• Dear Friends
    Psalm 85
    1Lord, you were gracious to your land; *
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
    2You forgave the offence of your people *
    and covered all their sins.
    8I will listen to what the Lord God will say, *
    for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful,
    that they turn not again to folly.
    9Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him, *
    that his glory may dwell in our land. 
    10Mercy and truth are met together, *
    righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
    These verses are part of the Psalm set for this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent.  It may well have been used originally during worship for the Harvest Festival of the Jews.  It remembers years gone past and how God had always provided for his people.  Look at the very first verse, as the Jews wistfully remember how things used to be.  ‘Lord, you were gracious to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.’  It then moves in the present day for the Jews and trusts that God will do the same again.’Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.’  Perhaps life was tough for the Jews?  Perhaps their harvest had failed?  Well God had saved them in the past and he would do so again.  ‘Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.’ 
    How is God going to provide?  Well according to verse 8, he will speak peace to his people.’for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful, that they turn not again to folly.’   What do you suppose it means to speak peace to his people?  To me it smacks of forgiveness and reconciliation.  As if God has bridged the rift which human beings have caused through sin and overcome it with love.  Which is the message of the New Testament interlaced through the words of the Old Testament!
    It seems in those days things were not so very different from today.  Many people did not bother listening to God, and indeed probably blamed him for the disaster that was upon them.  The Psalmist makes a point of saying that he ‘will listen to what the Lord God will say’, and therefore he is able to hear the words of peace that God speaks and knows he is loved despite his failings, despite the circumstances he is in.  Do words of peace mean God is providing?  Well, it depends if you think life is all about having enough physically only, or whether having enough spiritually and emotionally are important too?  And the fact is that the Jewish people survived the famine, so God did provide.
    There is no sense in this psalm that God is looking at human beings through rose tinted spectacles.  He knows we are far from perfect, and there seems to be a strong connection between his involvement and our willingness to let God be God.  This strikes me as the best definition of God’s judgement.  God’s judgement can surely not be divorced from his love?  It must surely be connected with his overarching desire to save his creation despite our foolishness.  That’s where ‘Mercy and truth are met together,’ so that ‘righteousness and peace have kissed each other’.  So don’t be frightened of the judgement of God – just remember it is a sign of how deeply he loves us and desires to save us.  Let God be God, know your need;  and listen to him!
    A prayer
    O God,
    who  through your Word sent pardon and peace to restore your creation,
    cause your people to see afresh your love
    and be revived by your salvation;
    and so may we rejoice in the knowledge that you are redeeming all things in your faithfulness
    You may like to listen to Veni Veni Emanuel, by James MacMillan.  Not an easy piece, but listen out for the familiar strains of the hymn as it breaks through the discordance and God given freedom of human life.  You’ll either love it or hate it!
    Every blessing