Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Psalm 85:8-13 Salvation Brings Glory in the Land

KEY TEXT: Psalms 85:9-13 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

KEY THOT: Many evangelical believers still think of salvation as life after death--as an otherworldly reality. But both in the OT and NT, salvation is very much a this-worldly reality. In today's psalm, we read of a close connection between salvation and the glory in the land: "Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land" (v.9). The sad truth is that European Christianity is more influenced by Greek worldview than by Hebrew worldview. Western Christianity has superimposed a Greek worldview upon the biblical salvation, turning it from a this worldly reality into an other-worldly reality. Instead of life before death, salvation becomes life after death.

The psalmist declares that God's salvation will cause His glory to "dwell in our land". This is echoed in the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus has a Hebrew understanding of salvation, not Greek. In the NT, salvation is a present reality that is consummated in the return of Christ. It's like betrothal before the wedding. But what does God's glory in the land mean? The psalmist enumerates glory in terms of love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace. This is consistent with God's own self-revelation to Moses:
  • And the Lord said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by"... The Lord  descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,  forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin..." And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. (Exodus 33:21-23, 34:5-8)
Wherever God's glory is present and manifested, there will be His steadfast love, his faithfulness, his righteousness and peace. Sin and wickedness shall not prevail when God's glory is "in the land". In the context of a pluralistic society, this glory is not found in the land but among God's people who confess  and worship Jesus as Lord. Salvation must bring the glory of God in a place. But why isn't it always apparent in churches?

The answer to the last question is found in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

Note firstly, that Paul is not addressing individuals, for the world "beloved" in Greek is plural. He is addressing the whole people of God. Secondly, he is not asking them to work for their salvation but work out their salvation. In other words, he assumes they already have salvation; and now it is for them to work this salvation out, for "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." So glory is not the passive possession of individualistic salvation but the corporate outworking of this salvation in our communal life. It's only in its outworking that people experience God's glory as steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace.

Paul affirms in Romans 14:17 that this spiritual reality is the fruit of the kingdom released by the presence of the Holy Spirit: "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

May we release God's glory and salvation in our communal life through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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