Psalm 85 P art 1
The notion of a community lament probably seems an alien concept in modern western culture. Firstly, with a twentieth and twenty first century emphasis on individualism it is difficult to imagine local communities being genuinely united enough in any respect to lament together let alone a nation as a whole. In part this reflects western societies having been on a fairly steady line of economic and technological growth albeit with fluctuations along the way. It is also difficult to conceive of a nation having a unified enough view to collectively share a lament. It feels as if this division within society has been markedly increased over the last decade in the UK and the USA particularly around such issues as the Republican and Democratic divide, Brexit, nationalism, race and migration. However following a year-long pandemic, with the end still not having been reached, it is imaginable that a community lament could take place. There have been stand out incidents of mass grief, examples of which include the Aberfan disaster, the death of Princess Dianna and very recently the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Biblical community lament differs from grief in that it involves repentance. It is more than feeling sorry and sad it involves a breaking of a covenant with God.
Psalm 85 is a community lament for the whole of Israel. One might dismiss it and say a nation no longer has a covenantal relationship with God. However, the church does and so the application of Psalm 85 relates not just to an individual follower of Jesus who entered into a covenant relationship when they committed their life to Christ, publicly confessed through baptism, it relates to the local church as a community of God. This is an aspect sometimes shied away from by modern churches but it is firmly asserted in the New Testament. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is a series of judgments on local churches where they are held responsible and called to account by the Spirit. The local church is seen by God as a body. We often concentrate on being a finger or nose ignoring the fact that without the rest of the body we are purposeless through an over emphasis on individualism.
Psalm 85 can act for a modern church as a form of relationship health assessment. Verses 1-3 look back at what God has done for his people. Verses 4-7 appeal to God’s compassion for a restored relationship while verses 8-9 declare God’s patience with his wayward people. Verse 9 longs for God’s glory to be with his people. The psalm concludes with confidence in God’s faithfulness and righteousness, expressing a desire to live in peace with him. Part 2 will look closer at the detail of the Psalm.
Do we believe we have been bound together by God to be a community of his people?
Do we accept that we have responsibilities to the community of the people of God?
Do we consider we are in a covenantal relationship with God?
We are one in the Spirit