I wish I were out of a job.
Don’t get me wrong — I love my job. I work with the Soul Care Ministry at Christ Chapel where we minister to people in their struggles with sin and suffering. That may sound depressing work to some, but for me, I feel privileged to get to serve people when they are in a place of real need.
So, I love my job, but I hate that there is a need for it. In fact, I long to see the day when our entire department is unnecessary. I’d love to hear my boss announce, “Folks, we are shutting Soul Care down. Nobody needs our services. No one seems to be struggling with sin; marriages are thriving; and the need to comfort the suffering is … well, it’s not there. There’s no work for you. I hear that Starbucks is hiring.”
Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
The fact that Soul Care exists is evidence that something needs to be fixed. We all live broken lives surrounded by broken people who interact in a fallen world. The effects of sin and the fall have touched everything. And to the extent that we are aware of that, we feel the need for divine restoration.
That’s exactly where the sons of Korah were coming from when they wrote Psalm 85. This corporate psalm paints a picture of divine restoration. It invites us to join God’s people as they long for, cry out and beg the Lord to bring about the peace and salvation that is only possible from above.
One of the words Psalm 85 uses to describe this divine restoration is the Hebrew word “shalom” (translated as “peace” in vv. 8 and 10). Shalom is a rich word that means more than just a peaceful absence of strife. It means completeness, wholeness, well being and peace. Shalom describes a multidimensional blessing where there is total fulfillment — no dysfunctions, no strained relationships, no worries, no bad habits, no aches and pains, no discontentment, etc.
Fallen humanity can only grasp for shalom. We continually invent cheap imitations that make us feel happy for a moment or temporarily keep aches and pains at bay, but God alone can grant it. And when we look for this blessing anywhere else, we will always find a counterfeit.
For example, consider the holidays. All the sights, sounds and smells of the Christmas season seem to tease our senses with something that resembles shalom. We anticipate the heartwarming joy of being together with loved ones and the satisfaction of giving and receiving and singing and laughing.
But then reality hits. Something always seems to spoil the joy. It may be those ominous signs of dementia in Dad that the family would prefer to sweep under the rug. It could be your eccentric uncle who has one too many vodka tonics on Christmas Eve and unleashes all his resentments during Pictionary. Maybe your joy is polluted by the realization that your debt may reach a breaking point after buying all these gifts. Or it could simply be an inexplicable lack of joy despite the fact that everything seems to be perfect in your life. Whatever the reason, the hope of shalom seems to be just out of reach.
If you can relate, then consider Psalm 85 an early Christmas gift. We get to unwrap three beautiful truths that give us true hope — a hope of restoration and shalom that will not disappoint.
Gift #1: Psalm 85 gives us hope by reminding us of God’s faithfulness in the past (vv. 1-3). God has always been reliable and devoted to His people. He rescued the Israelites from Egypt, showed them unbelievable favor, brought them back from exile, turned from His anger, forgave their sin, etc. He restored the Israelites when they couldn’t restore themselves. He did it for them and He’s done it for us.
Gift #2: Psalm 85 reminds us of who God is to His people (vv. 4-7). The psalmist asks God to do again what He’s done for them in the past. The basis of the appeal is not because of who they are, but because of who God is. Verse 7 says, “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.”
Steadfast love refers to God’s unfailing, industrial strength, absolutely unconditional love. It’s a type of love that God alone is capable of giving. We all have a breaking point. No matter how committed we are to loving someone, we all have a point where we would say “enough is enough.” But not God. His love and commitment to sinners is steadfast. Even though He is not obligated to love us, He chooses to love us when we don’t deserve it — even when we deserve wrath!
Gift #3: Psalm 85 reminds us of the Ultimate Gift (vv. 8-13). This was a prophecy of the Messiah — the coming Christ. And it’s through Him that shalom is fulfilled. We can see Jesus more and more clearly as the psalm draws to a close (vv. 10-13). God’s love and God’s faithfulness meet together in One Person. God’s righteousness through Christ and God’s peace — His completeness and His wholeness —unite in the one God-man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is God Himself who becomes the very thing that we desire. And as we hope in Him, we find shalom.
I’m sure I’ll have more work to do at Soul Care for the foreseeable future. But until the day that we are no longer necessary, I’ll find joy pointing people to the ultimate gift that will never disappoint.