In wartime, the thing most desired above all else is harmony: the end of discord and the putting right of all things. Yet knowing how to achieve it is a question almost impossible to answer. How do we bring to an end falsehood, injustice and confusion, and at the same time promote unity, mercy and co-operation?
This psalm describes the agony of a people who had previously experienced a time of material and spiritual harmony (v1-3), but now are in a season of discord, and plead with their God to restore them (v4-7). Their resolve to listen to what God has to say (v8) is a turning point in the psalm, because they realise that the harmony they long for can come only from Him.
The 16th Century pastor John Calvin once wrote that to achieve true harmony in life, you need four virtues to co-exist: truth (clarity about right and wrong), mercy (the capacity for kindness and forgiveness), righteousness (right and fair justice) and peace (the end of conflict). All four are listed in this psalm as virtues that God provides (v10-11), and there is nothing in the world that can bring true happiness more than these four virtues reigning together.
One of the greatest problems we have as humans, as proved throughout history, is that we cannot make these virtues co-exist. It requires supernatural intervention: only God can make it happen. And he provided such intervention by sending his Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus was the only person in history to fully embody all four virtues. His death on the cross was the supreme moment of truth, mercy, righteousness and peace all being made available to humanity. And we are promised that one day he will return, for these virtues to reign supreme. If we long for harmony on this earth, it begins by listening to what he has to say.
PRAYER God in heaven, speak, and help me to listen. Only you can provide true harmony, between heaven and earth, from human to human; thank you that you offer it freely. Please show me your truth, mercy, righteousness and peace; fill me with them, so they would reign in my heart and pour outwards. Amen.
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
1 You, Lord, showed favour to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.
3 You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.
4 Restore us again, God our Saviour, and put away your displeasure towards us.
5 Will you be angry with us for ever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.
8 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.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.