Advent: Born to Set the People Free

Psalms 85:1-2; 8-13

To the leader. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.
Lord, you were favourable to your land;
   you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
   you pardoned all their sin.

Let 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.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
   that his glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
   righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
   and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
   and will make a path for his steps.

Back in the day, Verizon Wireless had a popular commercial that often culminated with the phrase “Can You Hear Me Now?” In the commercial, a man would travel to various parts of the world with his cellular device, testing the productivity of the cell towers as a method of proving that Verizon Wireless’ cell service was so powerful that one would have the ability to connect with anyone no matter where they were.  

Anyone who’s had a cell phone for any amount of time has undoubtedly encountered a moment when, at the most inopportune time, a phone call has been dropped due to a lack of proper connection. Whether it required simply calling the disconnected contact back, moving away from the dead spot, or, in a rare occurrence, having to call customer service in order to be reconnected, two things had to happen:

1) You had to recognize there was a disconnect, and, depending on how desperate you were, 

2) You had to look for ways to be reconnected. 

At this point in history, technology has afforded us the ability to connect in multiple ways. And while we have adjusted to new ways of connecting, one or more of us may be hitting dead spots with God that have us asking, “Can You Hear Me Now?”  

I imagine this to be the sentiment of this Psalm’s writers, who were prayerfully requesting God to restore favor to their land.  

It’s hard not to read this Psalm against the day’s current events and similarly ask questions like: 

  • How did we get here? Denominational Wars. Gender Wars. Genocidal Wars. Internal Wars. 
  • What created the disconnect between God and humanity, humanity with itself, God, humanity, and the land?  
  • How do we reconnect once the call has been dropped? Or Can God restore what was once lost, dropped, or disconnected?

Maybe the question is not, can God restore, but are we willing to do whatever it takes to be reconnected? 

I want to suggest that we are invited to reorient ourselves with God in this Psalm. Somewhere in the mayhem of living, we hit a dead spot that has created a disconnect between God and humanity that has impacted the land. 

But we don’t need to fear because “God’s about to pronounce God’s people well.” (V8) 

God is as near as a cell phone tower and more capable than a customer service representative to restore our connection. In fact, as inferred by the writers of the Psalm, history suggests that God can and will reconnect what was once lost; however, we may need to admit that there is a disconnection (V2) and seek wisdom on how to reconnect correctly.  

That could mean: 

  • Inclining our ears to hear what God is speaking (V8), 
  • Tracing back the steps that led to the dead spots (V9) and, most importantly,  
  • Remembering to hope (V10).  

The images of peace and righteousness meeting are just as much a hope today as they were in the ancient past. The Psalm also reminds us to hope that God will act now as God is known to have acted in the past. We can depend on the same God that our ancestors did.1 

For those who dare ask God, “Can you hear me now?” we are reminded that hope affords us the belief that “Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss! Truth sprouts green from the ground; Right Living pours down from the skies! Oh yes! God Gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and blessing. Right Living Strides out before God and clears a path for God’s passage.” (Psalm 85: 10-13, MSG). 

Through this hope and belief, we clear the path to be reconnected with God, which will ultimately help us to be set free from what once disconnected us.  

Yamileh Barnette

Yamileh Barnett is a Doctoral Student at McAfee School of Theology on the Pastoral Care/Chaplaincy Track, currently using a Just Love framework to inspire the development of healthy and sustainable partnership models within the Black Community. She serves as a Digital Content and Brand Strategy Consultant with the sacred and secular construct. While she enjoys serving as a minister, her greatest accomplishment includes serving her family.