The psalm’s opening position is one of spiritual barrenness. Have you experienced a time, even a long time, when God has seemed far off or you have separated yourself from God? Perhaps for a period you even rejoiced in the freedom of not being constrained by a relationship with God but now find it is not the satisfying freedom you once believed it to be? Something of a yearning for God in your life has started to emerge however vaguely formed. At such times, if we once called ourselves Christian it is possible we can dig back in our memory or in the case of a church it’s collective memory and consider a time when our relationship with God was satisfying.
Israel in the opening of this psalm is doing just that. We do not know the exact time the psalm was written but the nation had a repeated pattern of rejecting God, pursuing idols and accompanying corrupt lives causing God to withdraw his blessing. Now they appeal once again to the Lord to forgive, trusting to his unchanging character. vv 1-3 The process can apply equally to us as individuals or as a church. It does however require the painful step of being honest about our own “iniquity” v2 and humility to ask to be restored.
‘Restore to us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!’ v4 Through Jesus’ restoring sacrifice and resurrection God has promised he will forgive, restore and renew our lives in relationship with him. John writes, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:8-9
We can often feel stuck in our sin whether that is a specific repetitive thing that makes us feel bad or a general malaise. From that position it is easy to share the psalmist’s thoughts that God’s anger or disapproval will never go away. ‘Will you be angry with us forever? v5 We may feel there is an inevitable drift away from God and his ways that cannot be stopped and so the question is raised, ‘Will you prolong your anger to all generations?’ v5 Fortunately this is not the case. God stepped into the history of his people to answer the prayer of verse 8, ‘Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak to his people, to his saints’. He did so through the incarnation of Jesus, the Christ. Through Jesus alone God has both spoken peace and restored peace between himself and his people. Jesus fulfilled both the law and the prophets of which the psalmist knew. Jesus explained how this was so to the disciples on the Emmaus Road following his resurrection, ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ Like 24:27
For those then who feel in some way separated and cut off from God through their lifestyle or barrenness of experience, now is surely the time to take the step toward Christ following the psalmist’s urging, ‘let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, and the glory may dwell in our land.’ vv 8-9 Fear need not be a terror but an awesome recognition of Jesus as the Son of God and glory being his wonderful presence in our life.
Verses 10-11 poetically expresses the nature of a living relationship with Jesus and verses 12-13 the promise from Jesus to those who trust in him.
If you feel separated from God are you ready to ask for restoration?
Do you desire the peace with God that comes through Jesus’ death and resurrection?
How Deep The Father’s Love For Us