Our author asks God to restore Israel once again. To bring them back to the place where righteousness and faithfulness meet. The place of revival.
How many times before had God forgiven His people and started fresh with them? This pattern started before they were even an actual nation. It started with Abram when he passed Sari off as his sister. And He continued to restore and revive His people from that moment on. Once again, His people were in desperate straits because of their sin. And once again they were calling out to Him for help.
At first I was thinking, not again! But then I stopped and looked at it from another perspective. YES! Again. Again they realized that they had fallen away from God and WANTED to return! They were not being dragged back by the scruff of the neck, waiting for another opportunity to escape. They were willingly calling out for help. Seeking what was lost. Not just the blessings but the relationship. They were the prodigal children.
I’ve heard it said that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, just so long as you get up one more time that you fall. God NEVER pulls His hand back from His children when they reach for it. Yes, there ARE consequences for sin and God does have a limit to His patience. But even in the midst of the consequences His heart is tender towards His children.
I’m sure you have heard the age old saying, “This hurts me a lot worse than it hurts you” when it comes to discipline. My mom used to say that sometimes and would jokingly refer to the pain her hand received when she would spank one of us children. What was supposed to ‘hurt’ was the parent’s heart. I know hers did at times but if I’m being honest (which I try to be), I have spanked my children in anger. The spanking was a release of my frustration with them as much as it was a punishment for their behavior. Maybe that’s why my dad always gave the ‘lecture’ first. That way he talked out his frustration and dealt with his feelings before applying the ‘hand of correction’ to the appropriate part of our anatomy.
My times of deepest sorrow over how I corrected my children came from the times I spanked them in anger and out of extreme frustration. One time my middle son, who had anger issue all his growing up years, had a day that was unparalleled for bad behavior. By the end of the day I stuffed him into his bed and told him that I was going to find a baby sitter for him tomorrow because “I’m so angry, I can’t stand to look at you right now.” I had a long conversation with my mother-in-law over his behavior and a LONGER talk with God as I crawled into bed beside him and held him as he slept. I wept and prayed over him that night and we both were on better footing in the morning. I greeted him with an apology and a hug as well as an identification of the behavior I did NOT want repeated.
This is where I feel God’s heart. He hurts when His children are undergoing discipline. BUT He doesn’t yank them out at the first sign of discomfort. He waits until they have learned the lesson necessary to correct the behavior AND until they are repentant. He is like the prodigal son’s father who waited patiently AT HOME until his son returned. He didn’t go out scouring the countryside for him. He waited until the son returned AFTER learning from his mistakes.
The author is telling God that the people of Israel are at the ‘returning home’ stage. They are relying on His past forgiveness to, once again, revive and restore them to right relationship. I believe the author is also hoping that those among his people not quite ready will be brought around to that position by another demonstration of His forgiveness.
One thing that caught my eye in this psalm was his description of what restoration would involve. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; and righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky” (verses 10-11). This is an appropriate description of a right relationship with God. His steadfast love reaches down to us. WHEN we are faithful to Him, the two meet in a glorious mixture of a right relationship. It takes both to make a right relationship. His is ALWAYS in abundance but it takes our half of the ‘equation’ to complete the ‘formula’ for revival. God does NOT ‘reward’ wandering hearts. He allows questions, but not rejection.
I believe He is counting on our past experiences with Him to lead us back to Him when we stray. Because He has demonstrated His love in the past, we can count on that love in the future. Because I have KNOWN His love, I can trust that same love to carry me through whatever lies ahead.
THANK YOU Father for ALWAYS being willing to lift me back up whenever and wherever I fall. Thank You that it is YOU who actually restores the relationship. If this were a human relationship, each time it failed it would have to be built back up again from the beginning and sooner or later it couldn’t be rebuilt at all. But You NEVER give up on me!!! No matter how many times I fail You, You are ALWAYS waiting for me with open arms when I come back.
I pray Father that I didn’t damage my children permanently by disciplining them while I was still angry. Thank You for allowing me to be their mother (and father much of the time). I am proud of the young men and women they have grown up to be. Except one thing. My greatest desire for them is for them to return to You, the One I introduced them to as they were growing up. But I’m leaving this in Your hands. Maybe it is simply the need to wait with a welcome on my lips instead of running after them and dragging them back where I want them. Just like the prodigal son’s father did.