken so many lives and impacted the lives of its survivors. But even those who have not experienced this new disease directly have been impacted by it. Plans have been cancelled, routines have been disrupted, and countless millions have been disappointed by the many failures to respond effectively to the disease. Many national governments are in various states of disarray, a situation that impacts the most vulnerable people in society first. In that context there is something audacious, almost laughable, about the words of Psalm 85:8-13. The Lord promises peace? One could be forgiven for questioning when this peace will finally get here. And yet there it is: “his salvation is near those who fear him.”
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So many of us are exhausted by the waiting. Like a frozen computer, or a government office, the waiting is interminable. But in our waiting we see God’s faithfulness, and we respond with our own. In verses 10-13 of this psalm, we read about how faithfulness, righteousness, love, and peace follow each other. Faithfulness from God’s people goes up like an offering, and God’s righteousness rains down on the earth. Faithfulness and love are like a couple meeting, and righteousness and peace share an intimate kiss. In 2020, it seems ridiculous to say that our land will yield its harvest, and yet that is what we read here. As we approach the throne of God with faithfulness we see that God’s peace is not just something we anticipate. It is something we experience right now. COVID-19 has not stopped God’s mercy. Indeed, it is a great opportunity to experience that mercy directly.
Perhaps that is why the psalmist placed a warning at the very beginning: “let them not turn to folly.” It does not say directly what that folly might be, but we can all testify to the folly that we have seen around us during this pandemic. The waiting takes its toll. But we are warned against it here, because the thing we need the most is already here. After all, waiting is nothing new. If it’s not a pandemic, it’s war, injustice, corruption, or violence. Sometimes it’s all of the above. But in the end, the obstacle doesn’t change the outcome. God’s faithfulness, righteousness, and love are already among us. What other way could followers of Christ respond than with the same qualities?