Summary: The Israelites returning home are thankful the captivity is over…thankful they’re going to the dance; but what now? How do you do this dance with a God you’ve never known?

1LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. Selah

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. Psalms 85:1 – 2, 8 – 13 (NRSVA)

So many stories that involve kissing; where do I start? George Brett was a great baseball player who was incredibly obsessive about winning; he was quoted as saying: If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out. [1]

Then we have the story about when they were young… Bette Davis once had a date with Henry Fonda. At the end of their evening together, Fonda kissed her and they parted. A few days later, Bette wrote Henry a note which read, in part: I’ve told Mother about our lovely experience in the moonlight. She will announce our engagement when we get home. Fonda moved, and did not leave a forwarding address. [2]

Dick Gregory tells the story of a black man who, back in the 60s, walked into a restaurant in Mississippi. He sat down, studied the menu and ordered the fried chicken. A couple of local good-ole-boys started giving him a hard time. The first redneck yelled across the room, Hey, boy, we don’t serve Negroes here. The man smiled politely and said, That’s all right, I don’t eat Negroes anywhere. When the waitress finally brought the chicken, the second bigot sauntered over and, in a menacing manner, said, I’m warning you, boy; whatever you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you. The black man paused, thought it over for a second and put down his knife and fork. Y’all line up, he said. Then he kissed the chicken. [3]

The whole idea of romantic kisses is very far from what the Psalmist portrays. The word picture of a “kiss” in the language of the Old Testament Scriptures, means something that touches, with the intention of fastening together. Granted – the Hollywood version of the lip-lock may come close to that. But the story of our “Biblical kiss” goes back to the 6th Century before the birth of Jesus.

50 Years Without a Kiss

Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon (modern-day Iraq) had invaded the Southern kingdom of Judah. They conquered and carried-off many tens of thousands of Jews into captivity. God’s people knew they were under the judgment of Jehovah, and they suffered there for fifty years until Cyrus the Great began to allow them to migrate back to Israel.

Our text (as is Isaiah 40 ) is after the exile. The people have been released from captivity and now they’re wondering what’s next on the horizon…what will happen, how shall they live. Most of them have never known the “kiss” of their God. It’s like a blind date for the prom…will I be accepted?

Advent Song

Verses 1 and 2 of our text show that the Israelites returning home are indeed thankful. They’re thankful the captivity is over…thankful they’re going to the dance; but what now? How do you do this dance with a God you’ve never known? They made a good first step in the dance with verses 8 through 13; it’s like a “song of Advent”.

Like Isaiah the Psalmist says the Lord will speak comforting words of peace. Verse 10 is a form of parallelism in Hebrew poetry where one thought builds upon another. Let’s climb Advent’s ladder with this song.

Mercy and Truth

10Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; Psalm 85:10a (NRSVA)

God’s “steadfast love” is His covenant mercy, that which corresponds to the concept of grace in the New Testament. It is the kindness with which a loving Father forgives. Faithfulness is God’s own nature which is summed-up in the word “truth”. Truth is the word held in the strong hand of the judge who will hold the sinner accountable for transgressions. Mercy is in the heart of the loving parent. It is eternal truth that the mercy of God which forgives, met the truth of God, the wages of sin is death – it was a cataclysmic meeting at Calvary. Both won! Truth was satisfied in the sacrifice of blood for sin; Mercy triumphed in that the blood was not shed by the ones who deserved the punishment (you and me), but by Jesus, Holy Lamb of God!

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