Restoration and revival might take a lot of work. I just did a Google image search on the phrase “the hard work of restoration”, and almost all of the pictures are about car restorations. Some furniture. Some homes. There is restoration from natural disaster that can take years. I suspect only a few of us will get involved in that kind of restoration. Maybe most of us work on our homes, but rarely do we do full restorations.
But just about all of us work on a different kind of restoration. Relationship restoration.
My guess is that nearly everyone, at some point in their lives, must work towards restoring a relationship that has become broken. In this week’s posts we’ve talked about the experience of seeing a new spark of life in a relationship that seemed to have been dead. That new hope is a wonderful thing. But it carries with it the reality of the mountain of work yet to occur.
As we continue our study of Psalms of Lament this Advent, we have started looking into the four sections of Psalm 85. You can review the previous sections here (one), God’s blessing in the past, and here (two), a lament for restoration to continue.
In this post, we look at section three, verses 8-9, and what do we see? The promise of present blessing for God’s people is connected to their obedience. Three times in these two verses the psalmist mentions obedience. Isn’t that interesting? He is lamenting to God, asking for God to keep the restoration going, to bring revival, but he also knows that he and the people have a part to play.
Do you see the three times he mentions obedience?
In verse 8, he says I will listen to God. God will be his source of wisdom and truth and knowledge. He will learn from God how to live. No more living based on what he thinks is right and good. Look where that got him and the nation. Now he places his focus on listening to God.
Second, still in verse 8, he says that God promises peace to his people, but let them not turn to folly. They wanted the peace. They wanted peace badly. After living in captivity for 70 years, and finally being allowed to return to their own land, they want peace. They don’t want enemies and fighting. We all want peace. Enemies and fighting wear us down, gives us stress and generally ruin life. We want peace. God promises peace, but they must obey. They must not turn to folly. Folly is foolish choices. Behaving badly. They must follow God.
Third, in verse 9 he says salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in the land. That’s what they want. They want God to be with them in the Promised Land, because he is stronger than their enemies. He can protect and save them. But again, there is a condition. They must fear him. Go back a few weeks and review the sermon Emerald gave on the fear of God from Deuteronomy 6. Fearing God was vital to the people of Israel being restored and revived.
Put these three statements about obedience together, and what conclusion do we have? Restoration has begun, and restoration and revival will continue, as long as the people are faithful to God. There is much work to be done.
I get that. I was once one who needed restoration. When I was 17, I was a very reckless irresponsible driver, and as a result I got into a bad accident. I unintentionally hit an Amish buggy, and a lady inside died. If you want to read the whole story, you can do so here. A couple Sundays ago, my parents and I, and my two youngest kids, visited the Amish family. It was our annual visit. For 26 years, every year around the time of the accident, we go visit them for the afternoon.
They had already forgiven me long ago. In fact, they forgave me the day after the accident. My fortunes were restored, but there was much work to do for the restoration to continue. And so every year we go over to their house. I’ll reveal to you a bit of my feelings about this. Every year I have anxiety about going. There is part of me that doesn’t want to go, and I contemplate saying, “My family can’t make it.” And every year when we pull up to their house, I feel a heaviness, a bit of shame returns, and I have to steel myself, take a deep breath, and say “Let’s do this.” It’s not overwhelming. It’s just awkward.
The Amish family do not make it awkward. It’s all within me.
The Amish family are wonderful actually, and they always have been. And usually all it takes is a few minutes, after greeting and hugging and shaking hands, and the conversation starts to fly. This time one of their sons was there too. He has a tree-trimming business, and was doing a job over at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station. He remarked to us about how huge and impressive the cooling towers are. Then he looked at my dad and asked, “What is nuclear power anyway? Is it like a gas?” And so for the next five minutes we sat there as my dad tried to explain nuclear power to an Amish man!
We were there two hours, and as we left, I thought how important is the ongoing work of restoration. So important that it is well worth a visit once every year, even if it is for the rest of my life.
Restoration and revival are God’s work, no doubt. But God invites us to work them out with him. And lament calls out to God to do just that.
When we participate with God in the work in restoration and revival, a beautiful thing happens, and that is what the psalmist so gorgeously depicts in the final section of his poem, which we look closely at in our next post!