>Our land’s increase, Psalm 85

>Psalm 85 seems particularly appropriate at this time of year. Most farmers have finished their harvest and fields sport various hues of crop stubble; some fields are dotted with big round bales of corn stalks like giant golden marshmallows. Local cooperatives’ pickups pulling double tanks of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer no longer slow traffic. The agricultural Midwest is poised to celebrate Thanksgiving with grateful hearts for another good harvest.

But not all farmers enjoyed a good harvest this year. Too much rain reduced the yields of many fields; the crops from some fields were completely lost after being inundated multiple times under flooded rivers and streams.

And even though mid-term elections demonstrated a grass roots desire to reduce big government, concerns about the country remain.

Within this political and physical landscape, the words of Psalm 85 leap off the page with meaning.

LORD, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin.
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger (1-3, ESV).

The Psalm begins by glorifying God for his goodness in the past to his land and to his people. God forgave their sins and turned from his “hot anger.”

But God’s goodness was in the past. God’s people struggle so severely now that it seems like God’s wrath is being poured out on them. The people are weak; God’s promises appear dim and his salvation feels distant. The Psalmist begs for God’s mercy.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?”
Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation (4-7, ESV).

Having implored God to reveal his grace, the Psalmist acknowledges that his people must listen to God and obey him.

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land (8-9, ESV).

God will speak peace to his people, the redeemed saints, but they should not continue to live as reprobate sinners. They must live wisely, not as the fool who says there is no God. The Psalmist assures his reader that God’s salvation is near to those who reverence and obey God. It is when the people fear God that glory dwells in the land.

Then there is sweet communion between earth and heaven:

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way (10-13, ESV).

Harmony and blessing bloom when people love, revere, and serve God. The enmity between God and man is replaced by peace. This communion is described with the romantic imagery of a kiss. As faithfulness “springs up” from those who dwell on the earth, God’s righteousness “looks down” with approval from heaven. God will give what is good; our land will yield a harvest of increase. God’s righteousness will lead us; he will show us the way as we take each step through life.

It is good that our country designates one day as a special time for giving thanks, but giving thanks must never be limited to one day. Every day should be filled with thanksgiving to the Almighty God who is the source of all good and all righteousness. It is good to see the fields at rest and thank God for a bountiful harvest, but we need to seek God’s face in times of planting and cultivating and even in times of drowning rain and withering heat.

The land will yield an abundant harvest when God’s blessing rests on its people. And the country will experience increase when its people turn their hearts to God.

Blessing does not come from man’s hard work and ingenuity. Blessing comes only from God. Salvation is not found in partisan politics or even rugged American individualism. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone.

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