Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Restore Us Again, O God of Our Salvation"

Advent Midweek II: The Psalms of Advent: Restore Us, O God!
“Restore Us Again, O God of Our Salvation”

December 10, 2014
Text: Psalm 85

            Our Psalm this evening was quite probably written and sung by the exiles returning to Jerusalem from their sojourn in Babylon.  Thus the first three verses of the Psalm recount God’s restoration of His people as a nation.  He has been favorable to the Land, the Promised Land to which the exiles are returning.  He has “restored the fortunes of Jacob” (Ps. 85:1; ESV).  He has forgiven the iniquities of the people, covered all their sin (v. 2).  He has withdrawn His wrath over their idolatry and their unfaithfulness, and turned from His hot wrath (v. 3).  But life is not all sunshine and flowers for God’s people.  Returning to the Holy City, they find a heap of rubble.  There are no homes to return to.  Accommodations are non-existent.  There is hard work to be done if the city is to be rebuilt.  They start with the Temple and with the city walls, led by Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the scribe.  But now there is opposition from the Samaritans, the remnants of the Northern tribes who had intermarried with pagan nations.  Sanballat, their governor, and his men oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and threaten to attack.  So half the people must guard the city with weapons at the ready while the other half works.  And the half who work must labor with one hand while their other hand is on their own weapon (Neh. 4:15-20).  These are scary times.  Has the LORD restored, only now to deliver His people into the hands of a new set of enemies?  When times are perilous and uncertain, the people of God recount His great deeds of faithfulness in the past and His promises for the future.  Faith clings to God’s mercy in spite of all appearances.  Nehemiah speaks this faith into the ears and hearts of the returning exiles: “Our God will fight for us” (v. 20). 
            So God’s people pray, as we do in the Psalm, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation” (Ps. 85:4).  Even as You have in the past, do so now.  Restore us, lest we perish.  Restore us, lest our enemies overtake us.  Restore us, lest all faith in You be extinguished.  The people cling to God’s mercy in the face of their enemies.  “Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us Your salvation” (v. 7).  We know You love us because You promised.  We know You will save us because You promised.  And we’re holding You to it.  Do as You have done for us in the past.  Revive us again, that we may rejoice (v. 6).  And how is God to do that?  By speaking.  By speaking His living and active, life-giving and saving Word.  “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints” (v. 8).  God speaks, and by virtue of His speaking, He acts.  For His Word is performative.  It accomplishes what it says.  The people of God long to hear His Word of deliverance, because in hearing it, it is theirs.  Nehemiah gathered the congregation of returned exiles together at the Water Gate in Jerusalem.  They gathered to hear the Word of the LORD.  Ezra the scribe read the Book of the Law of Moses, the Torah, the Holy Scriptures, and the Levites “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:1-2, 8), or in other words, they preached.  God’s promises were spoken.  The Gospel was proclaimed.  And God acted.  The city was rebuilt, against all human odds.  The people’s prayers were answered. 
            Or at least partially answered, in the rebuilding of the city.  For the true answer to their prayer, the true restoring again, is the sending of Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the redemption of His people.  Where steadfast love and faithfulness meet (v. 10), God’s steadfast love for us by which He sent His Son, Jesus’ faithfulness that counts as our own, which He gives to us as a gift.  Where righteousness and peace kiss each other (v. 10), on the cross of Christ, where the righteousness of God is satisfied and the peace of sins forgiven is bestowed upon all who look in faith on the Son of Man lifted up for their salvation.  Where faithfulness springs up from the ground, the faithfulness of the Man, Jesus Christ, toward His heavenly Father, and righteousness looks down from the sky, the righteousness of our God, Jesus Christ, which He bestows on us in the blood He sheds for us as He is suspended in the air (v. 11). 
            God’s answer to the exiles’ prayer is also His answer to us.  We pray, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation,” and He does just that, in Christ.  But we also have our challenges to be met and our enemies to be faced.  And it always appears as though they will triumph over us.  Our sins.  Our weak and corrupt flesh.  The temptations of the evil one.  The allurement of the world.  The things that make us sad.  The things that hurt us physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Disease.  Disaster.  Depression.  Death.  These are scary times, perilous and uncertain.  What are we to do?  We recount to one another our God’s great deeds of faithfulness in the past, and His promises for the future.  We hear again Nehemiah’s confession of faith: “Our God will fight for us.”  We pray with the Psalmist, “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints,” to me.  For He will speak the Gospel.  He will speak my sins forgiven.  He will speak His Spirit into me, the Helper He promised, even the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17).  He will not leave me an orphan.  He will come to me in His Word (v. 18).  He will speak His life into me, His death for me, His resurrection for me, my death and resurrection in Him.  He will give me His Word to keep, and the Father will love me, and the Father and the Son will come to me and make their home in me (v. 23).  By these Words the Spirit will teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that the Lord Jesus has said (v. 26).  And I will have true peace (v. 27) in the face of all my enemies and all of my afflictions, peace with God, peace in Jesus, for He is our Peace in the flesh.  These are the Promises of Jesus.  And by them He restores us again.  He revives us so that we rejoice (Ps. 85:6). 
            And so that we can faithfully get to work.  Assured of the LORD’s help and protection, the exiles rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.  Assured of “salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us” (1 Thess. 5:9-10), we set out to encourage one another, to build one another up (v. 11) into the living stones of the Holy Church of God.  We do as Paul says in our First Reading: We respect those who labor among us in the Lord and admonish us, and esteem those in love who work in His Word (vv. 12-13).  We hear the Word with gladness.  We seek to be at peace with one another (v. 13).  We admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and are patient with them all (v. 14).  Or at least we try to be.  Again, on the basis of the restoration our God has accomplished for us in Christ.  And we trust that as we work, the LORD will give what is good (Ps. 85:12).  He will provide.  And He will lead us forward to the final restoration He has in store for us, when He comes again in glory.  Then all our enemies will be defeated forever.  Then all our afflictions will be ended forever.  The Word steels us against the conflict we face now, reminding us of God’s faithfulness to us in the past, and directing us to His coming restoration in the end.

            And once again we have before us our Lord’s 3-fold Advent: His coming as a Baby to accomplish our salvation, His continual coming to us in His Word and Sacraments, and His coming again to grant His final deliverance in the resurrection of all flesh.  “Restore us again, O God of our salvation,” we pray.  He has.  He does.  He will.  And so we are comforted.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.         

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