Psalm 85:8 I will listen to what God the Lord will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints–
but let them not return to folly.
This verse starts with an extremely wise position: listening to God. The Japanese expresses it as a desire: “I want to hear what the Lord God will declare.” We have a bad tendency not to listen when God tells us stuff, and it’s recorded in the Bible all the way back to the Garden of Eden. I bring this point up frequently in sermons, but if we want to hear God, we need to start with the commitment to obey whatever He says to us. The latter part of this verse deals with that, saying, “let them not return to folly.” I think just about everyone has experienced being corrected by God, and then we turn around and do whatever it was again. That is certainly the height of foolishness! At the same time, we often fail to include ourselves in “God’s people, His saints.” The terminology here is perfectly in line with New Testament usage, where Paul consistently refers to all believers as saints. We tend to feel the term implies perfection, when Biblical usage flat doesn’t do that. We aren’t saints because of what we have done or not done, but because of what God has done for and declared about us. He says we’re saints, and that settles it! The flip side of that is that even saints have the tendency to “return to folly,” and we are not to do that. Every child of every parent does foolish things at times, but that doesn’t make them any less children of their parents. On the human level that shouldn’t be surprising, because there’s no such thing as a parent who hasn’t been foolish, in their own childhood or recently. We cannot rely safely on our own “wisdom,” because doing so will quickly demonstrate it’s not wisdom at all. We all need to take Proverbs to heart: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6) That’s why we need to listen to God!
This is certainly the story of my life. I’ve “returned to folly” more times than I could count! As is said frequently in politics, the coverup is worse than the crime. When I blow it I need to be completely open and honest about it, rejecting excuses even in my own heart. That’s not easy! I like to “maintain the façade” as much as anyone, but I have learned, both from Scripture and from experience, that’s not the wisest course. I have felt for a long time that Proverbs 3:5-6, quoted above, and James 1:22, about deceiving yourself, were written expressly for me. They were written for millions of other people as well, but they were certainly written for me! I have found that intellectual conceit is one of the biggest obstacles to hearing God correctly, and I’ve got plenty of that! However, by God’s grace I also have a strong desire to hear and obey Him, and He’s still working on me to straighten me out.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your incredible patience with me over the years. Help me never be satisfied with my current level of growth, but keep pressing in for more of You, more of Your Spirit, so that I may be more like Your Son indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!