Shalom Thursday, December 2, 2021
I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants.
Psalm 85 is a worship prayer in a time of crisis—specifically the era of Ezra and Nehemiah upon the return from exile, only to realize that maybe things never again will be “like the good old days.” Having lost their joy, perhaps their way and their hope they pray for what only God can restore. The Hebrew word used in verse 8 is Shalom. We translate it “peace,” but it’s even deeper than that. Wholeness. Deep contentment, joy, even in struggle and pain and confusion. God’s got this. God’s got us.
The Psalm breaks down in roughly this way:
Verses 1-3, remembrance of God’s previous acts of restoration
Verses 4-7, crying out to God amid their new struggles
Verses 8-13, the assurance that God is in control and will yet again restore God’s people
You may remember that Martin Luther was an Old Testament scholar and professor, and he studied and wrote on the Psalms extensively. In part, this was because of his own personal despair and search for hope and wholeness. Luther and Psalm 85 land in the same place as the source of hope. It’s the Word. God’s Word that calls all things into being. God’s Word made flesh in Jesus. From the beginning, in Genesis, God has something to say that actually brings forth. “Let there be light.” Here, the Psalmist affirms God’s word as the source of hope. “I will listen to what God the Lord says”—he promises peace to his people. Shalom. Wholeness. Restoration.
Unlimited voices assault us, all with their own political, financial, social, personal agendas. Only God’s voice creates, and only God’s voice comes in righteousness and peace. The Advent word for the Church is an invitation to listen, cut through, take time amid so many life-draining voices to be still. Listen. Pay attention. God is still speaking, restoring, giving Shalom.
And that, friends, is hopeful, joyful, needful. God speaks to us in Word, Sacrament, Christian community. As we seek vaccines to end this pandemic, may we seek even more strongly God’s word as we anticipate the promise of Jesus, the Word made flesh to heal us to the very core of our being.
Help us, O God, to return to solitude and to your Word, that all of the other cacophony of voices may be stilled and we and all creation might be restored. Give us your Shalom, and use us as vessels of your Shalom, your hope and peace. Amen.
Bishop Tim Smith
NC Synod, ELCA
This devotional is a joint project between Christmas Lutheran (Bethlehem) and St. John’s (Salisbury, NC).