Sunday, Jul 23rd

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Psalm 85

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Christians today tend to seek God’s favours without giving Him their very beings. They talk the talk, but do not ‘walk the walk’. It is so sadly observable! If we really believe God has covered our sins, then why do we live defeated lives, as if He were not present?

Verses 1&2

  1. (To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah). LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.

  2. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.

Here is another Psalm written to raise the hopes of the descendants of Korah. It is a truth that though our fathers may have sinned greatly, if we live for the Lord, those sins will not be attributed to ourselves.

God (Jehovah) is praised for showing His favour to Israel and for returning captured Jews to their land. As the word ‘captivity’, shĕbuwth, proves, they were captured by an enemy. It is assumed these Jews were captured and sent to Babylon, so the Psalm is about their return from exile. This may, or may not, be factual, but there is no real objection to thinking it is so, which would date the Psalm to around 536BC, the time of Cyrus’ decree to free the prisoners. However, whilst this is a general understanding it has not been proved. (Though not proved, it is nevertheless a reasonable assumption; Christians must not rely on assumptions as facts, no matter how reasonable, so bear in mind it is not proven fact).

The psalmist couples this return of prisoners with God’s forgiveness of their sins. Whoever these prisoners were, it is evidenced that their imprisonment was caused by their own sin. It is a truth that when believers slide into sin, their lives are adversely affected, and God will not help. We know from Daniel that during his own exile, the captured Jews began to realise their failure before God, and God saw this.

When our lives go downhill, our first action should not be to call on God for help (unless it is urgent), but to check how we are spiritually. Have we sinned and brought the circumstances upon ourselves? If so, have we repented and changed our ways? Only then may we legitimately seek God’s help. He might not answer immediately... it took 70 years with Daniel’s contemporaries, and four hundred years with the Hebrews in Egypt! Better not to sin at all. On the other hand, God might answer straight away – the timing is His, not ours. The writer introduces a musical pause at this point.

Verses 3-6

  1. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

  2. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.

  3. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?

  4. Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?

Another aspect of God’s punishment is shown here – that it was administered by His wrath. God is never neutral in His punishments! Nor is He vicious. His anger is always deserved and determined by His justice. Even so, Christians should understand that they can become the objects of His wrath, though they are saved by the Son and will definitely inherit Heaven. Our saved state does not prevent God from administering penalties for sin.

Thus, the psalmist asks God to stop applying His anger and to turn the people back to their state of holiness. After all, he is the author of their salvation. So, He cannot be angry towards them forever, to defeat future sons and their sons. Instead, goes the plea, “revive us again” that the chosen people can again rejoice. This reviving action is to cause the people to live again, to be quickened spiritually.

Verses 7-11

  1. Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation.

  2. 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.

  3. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.

  4. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

  5. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

Going back to Christians making assumptions... many base their beliefs on popular beliefs unproven by scripture of even practice. There are many instances of this in charismatic circles; but genuine believers, too, have their favoured guesses! One of these is to assume God has worked, or will work, even though there are no signs of it happening. Verse seven tells us that when God works in our lives, it will be visible and evident: “Shew us thy mercy...” is not guesswork or a gentle belief without proofs. Our hope is not in guesswork, but in actual activity by God.

The psalmist asks God to show His mercy, checed, His loving kindness. It will be different from their daily lives thus far, because God’s love will show as obvious benefits bestowed upon the people. In this text Jehovah is asked to plainly show His intervention by giving salvation. In this verse it refers not to spiritual salvation leading to Heaven, but to national safety and rescue, giving prosperity and growth. This can include spiritual wealth, but the main meaning is national security.

If this was indeed the time the Jews left Babylon and arrived back in Israel, then they would have found the land devoid of agricultural and other riches. So, if God did indeed shower them with mercy, it would show itself as an ongoing development of wealth, food, and so on. This is not guesswork – it either happens or it does not. It would be recognised as God’s work, because during the captivity the land was bereft of any good and those who were not taken to Babylon were unable to sustain the land and buildings.

If everything suddenly began to improve visibly, then God would be acknowledged to be the prompter and giver. Today, many Christians assume God is with them and doing things for them, when, in reality, there is no visible proof of it. Indeed, there is no inward spiritual proofs, either! They want the benefits without repenting or doing anything to show they have changed.

Again, the psalmist is assured that he would hear the evidence of God (‘el) intervening. Instead of showing anger, He would show the people peace (safety and prosperity) “and to his saints”. In this verse ‘saints’ are those who are godly and holy. As today, nominal Christians are many, but a few are truly godly and righteous.

What this indicates is God’s general benevolence towards the chosen people, but special blessings towards the few who are godly... so long as they do “not turn again to folly”, which can be translated as ‘stupidity’! Surely, says the psalmist, those who fear the Lord will know His salvation? (Fear is the beginning of wisdom). When a nation fears God, He raises them up to be excellent and glorious. The West is at the other end of the scale at this time, because there is no fear of God.

As the psalmist says, when mercy meets truth, and righteousness meets peace, all is well. If believers are given God’s mercy, then they have already accepted His truth and will propagate it; and true righteousness always brings peace (of God). When these things occur, truth will be everywhere, and will spring up continually. And when believers are righteous, it is met with God’s righteousness smiling from Heaven.

Verses 12&13

  1. Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.

  2. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

The psalmist seems to have been reassured by the Lord, for in the last two verses he shows a rise in spirit. “.. the Lord SHALL give that which is good...” He would give the nation proof of His cessation of wrath and beginning of help. One of those signs would be “... the land shall yield her increase.” That is a definite proof that cannot be ‘fudged’ by a false hope, the type of false hope often seen behind the glazed-eyes of arms-uplifted charismatics.

Another obvious change would be that righteousness would be evident throughout the land. Many today pretend to be righteous, but righteousness permeates the soul and person; if a man is pretending it will wilt and die, or become stale and ego-centrical. The true sign of God being with the Israelites would be a widespread increase in the spiritual life of the people. There would be a desire for all things godly, and even out of sight of others the people would pray and seek God earnestly.

The same goes for modern believers; any real changes will be obvious and constant, not sporadic and half-hearted. Even in private. What is YOUR life like? Do you love and act righteously before others, but then fall into misery in private? If so, your life is not affected by God’s righteousness and you are pretending.

True righteousness is self-perpetuating, because God sees our heart and knows when it is genuine – He will reward us if we begin to walk with Him, by giving us a constant desire AND action to do so. Our spirits will be brighter and our walk more positive. And the more we show this willingness the more sustenance He will give us.

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Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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