Psalm 85 (The Psalms of Advent—Series B)
“Living without Fear”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 13, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
During this Season of Advent, we look to God’s Word in the psalms as the basis for our meditations and prayers as we await Christ’s Second Coming even as we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate His Incarnation and Nativity among us this Christmas. Our Psalm text for this second week in Advent is Psalm 85:
1O Yahweh, you showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2Your lifted the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. 3You removed all your fury; you turned back from your burning anger. 4Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and break off your anger from us. 5Will you be angry with us forever? Will you draw out your anger from generation to generation? 6Will you not turn and revive us so that your people will rejoice in you? 7Show us, O Yahweh, your steadfast love, and give your salvation to us. 8Let me hear what God Yahweh will speak, for he will speak peace to his people and to his pious ones but do not let them return to stupidity. 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 earth and righteousness from heaven looks down.12Yes, Yahweh will give what is good and our land will give its produce. 13Righteousness will go before him and prepare a pathway for him.
Do you ever suffer from fears and insecurities? Many people, including Christians, are overcome by concerns and insecurities. The psalmist in our text was. He felt distress and fear at exposure to danger and his enemies.
God had restored and returned to His people of Israel what He had taken away from them when He punished them for their unfaithfulness. The Babylonians were used by God to punish His people and to destroy Jerusalem and its temple, removing the Israelites from their homeland and taking them captive to Babylon. From 587 B.C. to 538 B.C., God’s people were in exile. God then used Cyrus, king of Persia, who decreed that the Israelites could return to their land. This is probably what the psalmist has in mind when he writes, “O Yahweh, you showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. Your lifted the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin.” His plea in verse 4, “Restore us again,” might be a reference to the hard labor of rebuilding Israel after their return. The walls of Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt. The people were vulnerable to attack as their cities and villages still lay in ruins without protection. So the psalmist was worried. He was afraid and insecure about the future of God’s people. The distress and fear felt by the psalmist drove him to the Lord, who forgives his iniquities and covers all his sin.
What are you afraid of? What about your life and life’s situations trouble you? What insecurities cause you to tremble? Let them chase you to Christ. It is He who speaks peace to you, His saints. When you are fearful and concerned and insecure, you do not have peace. In your distresses, hear what God speaks to you in His Gospel Word and receive the peace of God in the forgiveness of your sins.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, has atoned for the sins of the whole world. Jesus’ holy, precious blood covers over your sins because He, the Innocent One, shed His blood and died your death on a cross. Jesus appeased God’s wrath toward you by receiving the punishment for your sins. By His sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection, your iniquities are forgiven and you now have eternal life by grace through faith in Christ. Jesus has saved you from your sins, from death, and from hell. Because of Jesus’ sacrficie, God is no longer angry with you. You now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Having defeated these great enemies for you, Christ will surely protect you from all other enemies. He will guard you in the midst all the things that cause you fear, distress, and insecurity. He will give you the help of His Spirit in the moments of anxiety and worry as He shares the peace of the Gospel with you in Word and Sacrament. Pastor Martin Luther in His 1528 sermon on the First Commandment said, “God alone . . . says: If you fear me and trust me, I will protect you and supply you with nourishment and all that you need and you shall have what is sufficient. Therefore fear nobody but me, for I can smite you, and put your trust in none but me, for I can help you. No prince will give you either good or evil, for both are in my hand. Therefore fear me and trust in me!”
We have the divine promise of God Himself. The perfect steadfast love and faithfulness of God in Christ casts our fear (1 John 4:18). The Gospel of our Savior calms our fear because we know and trust that God is for us so that nothing can be against us (Rom. 8:31). God Himself is with us as Immanuel—the Savior born for you who takes away the sin of the world, restores you to God’s favor, and gives you what it is good—real peace and comfort in all your distresses. “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him.” As Johann Lindemann penned in the hymn, In Thee is Gladness, “Since He is ours, We fear now powers, Not of earth nor sin nor death. He sees and blesses In worst distresses; He can change them with a breath. Wherefore the story Tell of His glory With hearts and voices; All heav’n rejoices In Him forever: Alleluia! We shout for gladness, Triumph o’er sadness, Love Him and praise Him And still shall raise Him Glad hymns forever: Alleluia!” (LSB 818:2).
The Lord has given you what is good—His only Son, Jesus, into death on a cross so that by faith alone you might receive forgiveness of sins, life eternal, and His peace. Christ has destroyed the enemies of sin, death, and hell. He promises to guard and protect you throughout life’s fears. He gives you His perfect peace and keeps you in His perfect care. We read in Psalm 121, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. . . .The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, He will also keep you on His righteous path by means of Word and Sacrament, enabling you to fear, love, and trust in God alone as your God and Savior and King.
In Christ Jesus, God has restored you to Himself in love. His anger has been turned aside from you. Your iniquities and sins are forgiven and are atoned for by the blood of Jesus. When you feel afraid and insecure, run to Christ. Hold on to Him in faith. His salvation is near to those who fear Him! He will enfold you in His steadfast love and faithfulness. He will keep you close to Himself in His righteousness and peace. Amen.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 139.