Psalm 85 is one of the most beautiful hymns or prayers amongst this most eloquent and intimate of all sacred words. Even though it begins crying to God saying “You showed favor to your land, O Lord. You restored the fortunes of Jacob.” This verse is more than talking about a merciful God. It is talking about “unmerited favor.” This is the phrase used most often when describing God’s grace. No, we don’t deserve His favor. In fact there is nothing we can do to deserve it. It is about atonement for our sins given as the most exquisite and beautiful gift of all time, past and future to mankind. It is the gift of salvation to those who would receive it. In the Old Testament it is abut God turning from His wrath in our obedience. He had been faithful and the Sons of Korah pray again for God’s restoration and the cessation of His anger against them. They are praying for His unfailing love. That is the center of God, His love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His love is steadfast or unfailing and everlasting. There is not a God of the Old Testament and One of the New Testament, as some believe. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. God delights in His salvation as we pray that He will grant us His salvation.
Then the writers listen for God’s response. What a great instruction. We must pray and then listen for God will answer. “He promises peace to His people, His saints” (v.8). God gives His peace or wholeness and wellbeing to those who seek Him and His merciful peace. But to those who don’t, who live in “folly” there is no peace. I see that in life. I see those who do not know or follow the Lord do not seem to have peace. They seem to seek material and worldly things to find it, but they do not, for it will not. Verse 9 reminds and promises that His salvation is near. I love the Book of Philippians, particularly, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7). God is near and so is His peace for those who trust in Him for their salvation. The Psalmist proclaims that the Lord and His salvation are near those who fear Him and He will bring His glory to their land. What a wonderful promise.
“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (v.10). This is one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture. Here God’s love and faithfulness are one. This is why I wrote my book, Great is God’s Faithfulness, based on the Psalms’ promises of God. The image of righteousness or holiness kissing peace gives readers and believers a sense of God’s peace being with us as we seek and live a righteous life through Him and His Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of His peaceful embrace. This is a perfect partnership, going hand-in-hand. Again in verse11 we read of “(God’s) faithfulness springs forth on earth as His righteousness looks down from heaven.” God is on His throne and He is looking down metaphorically for He is omnipresent and powerful in and through all things. One commentator, Derek Kidner, writes that God’s Shekinah glory was dwelling amongst His people. This is a graceful picture of atonement, a moving and active one.
God’s glory is always present with us, not just in the “holy of holies.” This whole psalm is the personification of God’s glory, mercy, righteousness and saving atonement. The words speak of God’s goodness yielding its harvest. The writers are speaking of crops, but it is hard to not look at Jesus’ words, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:27). Psalm 85:13 ends saying, “Righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps.” This is speaking of God’s covenant engagement with His people. This covenant includes the sending of His Son Jesus to walk with us as “Immanuel” God with us. Unless we find and receive Him and His righteous forgiveness we will not see the glory of the Lord and His harvest in our own lives and that of all others. Seek the Lord while He may be found. My book, This is The Way, Walk in It, based on Isaiah 30:21, tells us how to walk in His way, the “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).