Praise is Foundational



Psalm 85
1Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah
3You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
4Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!
5Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
7Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
8Let 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.
9Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
10Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

The most probable time for the writing of this psalm was after God’s people were allowed to return to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. The 70 years of time spent in Babylon were over and God graciously brings the people back to Jerusalem. They are overjoyed at this reversal of their situation. But upon their return they find that the Temple has been destroyed and the wall of the city is decimated. Instead of digging in and immediately restoring the Temple they build homes for themselves and fall victim to the surrounding people groups who are not interested in the rebuilding of the Temple or in the return of the Israelites.

Through the prophet Haggai, God speaks with the people about their priorities. His Temple is left in ruins while they are living in paneled homes. This is unacceptable to God for they are once again on the path of neglect. God has already become a passing thought rather than the center of their lives.

Haggai 1:1–11
1In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. 7“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

This Psalm serves as a beautiful warning for us as well. Far too often we allow the distraction of the immediate to hold our attention away from the pressure of the important. We are so easily pulled away from our focus on the Lord. (Well, maybe the word “we” should instead say “I”. That is my personal experience. I’ll let you decide about your own.) What are the “paneled walls” of my life? The list is too long to even contemplate. And I don’t believe that God is asking us not live our lives. Instead I think perhaps it is merely a matter of focus. Where do I concentrate my mental energy? Is God even a factor most of the time? Maybe this question needs to be at the center of my thinking, no matter what task I lay my hands to.

But – let’s go back to the fact that this is a beautiful reminder. The verbiage is filled with grace and healing, using words like “restored”, “forgave”, “steadfast love”, “salvation”, and my favorite – “righteousness and peace kiss each other.” This psalm bears hope for all who would return to the Lord – even if it is time and again. Let the moment of praise grab your attention and hold it. Immerse yourself in worship and let the Spirit inspire a thankful heart and a mouth filled with “Alleluia!” and “Praise the Lord!” And if you’re not feeling it, do say it anyway for a heart of praise is sure to follow.

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