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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 85

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verse 8


Psalms 85:8. I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

IF we would obtain any blessing from God, we must seek it in the exercise of fervent prayer. Yet shall we not really obtain a blessing, unless we look up to God in expectation of an answer to our prayers. In this respect we must resemble a beggar who supplicates for alms. He is not satisfied with having presented his petition: he waits for an answer; and never considers himself as having succeeded in his requests, till he is in the actual enjoyment of the desired boon. This waiting spirit was exemplified in David, when he said, “In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up [Note: Psalms 5:3.].” In like manner it is illustrated in the psalm before us, which seems to have been written after the Babylonish captivity, but previous to the complete and quiet settlement of the people in their own land. The petitions which are offered are extremely urgent: “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger towards us to cease! Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation [Note: ver. 4–7.].” The petitioner, then, determines to listen to God’s voice, in the hope that he shall, in due season, receive an answer of peace: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak.”

Let us, for the elucidation of this subject, consider,


The attention to be paid to the word of God—

[The word, whether as contained in the inspired volume, or as delivered to us by the ministers of Christ, is truly and properly God’s; and, as his, it should be received by us with the deepest reverence. When St. Paul ministered at Thessalonica, the people “received his word, not as the word of man, but as the word of God:” and for that he specially commends them [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.]. And thus, whether written or preached, it must be received by us. Whether we open the inspired volume ourselves, or go up to hear it in the house of God, we must, like Cornelius and his family, place ourselves as in the immediate presence of God, “to hear all that is commanded us of God [Note: Acts 10:33.]:” and with meek submission we must say, like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth [Note: 1 Samuel 3:10.].”]

But in our text we are informed,


What particular reason there is for that attention—

[“The Lord will speak peace unto his people and to his saints:” however much they have deserved his wrath and indignation, he will not retain his anger against them, if only they give ear to his word, and set themselves diligently to obey it. To the impenitent he never utters a single word of peace: but to the humble and contrite soul, that relies on his promises in Christ Jesus, there is not a syllable throughout all the inspired volume that leads to discouragement: grace, mercy, and peace are held forth to all of this character. These, though but in an infantine state, are God’s “saints and people;” and for them are prepared “a peace that passeth all understanding,” and “a joy that is unspeakable and glorified.” Shall such tidings, then, be announced, and the trembling soul not listen to them? If there were nothing but precepts proclaimed, they should be listened to with the most reverent attention: but, when nothing but the voice of love and mercy sounds in our ears, it must be strange indeed if we do not hear it with the devoutest gratitude, and treasure it up in our minds as a source of the richest consolation.]
With this attention, however, must be blended a regard to,


The ultimate scope and object of all his gracious declarations—

[Sin, under what circumstances soever it be committed, is “folly” in the extreme: and to turn us from that folly is the true end of all that God has done for us. “Our Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for us, to deliver us from this present evil world, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works [Note: Titus 2:14.].” To him, therefore, we must cleave in a way of holiness, never for a moment turning back to our evil ways, or even so much as “looking back after having once put our hands to the plough [Note: Luke 9:62.].” For, whatever we may have experienced, it will all cease to be of any value in the sight of God the very instant we depart from his holy ways [Note: Ezekiel 33:18.]: yea, it will be “better never to have known the way of righteousness at all, than after having known it, to depart from it [Note: 2 Peter 2:21.].” It is “by patient continuance in well-doing that we must seek for eternal life [Note: Romans 2:7.];” and only by enduring to the end, can we ever attain the promised salvation [Note: Mark 13:13.].]

Let me, then, address—

The inattentive hearer—

[God speaks in his word: but the generality of the world, though within reach of the sound, hear him not: “They have no ears to hear.” But let me ask, Will you be always able to shut your ears against his voice? Will you not hear him when he shall summon both the quick and dead to his tribunal? Will you be deaf to his voice when he shall pronounce upon you that awful doom, “Depart accursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels?” If, then, you must listen to him in that day, would it not be wise to regard him now? Be assured the day will come when you will regret that presumptuous indifference which now you manifest; and when, if you turn not to him in sincerity and truth, you will “call upon the rocks and mountains in vain to hide you from his wrath.”]


The backsliding professor—

[What have you gained by returning to the world? Nay, have you not lost the peace which you once enjoyed? You may pretend to possess a quiet mind; but you do not: or, if you do, it is only by drowning the voice of conscience, and silencing its remonstrances. Compare the penitential sorrows which you once felt, with the liveliest joys that you now experience; and then say, whether you were not really happier when weeping for your sins, than you now are when launching into either the cares or pleasures of the world? I well know the answer you must give, if you will speak truly; and therefore you, of all men, are constrained to acknowledge the folly of sin. “Remember, then, whence you have fallen, and repent; and do your first works [Note: Revelation 2:5.].” But if you will not repent and turn to God, then prepare to meet him in judgment, and to receive at his hands the just recompence of your deeds.]


The obedient saint—

[It is your privilege to have your “peace flowing down like a river.” And such it will be, if you apply to your souls the many “great and precious promises” which are given you in the Gospel. Search them out, therefore, and treasure them up in your minds. Hear God himself speaking to you in them: and so embrace them, as to live upon them, and to derive from them all the consolation which they are calculated to impart. In this way will you be kept from spiritual declension, and will be enabled to “cleanse yourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].”]

Verses 9-10


Psalms 85:9-10. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

WE are told in Scripture, that “the prayer of the upright is God’s delight:” and in instances without number has he evinced the truth of this saying. If only we wait upon him with humility, and listen to his voice, “he will speak peace unto us [Note: ver. 8.].” The writer of this psalm, which was most probably composed after the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, records for our instruction, that he sought not the Lord in vain. The people, though restored, found many difficulties to encounter: and the Psalmist earnestly entreated God to perfect for them what he had begun, and to establish the nation in righteousness and peace [Note: ver. 1–7.]. In answer to this prayer, God assured him, not only that the blessings which had been solicited should be conferred, but that the more glorious redemption, which was shadowed forth by those events, should in due time be accomplished. In this sense of the passage all the best interpreters concur: and it perfectly accords with the general language of the Prophets, which, in addition to the literal meaning, has also a spiritual or mystical sense; and which, under images apparently relating only to one peculiar people, has respect to Christ and his Church to the end of time. Taking the words then in a prophetical sense, we may notice in them,


The obstacles on God’s part to the salvation of man—

When man fell, the “truth and righteousness” of God required that the penalties of his transgression should be executed upon him—
[To man in Paradise, God gave liberty to eat of every tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: but in reference to that tree he said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” This death comprehended not merely the dissolution of the body, but the destruction also of the soul, even that everlasting destruction from which the second Adam has delivered us: according as it is written, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 5:12-19; Romans 6:23.].” From the moment therefore of his transgression, man became obnoxious to this punishment; and the truth of God was pledged to inflict it. Moreover, God as a righteous Governor could not but maintain the honour of his law. His justice was engaged not to suffer the violations of that law to pass unpunished.]

This presented an apparently insurmountable obstacle to man’s salvation—
[To say that God could not have found some other means of satisfying the demands of truth and righteousness, would be presumptuous, because the resources of his wisdom are infinite: but we are perfectly justified in saying, that he could not save man unless some way of satisfying the demands of truth and righteousness were found. However God might desire to exercise mercy, and to be at peace with man, he could not do it at the expense of any other of his perfections. St. Paul himself frequently assigns this limit to the divine procedure: “God cannot lie,” says he: and again, “It is impossible for God to lie:” and again, “God cannot deny himself.” Again he says, “Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” It is plain, therefore, that unless a way could be found for “mercy and truth to meet together, and righteousness and peace to kiss each other,” no hope could be entertained for fallen man: the judgments denounced against him must be executed; and, having partaken with the fallen angels in their guilt, he must partake with them also in their misery.]
But, formidable as these obstacles were, we behold in our text,


The way in which they are removed—

All has been done for man that was required of man—
[A substitute has been provided for our guilty race. The Son of God himself has come down from heaven, and been made under the law, that, in the very nature that had sinned, he might bear the penalty of sin, and fulfil the utmost possible demands of that law which we had broken. True it is, that the law denounced eternal death; and that Christ bore that penalty only for a season: but then it must be remembered, that he was God, as well as man: and from his godhead is derived a virtue on all that he did or suffered, a virtue which is fully adequate to the obedience or sufferings of the whole world. Indeed the law gains more honour by the sufferings of our incarnate God, than it ever could have gained from the sufferings of the whole human race: for, if man had undertaken to pay the penalty, no time could ever have arrived, when it might be said, “Now divine justice is satisfied, and the law has received a full compensation for the dishonour done to it:” but in the sufferings of God’s co-equal Son there is “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” In his obedience also to the law there is an honour done to it far beyond all that could have accrued to it from the obedience of man. That God himself should become subject to his own law, and fulfil in his own person all that is required of his creatures, is such an exalted honour to the law, that it may well be regarded as a sufficient substitute for the obedience of man, and as an adequate ground for the justification of all who shall trust in it [Note: Isaiah 42:21.].]

Thus a way is opened for man’s salvation, in perfect consistency with every perfection of the Deity—
[“Truth and righteousness” are now completely satisfied. They demanded a perfect fulfilment of the law; and the law has been perfectly fulfilled: they demanded the penalty of death to be inflicted on account of sin; and it has been inflicted on the sinner’s substitute. Now as a debt, discharged by a surety, can no longer be demanded of the principal, so can our debt no longer be demanded of us, if we plead what Christ has done and suffered for us. And, as a thing purchased for any person, belongs to him for whom it was purchased, so we, who have all the glory of heaven purchased for us by our adorable Emmanuel, have a right to it, if we plead the purchase he has made. Hence it appears that truth and righteousness are no longer against us, but are rather on our side; and, instead of demanding, as before, the destruction of our souls, are become advocates for our free and full salvation. Justice now says, Pay them, O God, what their Redeemer has purchased for them: and Truth says, Fulfil to them, O Lord, all that thou hast promised to those who believe in Jesus.]
But let us more particularly consider,


The blessed consequences of the removal of them—

[Salvation is now accessible to all: it is come both to Jews and Gentiles: “It is near unto us.” To those especially “who fear the Lord,” it is near, even “in their mouth and in their heart [Note: Romans 10:8-9.].” No longer does the fiery sword prohibit our access to the tree of life. “Mercy” has now full scope for the freest exercise. God can now be “a just God, and yet a Saviour [Note: Isaiah 45:21.].” He “declares his righteousness,” no less than his mercy, “in the forgiveness of sins; and is just, and yet the justifier of all who believe in Christ [Note: Romans 3:25-26.].” Hence he proclaims “peace” to all that are afar off [Note: Ephesians 2:17.]. He establishes his tabernacle in the midst of us: and invites all to come unto him, even to his mercy-seat, in full assurance of faith. “In every corner of the land his glory dwells [Note: Isaiah 4:5.]:” and all who truly fear him may have daily “fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The manner in which this assertion is made, deserves particular atention: “Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him.” This blessed truth admits not of the smallest doubt: it may be fully and firmly depended upon. A spring of great elastic force does not more certainly rise up when the superincumbent pressure is withdrawn from it, than mercy issues from the bosom of our God now that the obstacles to its exercise are removed.]

Behold then how replete this passage is with,

Instruction to the ignorant—

[Men differ much about the way of salvation: but this passage clearly determines who is right. That plan of salvation, and that alone, is right, which is carried into effect in perfect consistency with all the attributes of God. But there is no way that provides for the honour of God’s truth and righteousness, but that which is revealed in the Gospel, the way of salvation by faith in Christ. Nothing but Christ’s obedience unto death ever did, or ever could, answer the demands of law and justice: nothing but Christ’s completion of that work in the quality of our Surety could enable the sinner to say to the supreme Governor of the universe, “Avert thy wrath from me; for I have already endured it in my Surety; and give me everlasting glory, for I, in the person of my Surety, have fulfilled all righteousness, and perfectly obeyed thy law.” But the Believer may adopt this language; since God himself has said, that “Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we, who had no righteousness, might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Let the uninstructed bear this in mind, and “determine to know nothing” as a ground of hope towards God, “but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”]


Terror to the presumptuous—

[It is surprising what a measure of confidence some will express, notwithstanding neither their principles nor their conduct at all accord with the Scriptures of Truth. But we must declare to all, that both in the foundation of our hope, and in the superstructure built upon it, “Mercy and truth must meet together, and righteousness and peace must kiss each other.” We have before shewn, that no one perfection of the Deity will display itself at the expense of another: all must unite and harmonize in every work of his: it is as impossible for God in any one instance to violate his righteousness or truth, as for him to cease from his existence. In us also must those graces which correspond with his perfections be found in united and harmonious exercise: we must be just and true, and merciful and kind: yea, it is by our conformity to the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness, that we must judge of our state before him: for, however accurate our views of his Gospel may be, it is a certain truth, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord:” “Truth must spring out of the earth, if ever righteousness shall look down from heaven [Note: ver. 11. with Isaiah 45:8.].”]


Consolation to the timid—

[It is frequently amongst those who truly “fear God” a matter of doubt and anxiety, whether God can pardon them: they see their manifold imperfections in so strong a light, that God appears to them bound, as it were, in justice, to banish them from his presence, yea, and bound in truth also to execute his threatenings upon them. But let such persons view God, not as he is in himself, but as he is in Christ Jesus. There it is that he must be seen as a God of love and peace. There it is that the drooping penitent may behold him “as a reconciled God, who will never impute to him his trespasses [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:19-20.].” Yes, in Christ Jesus, “God is not only merciful and kind, but faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [Note: 1 John 1:9.].” Dismiss then your fears, ye trembling saints; and put your trust in Him, who has in so wonderful a way removed all the obstacles to your salvation. The veil of the temple was rent in twain on purpose to shew you, that henceforth there is free access to God for every sinner upon earth, and that all who approach him in that new and living way, by faith in Christ Jesus, shall surely find acceptance with him. If God will be just in punishing the ungodly, he will be no less just to his Son in pardoning all who plead the merit of his blood: and if he will be true in executing his threatenings, he will be no less true in fulfilling his exceeding great and precious promises. Only rely on them, and plead them at a throne of grace, and you shall never, never be disappointed of your hope.]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 85". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/psalms-85.html. 1832.
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