Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Scripture: Psalm 85
In this Psalm, verses 1-3 describe a prior occasion on which God delivered the Israelites from bondage and exile. This may be a reference to the exile and captivity of the Judeans in Babylon. The psalmist’s petition in verses 4-8 reflects new, albeit unspecified, afflictions, from which the people seek deliverance.
Having invoked God’s prior deliverance, verses 9-13 express confidence that God will deliver again, that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, and that God will give what is good. In Christian tradition, including both Catholic and Reformed, these verses are read as foretelling the advent of Christ. As Calvin put it in discussing verse 10, “We have here a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Christ.”
Unlike the pandemic, political turmoil, unemployment, and civil unrest from which the United States and, to varying degrees, other nations now suffer, the disasters that Israel and later Judaea experienced fell on the entire nation to an extent that we cannot fully comprehend. The only contemporary crisis of even remotely comparable magnitude would probably be the civil war in Syria, in which, out of a population of roughly 22,000,000 people, 400,000 have been killed, 6.1 million have been driven into internal exile, and 5.6 million are now external refugees.
But what Americans are undergoing is far from a set of trivial inconveniences, particularly the social isolation forced by the pandemic, and matters are even worse for those actually infected, their relatives, and those unemployed. Nevertheless, the psalmist reminds us that God is merciful and the giver of all good gifts, to which we should add, often through human agents such as doctors and nurses. But let us not turn back to folly.
Core Idea: God is merciful and the giver of all good gifts