“You’re not listening!”
How many times did I hear that from two parents who were desperately trying to get a know-it-all teenager to stop talking and thinking long enough to listen to the totality of what was being said? Many, many times.
How many times does it happen to us as adults: we pay attention only long enough to catch our breath so we can say the next sentence on our mind?
There’s a lot of wisdom in telling yourself “stop and listen.” This is also the conclusion to Psalm 85:8-13:
I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
These are easy words to write and read when things are going well and we feel like God is “blessing” us. But it bears reiterating what we learned about the timeframe behind this Psalm. This was most likely composed soon after the exiles in Babylon returned to Jerusalem beginning in 538 BC (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:20-12 and Ezra 1:1-11). Although the Lord’s rod of correction was laid aside and they were released, the consequences of their disobedience and discipline were all around them upon their return.
Jerusalem was in shambles. The temples was (still) destroyed. It was the cold, dusty remains of a warzone untouched for decades.
Now it was time to move forward. It was time to begin rebuilding. And with every piece of rubble removed, with every brick laid, with every piece of wood, and with every weed pulled the Lord’s people were moving forward to their lives restored in Him.
Still…there was much to do and the task must have seemed almost impossible. The dream of being the Lord’s people must have seemed so far away. The idea of the Lord’s protection over them must have felt so distant and uncertain.
And in the midst of the construction, cleanup, and concern, “I will listen to what God the Lord says.” The Psalmist reminds them to trust the promises of God and not their feelings. What were the promises they had (verses 8b-13)?
Peace. Salvation. His glory in the Land. His love and faithfulness. Goodness from Him. Harvest.
These were as much of the promise of the Lord to His people as was His disciplinary action against them because of blatant and persistent disobedience.
They just had to stop and listen long enough to hear them.
As we move forward in the Lord after our falls and foibles, it’s easy to keep looking back at “Babylon” and only see God’s disciplinary actions.
But His promises are also designed to help us move forward. They drive us through the rubble, debris, and uncertainty to the purpose He has for us.
We just have to stop long enough to listen to them.