blog meditation Psalms

Meditation Psalm 85

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

You, Lord, showed favour to your land;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
    and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
    and turned from your fierce anger.

Restore us again, God our Saviour,
    and put away your displeasure towards us.
Will you be angry with us for ever?
    Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants –
    but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps.

(Ps. 85:1-13 NIV)

This Psalm was probably composed sometime around the time of the exile. It has a direct link though with the message of the book of Joshua. You can note the repetition of the term “land”. You have it in

You, LORD, showed favour to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

NIV Psalm 85:1

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

NIV Psalm 85:9

The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.

NIV Psalm 85:12

The idea of possession of the land was foremost in the book of Joshua. Now the people of God have lost possession of the land. They want it back again and they are doing what they should have done in the first place; they are coming to God that they might have the land restored to them.

Before they entered the land, just after the exodus from Egypt, Moses prepared them with these warnings and promises:

All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshipped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and in great wrath the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

NIV Deuteronomy 29:24-28

and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.

NIV Deuteronomy 30:2-2

The reason that they are out of favour with the Lord is that they have disobeyed the Lord. But with the warning also came the promise that those who repented under chastening would again experience His blessing.

For almost seven centuries, the people of God learned that lesson over and over again. It rebelled against God, suffered the consequences, repented and experienced revival and prosperity. The cycles of backsliding and recovery recurred until, after the nation had divided against itself, first the Northern half and then the southern half were taken into captivity. Seventy years ensued in which the people of God were treated as strangers in a foreign land. Some of the people of God turned to God, and he responded by causing Cyrus to permit them to return to Jerusalem. It was a time of great rejoicing when the people of God got back to their land. Yet only a few actually returned at that time, and they found a land shattered by war and grown wild by neglect. Their joy was mixed with sorrows.

Psalm 85, which begins in v1-3 with an expression of joy and celebration remembering the Lord’s mercies to His people. But suddenly the mood of the Psalm changes in v4-7 to a heartfelt petition for renewal of those mercies and enlargement of the benefits resulting from them and then concludes with confident expectation of God’s gracious work among his people v 8-13.

Recalling God’s Mercies v1-3

The psalmist considers the great benefit of the mercy of God in the restoration of his people to the land. The restoration is clearly a fulfilment of God’s promises, made when the covenant was reaffirmed before God’s people entered the Promised Land. God’s favour, forgiveness and withdrawal of wrath all demonstrate the compassion he promised to show his people when they repented.

The six verbs in these three verses – showed, restored, forgave, covered, set aside and turned – all are in the perfect tense. They show that the Psalmist views God’s actions as finished and irrevocable. The favour that God has shown, he will not suddenly take away, the fortunes restored will not be withdrawn. His anger will not suddenly burn again over sins once forgiven.

The credit all belongs to God. The people of God can take no credit for its restoration. All comes from God, even the forgiveness and blessing were wrought by God, not by people. Only the renewal of His anger could be their doing, should they renew their sin. But in praising God’s grace, the psalmist does not ignore human sin.

God’s grace, then exhibited in His compassionate acts on behalf of his people, is the basis of the psalmist’s prayer. He gains encouragement for the present and the future by looking at the past, which for him records God’s gracious deeds.

Prayer for more mercy v4-7

The psalmist needs all the encouragement he can get from the past. For the present, despite the recent turn of events, all looks hopeless. A part of the nation had returned indeed, but to a ruined city, a fallen temple and a mourning land, where they were surrounded by jealous and powerful enemies. Discouragement had laid hold on the feeble company; enthusiasm had ebbed away; the harsh realities of their enterprise had been stripped off its imaginative charm; and the mass of the returned settlers had lost heart as well as faith.

The psalmist is so in touch with reality to realise that if God has brought about the nation’s partial restoration, God must be responsible too for its continued troubles. So he prays:

Restore us again, O God our Saviour, and put away your displeasure towards us. Will you be angry with us for ever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.

NIV Psalm 85:4-7

It is as if he said, Yes, Lord, I see all that you have given us. But why do some remain in Babylon? Why do we have rubble where we need a temple, and charred ruins where we need towns? Why are our fields overrun by briars? It must be because you remain angry with your people. So, restore us again, O God.

The Psalmist sees things the way has outlined them in the book of Deuteronomy. Perhaps that is why the word “turn” appears five times in this Psalm.

As the trouble is God’s doing, so only God’s gracious turning towards His people can end it. The only hope is that God will turn again from his anger and breathe new life into his people. Only his unfailing love v7 (hesed), His covenant love, can withstand the heat of his anger. So for that the Psalmist prays.

The Promise of Extended Grace v8-13

The Psalmist now changes his focus again, he has prayed, he has asked, now he waits in silence before the Lord.

I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants–but let them not return to folly.

NIV Psalm 85:8

He sees from Deuteronomy that God speaks peace and that there will be an end to his anger. But they must see that they should not return to folly again.

To those who fear him salvation is near. Restoration comes only to those who fear him. How close God is watching and waiting to restore, only always too ready to grasp the faintest sign of repentance.

The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.

NIV Psalm 85:12

The Psalmist refuses to be satisfied with where he is. He is not satisfied that others have not yet repented. He prayed for the welfare of the whole land, a burden for the good of the whole church.

O Lord our God, we thank You that You restore Your people. Forgive us Lord for ignoring Your word. When you warn us about the consequences of our disobedience, we still pursue a sinful pathway. Lord help us to understand Your Word, so that we will give proper attention to doing Your will. Lord be pleased to hear our prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.