Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 85

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-3


Now that the remnant of the ten tribes has returned from exile we have an outward restoration. In Psalm 85 we find the spiritual exercise of the remnant giving rise to inner restoration. We first have
a retrospective (Psalms 85:1-Leviticus :), then
a look ahead (Psalms 85:4-Judges :) with finally
teaching from the LORD to comfort the remnant (Psalms 85:8-1 Chronicles :).

God Shows Favor to His Land

For “for the choir director” (Psalms 85:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

For “a Psalm of the sons of Korah” see at Psalm 42:1.

The first part of the psalm (Psalms 85:1-Leviticus :) gives a retrospective. The psalm begins with the grateful acknowledgment that the LORD has shown “favor to Your land” (Psalms 85:1) – Israel is His land (Leviticus 25:23). It is about the time when God has “restored the captivity of Jacob” (Leviticus 26:44-Romans :). This is what the remnant will say when the great tribulation is over and the people, Jacob, that is the twelve tribes, have been brought back by God to His land. The land is God’s, He owns the land, and does so in His own who dwell in it.

The blessing is the result of the removal of the iniquity and sin of the people (Psalms 85:2). It concerns the believers of the ten tribes. They have received forgiveness for their sins; the anger no longer rests on them. Their iniquity and sins have been the reason for God to drive His people out of His land. These sins can be summarized in two things: not accepting the Son, the Messiah, and accepting, serving and following the antichrist (John 5:43). In other words: murder and (spiritual) adultery, or the breaking of the commandments of the two stone tablets of the law.

But He “forgave the iniquity” of His people. The word “forgave” or “carried away” is reminiscent of the Day of atonement where the goat that went away carried away the sin of the people to a wilderness in the east (Leviticus 16:22). The iniquity is that the people rejected Him in His Son. He has taken it away by making the rejection the basis for their blessing. He has done this by laying the iniquity of the people on His Son and judging Him for it.

Iniquity was manifested in their countless sins. The rejection of the Son is the culmination and irrefutable evidence of a life full of sin. But He has “covered all their sins”. The covering for sins is likewise found in the work of His Son. The blood of Christ covers all the sins, without exception, of every one who confesses his sins and believes in Him (1 John 1:7).

The remnant can say to God “You withdrew all Your fury” because the Son of God has already suffered the wrath of God over sin (Psalms 85:3; cf. Psalms 42:8). Because God has let His burning wrath pass over His Son by making Him sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), God has “turned away” from His “burning anger” over His people.

Verses 4-7

Restore Us

The glorious situation of the previous verses has not yet arrived. The ten tribes have received the forgiveness, but the reality and scope of it does not yet penetrate properly. We see this in picture in the difficulty the brothers of Joseph had in understanding and accepting the depth and genuineness of Joseph’s forgiveness.

The remnant is still far from God’s land. Therefore, they make an urgent appeal to the “God of our salvation” to restore them in or bring them back into the land (Psalms 85:4). They are in the great tribulation, in which they acknowledge God’s indignation toward them because of their iniquity and sins. The question to God, “cause Your indignation toward us to cease”, involves the acknowledgment of its righteousness. It is a demand for grace.

The LORD has forgiven them (Psalms 85:2-Leviticus :), but they ask for forgiveness again. We see this in pictures in Genesis 50 with the brothers of Joseph (Genesis 50:17). Years after Joseph has forgiven them, they ask again for forgiveness. In the same way, there are many Christians who are not sure of the forgiveness of their sins. They have accepted the Lord Jesus and received forgiveness, but in their lives they are often uncertain because they return time and again to the law and time and again look to themselves instead of to the Lord’s finished work.

Surely it cannot be, they go on to ask that “You will be angry with us forever?” (Psalms 85:5). Surely God cannot prolong His anger “to all generations”, can He? They bow in despair under God’s indignation, experiencing it as endless.

Yet in their despair there is also a trace of hope. They speak emphatically to God, saying, You, God, “will You not Yourself revive us again?” (Psalms 85:6). They acknowledge that only God is able to do that. When He does, the result is that His people rejoice in Him. A people who have been made spiritually alive is a people who rejoice in God.

They have doubts about their relationship with God. They are asking for God to revive them again. This means that they feel ‘dead’, which means that they do not experience a relationship with God. We hear this in what the father says of the prodigal son (Luke 15:24) and in what is written of the condition of unbelievers (Ephesians 2:1). To live means to have a relationship. “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life” (1 John 5:11-2 Kings :).

They passionately appeal to the LORD to show them His “lovingkindness” (Psalms 85:7). Lovingkindness is the translation of the Hebrew word chesed, which means covenant faithfulness, which means that the blessings, the lovingkindness, are based on the covenant. They make everything dependent on Him. From themselves they expect nothing. The salvation of the realm of peace, for which they so long, must come from Him. He must give it. That is what they beg Him for.

Verses 8-13

Blessing For the Land

The doubt of the remnant (Psalms 85:7) gives the LORD the opportunity to teach the remnant about the scope of salvation from God. After the supplication in the previous verses, the righteous one waits for the answer God will give (Psalms 85:8). This expectant attitude after supplication is wonderful and an example for us (cf. Habakkuk 2:1). The righteous man knows what God is going to say. He knows this because he knows God’s love for His people.

His people are “His godly ones”. “Godly ones” in Hebrew is chasidim, the plural of chasid, which is derived from chesed, which is the lovingkindness or ‘covenant faithfulness’. The remnant was in doubt about this and asked the LORD in Psalms 85:7 to show His covenant faithfulness.

In Psalms 85:2-Leviticus : they have testified of forgiveness on the basis of the blood of the covenant. In Psalms 85:8 the LORD speaks of peace, He speaks to their hearts – as Joseph once did to his brothers. Then they should not return to the folly of doubting His love. The LORD speaks of peace only to His godly ones, that is, to those who are faithful to His covenant.

God will “speak peace” to those who are still so distressed. Thus God always speaks peace to those who have made peace with Him on the basis of repentance and confession of their sins. In doing so, they must be determined not to “turn back to folly” (cf. Proverbs 28:13). To return to foolishness means to return to a state of unbelief, of trusting in idols and of excluding God (Psalms 14:1).

In the light of the New Testament with its application to us, this is not about the peace with God that someone receives upon conversion (Romans 5:1) It is about the peace of God that a believer may experience as he walks in trust and fellowship with God (Philippians 4:7).

The remnant knows for sure, “surely”, that “His salvation is near to those who fear Him” (Psalms 85:9). Salvation is not the portion of everyone, but only of the God-fearing. For them it is “near”, it is imminent and will soon be there. They must hang on a little longer, and then they will fully enjoy salvation in the realm of peace. Associated with this is the fact “that glory may dwell in our land”. If God is feared, that is, if people live in awe of Him – and this will be the case in the realm of peace – this will bring glory to the entire land (cf. Psalms 72:19).

That glory is the blessing and prosperity that will come upon the land. Most profoundly, that glory consists in Messiah dwelling in the midst of His people. He is their glory (Isaiah 60:1-Exodus :; Zechariah 2:5). That glory came to them at Christ’s first coming to earth in Him (John 1:14), but was rejected by them (Isaiah 53:2-Leviticus :). When He comes to them the second time, His people will confess their sin and He will allow them to share in His earthly glory (Zechariah 12:2; Zechariah 13:1Zechariah 13:9).

This is all the result of Christ’s work on the cross. There “lovingkindness and truth” met and “righteousness and peace” kissed each other (Psalms 85:10). These characteristics are now personified, they are presented as persons, that is, they are strong, emphatic, present.

What by sin have become irreconcilable opposites, God has reconciled in Christ on the cross. Lovingkindness always precedes faithfulness or truth (Psalms 25:10; Psalms 89:14; Proverbs 16:6; Proverbs 20:28; cf. John 1:17). The cause is that on the ground of truth the people forfeited every right to blessing. They therefore need lovingkindness or grace to still receive the blessing. But it is grace on the basis of truth.

As a result of Christ’s work of atonement, “truth springs from the earth” (Psalms 85:11). Since the Fall, the earth has produced thorns and thistles, the symbols of sin (Genesis 3:18). In the rebirth of the earth (Matthew 19:28), which is the realm of peace, thorns and thistles will disappear (Isaiah 55:13). Through Christ and His death on the cross, everything has been changed. He has become the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died. Because of this, there is already a spiritual harvest of all who are fruits of His work through faith in Him (John 12:24).

Truth in the realm of peace does not spring from the earth because of man’s righteousness. The righteousness that can connect with faithfulness from the earth comes from heaven. It also means that heaven is now in harmony with earth, as the Lord Jesus puts it in the prayer He taught His disciples to pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-2 Samuel :).

This also means that this righteousness is not that of man, but that of God (Romans 3:21), which means that it must be revealed by God. We see this in the realm of peace. The truth that springs is the truth or faithfulness of God to all His promises, the fulfillment of which is seen in the fullness of blessing on earth. All the earth, yea, all creation, “will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Romans 8:21).

The blessings of the New Testament believer go far beyond that. The blessings of those who belong to the church are not earthly and material, but heavenly and spiritual. They are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). But both earthly and heavenly blessings flow from the righteousness of God in Christ in heaven. Heaven is the source of all blessing.

At that time, when righteousness of God in heaven and truth of God on earth are joined together, “the LORD gives what is good” (Psalms 85:12). “What is good” consists of all the good things that God will give to His people. This includes both earthly good things and spiritual good things. One of the good things of the realm of peace is that the “land will yield its produce”.

The Messiah will go through the land. In doing so, “righteousness will go before Him” like a herald goes out before a king (Psalms 85:13). That righteousness will be seen therein that He makes “His footsteps into a way”. The remnant may follow Him. All they have to do is put their footsteps in those of the Messiah. The way the remnant goes is the way the Messiah first went in righteousness.

Righteousness is the hallmark of the realm of peace par excellence. The LORD will then be the true Melchizedek, the King of righteousness. The LORD will then be Yahweh Tzidkenu or “the LORD our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). When He rules on earth, righteousness will rule over all the earth (Isaiah 32:1).

When the Messiah reigns, justice will no longer turn back and truth will no longer stumble in the streets, as it does today (Isaiah 59:14). Justice has returned to earth in Christ and reigning happens in truth. “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 85". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-85.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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