Psalm 85:8-13 (NRSV)
8Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
10Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.
Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “Try to love the questions themselves. … Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now.” (Letters to a Young Poet, 1903).
The psalms are full of questions from God and from us. Psalm 85:5-6 poses three questions to God in rapid succession. The reason for God’s anger is not questioned. The focus is on the duration of divine impatience, indignation, and outrage. How long will God be offended by our hearts and lives? Will God’s heart continue to be distressed by our children and their children?
This is corporate prayer, congregational lament, raising heart-felt personal questions using “you-us” language. Sometimes we need to pray these questions stretching from one generation to the next, without expecting there will be easy answers implying that grace comes cheaply or easily.
O Lord, will your anger persist if we continue to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable, if we keep teaching the next generations to maintain personal comfort by ignoring the needs of others? Amen.