Psalm 85 Between Memory and Hope

The return from Babylonian exile was not a bed of roses. Some scholars imaged an agricultural disaster. Not a fruitful crop, but a drought.

Some believe political chaos ensued and the community reentry and resettling were difficult.

Others have contended that the psalm was worship inspired to remember what God had done for them before and cried out for God do it again, right now.

They were between memory and hope.

Between what they remembered and what they were taught from past generations concerning God’s saving acts. Now their faith was being tested against the reality of their circumstances. They were between memory and hope needing to experience Gods renewing grace in a difficult time. Much like us.

I am an adventurous golfer. Some of you can relate. I am more like Charles Barkley than Brooks Koepka. Muscle memory can make you a better golfer and it can keep you an adventurous golfer. So sometimes you are thanking your muscles for remembering and other times you are asking your muscles to forget.

What Psalm 85 helps us to remember is that whatever our circumstances are, God’s memory is always about saving us.

So, they cried out to God what they remembered – Psalm 85:1-3

Show us your grace, your steadfast love, your unfailing love your mercy and your faithful love, give us your salvation!

They also cried out to God to hear the pain and not just the praise in them. They are between memory and hope. They remember, and so should we, that worship is not always one of praise but of lamentation, out of the pain experienced from our own disobedience and sin. For the returning exiles – blessings are not flowing, plants are not flowering, seed is not germinating -life is not good. There is an unwelcomed poetry of lamentation that is a poetry of alienation and response in grief.

When things go bad, we cry out as a community of faith. Restore us!

Our family went through a period of memory and hope while my wife’s mother transitioned thorough memory loss due to Alzheimer’s. There was a lot of crying out for memory to return and hope to be realized.  Between memory and hope – life is far from optimal, far from ideal, there are extraordinary disasters and necessary pains.

Still, Divine rescue is available. Psalm 85:7-11

The real solution we find between exile and eternal life is that in our imperfect lives - everything depends on returning to God who is the source of life.

Today, take time to remember God is a good God. Despite our collective and individual sin God still loves us and God loves you. Take time to remember God knows what suffering looks like and feels like. The Cross of Jesus Christ and its redemptive power reminds us not to forget. Take time to hear and be assured our memory of God’s salvation coupled with hope in the resurrection in Jesus Christ will not fail us as we embrace his grace and peace. Psalm 85:12-13

Dr. Vincent Harris is the South District Superintendent in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (Houston, Texas area).

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