By Scott DeLeeuw
At times in our Christian lives we feel as though we are exiles, a people who belong somewhere else, a people uncomfortably placed in the middle ground between God’s saving action and a world hostile to it. We struggle to maintain our identity and capacity for hope, relying mostly on our own strength to sustain us while searching incessantly for some sort of relief. All the while, we become increasingly frustrated, tired, and discouraged because it seems as though God has left us just hanging there in that middle ground.
These emotions drive us to a place of questioning God and his action—or what at times appears to be inaction. And so we speak in honest and sometimes dangerous ways, letting God know where we stand and how deep our distress really is, yet we know where our relief and restoration will ultimately come from. And we pray and lament, acknowledging that God is available to us and real in ways that make a difference in our lives right now, giving us hope and increasing our faith and reliance on him.
In the first two verses, the psalmist prays, calling out to the Shepherd King of Israel to listen and to use his mighty power to bring about relief. What follows is key. The psalmist cries out, “Restore us, O God,” calling on God to bring relief, to revive them from the point of death, and to bring about a return from exile. A return that restores their lives in real and present ways by shining light into their darkest situations. In the final four verses, the complaint is leveled again, with restoration at the core of this plea as well—relief for those in the uncomfortable middle ground between God’s saving action and a lost, broken world.
Advent focuses our attention and prayers on the One who’s coming, the One who brings relief, the One who revives, and the One who brings life to those on the brink of death. This is the good news.
Prayer: Shepherd King, when we struggle in the space between wreckage and redemption, hear our prayers and our laments. Give us hope and increase our faith and reliance on you.
Scott DeLeeuw is pastor of Ekklesia Church Oceanside in Oceanside, California. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.