From My Soul Waits
For he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts. (v. 8)
Something is amiss in the land. Is it a drought? Is it the threat of defeat at the hand of the enemy? Is it some sudden national disaster? All we know for sure is that something has gone desperately wrong, behind which the psalmist sees the hand of God’s divine judgment. His appeal is simple yet fervent: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away thy indignation toward us!”
Upon what does the psalmist base his petition? He spends the opening verses of the song looking back upon multiple evidences of God’s faithfulness and love for his people: God has already been gracious in delivering the land from captivity; he has shown his mercy in forgiving the people; the land has already known a peace that comes from the providential care of the Lord. As he rehearses this historical account of the nation’s prosperity, it is as if the psalmist is reminding the Lord of how good he has already been to his people. A similar thing happens at the beginning of Psalm 44: “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what deeds thou didst perform in their days, in the days of old.” (1)
The thought of “reminding God” of anything seems, at first glance, at least presumptuous if not downright ridiculous. Who needs to – who dares to – remind the Creator of all time and space of what he has already done in days past? Yet, does not this kind of address to God indicate a depth of intimacy between the psalmist and his God, a depth of honesty and trust? Beyond its use as a poetic device, reminding God of the good things of the past is a way of opening ourselves to God’s future: “Before I ask anything further of you, Lord, let me first remind you that you and I have been here before. Look what you have done for me already. Will you please do it again?”
In the end, of course, by “reminding” God of his goodness, the psalmist is, in fact “counting his blessings” in the presence of the one from whom all blessings flow. It is we, in fact, who need the reminding, so that in our need we can make our prayer with hope. Recalling the undeniable acts of God’s love in our lives is part of what allows us also to offer him our genuine complaints. We can take our cue from the psalmist who, having reached out for help – “revive us again, grant us thy salvation,” (6-7) – then sits back to wait and listen for the answer: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,” (8).
The psalmist writes as someone who knows that eventually the answer will be given and the word of peace will come, as simply and gently as a kiss on the cheek, (10). And when it does, it will be added to the number of answers that the psalmist has already heard. A whole storehouse of God’s answers is being gathered, always ready to be drawn upon as reminders whenever the next need arises and the next cry for help must be made.
From The Fathers
Until the Lord restores us to life, we are dead. “Show us, O Lord, your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” The Savior’s descent is the work of God’s mercy. He would not have come as a physician if most people were not sick. Because so many were sick, he came as a Physician; because we were in need of compassion, he came as Savior. (Jerome)
Lord, I have known the liberating power of your love, just as I have known the suffocating weight of my need.
You have come to me again and again in my distress, and, when I thought there may be no way out, you led me to an open door.
Today, I recount again, and in your presence, some of those times when you “restored my fortunes.”
So that even as I call you, I thank you.