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Psalm 85

Psalm 85 Revive us again—Recall, Pray, Listen

Theme

The psalmist asks God to restore Israel like he did in the past, and anticipates God’s peace and glory in the land.

Summary

The psalmist recalls God’s past deliverance of Israel and now asks God to restore the nation, stop his anger, and revive them again so they may praise him. They will listen for God’s answer and anticipate that the LORD will do what is good.

Outline

  1. Psalm 85.1-3. Recall: The psalmist recalls God’s past restoration and forgiveness.
  2. Psalm 85.4-7. Pray: The psalmist asks God to restore, forgive, revive, and deliver Israel.
  3. Psalm 85.8-13. Listen: The psalmist will listen for God’s good and righteous answer.

Historical background

The Israelites were exiled to Babylon in 606 BC, 597 BC, and 586 BC. Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel led the first group back to Judah in 536 BC when Cyrus was king (Ezra 1-6). Ezra led the second group in 458 BC when Artaxerxes was king of Persia (Ezra 7-10). Nehemiah led the third group back in 444 BC while Artaxerxes was still king of Persia (Nehemiah 1-2). The psalm may be around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when Israel did not take God seriously and her enemies tormented her. See the Bible Walk notes. Also see Psalm 126.

Verse summary

  1. Psalm 85.1-3. Recall: The psalmist recalls God’s past restoration and forgiveness. Note the verbs: showed favor (ratsah Strong’s 7521), restored (shub Strong’s 7725), forgave (nasa’ Strong’s 5375), covered (kasha Strong’s 3680), withdrew (‘asap Strong’s 622), turned away (shub Strong’s 7725). They all indicate the LORD’s blessing on Israel. The LORD, in the past, showed favor to his land (and those who lived there). The land is the land of Israel. He restored or turned back the captivity of Jacob. Jacob is another name for Israel. God forgave their sin, covered their sin, withdrew his fury, and turned from anger. The words indicate God’s love, faithfulness, and grace given to a sinful people. We have a statement of God’s character and man’s sinfulness, and man’s confession of sin and God’s forgiveness.
  2. Psalm 85.4-7. Pray: The psalmist asks God to again restore, forgive, revive, and deliver Israel. They are back in their land but face spiritual and physical failure and oppression. The requests are Hebrew imperatives except for the last verb in the imperfect, grant us [your salvation].
    • Why the need now? Apparently, after deliverance and restoration the people had again become apathetic. They did not carry through the rebuilding of their civilization nor had they followed God’s word, the Law. Sin again characterized Israel.
    • There are four requests and three questions. The requests: restore (shub Strong’s 7725) us; break (parar Strong’s 6565) your anger; show (ra’h Strong’s 7200) lovingkindness, grant (nathan Strong’s 5414) deliverance.
    • The questions: Will you be angry, will you prolong anger, will you not revive us (revive shub 7725)?
  3. Psalm 85.8-13. Listen: The psalmist will listen for God’s good and righteous answer. Note the progression beginning with hear and ending with footsteps. There is a lesson here.
    • Psalm 85.8. This section begins with confidence based on the LORD’S past action. God will speak. The psalmist will listen. The meaning of this section may include the distant future kingdom, beyond the immediate history future. The message will be one of peace (shalom, welfare, prosperity, peace; Strong’s 7965) to his godly ones (hasid Strong’s 2623), which refers to his people Israel. But sin has been the problem. There is a warning—do not to turn back to sin (folly). Do not go back to your sinful ways.
    • Psalm 85.9. The message is that deliverance is near (in time in this context) for those who fear the LORD. To fear the LORD is to have an awe inspiring reverence, not a fearful terror. See Psalm 112.1; Deuteronomy 31.12-13. It built upon learning, deciding, believing, and following the LORD.  This deliverance is from oppression and God’s wrath. Note the purpose—God’s glory will live in the land. He will live with his people and his people will enjoy and reflect him. They will have fellowship with God, peace and prosperity, and a mission. How wonderful for a nation to have God’s glory live in their land.
    • Psalm 85.10. We have four terms that express what will happen when deliverance has come, and God’s glory dwells in the land. God will express himself so his people will experience his lovingkindness, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace.
      • Lovingkindness (hesed Strong’s 2671) and truth (emet, firmness, faithfulness, truth Strong’s 571) meet. Truth probably should be taken as faithfulness referring to God’s faithfulness coupled with God’s lovingkindness. The two peacefully meet like kings. Righteousness (tsedeq Strong’s 6664) and peace (shalom welfare, prosperity, Strong’s 7965) kiss—they come together as friends. God is with Israel and blessing his people.
    • Psalm 85.11. Further expression of shalom or peace is that Israel will be faithful to the LORD. “Truth” is better taken here as faithfulness as in verse 10. It springs up from the earth. This is probably the faithfulness of an Israel now revived. God’s righteousness (tsedeq Strong’s 6664) looks down from heaven. God is pleased. There is a genuine harmony between God and his people and it shown by God blessing his people. As noted, this may include the distant future kingdom period.
    • Psalm 85.12. The LORD blesses his people in the land. They will have prosperity. God is the source of genuine prosperity for his people. Israel is the recipient.  God is also the source of our blessing.
    • Psalm 85.13. The LORD leads the way and makes the path for living a righteous life. Does this refer to the nation back in the land after exile and after Ezra and Nehemiah have restored the nation? Or does this refer to the ultimate restoration when the characteristics of Psalm 85.8-13 are in full force. Whenever it is completely true, peace, deliverance, glory, lovingkindness, faithfulness, righteousness, prosperity, God’s blessing, and a righteous way of life will be evident.

So what for us?

  1. Israel now rejects her Messiah. The nation has “turned back to folly” and now experiences more oppression and suffering. But, God does forgive and deliver his people when they return to him and fear (reverence) him. Pray for Hebrew people to believe in Jesus.
  2. Based on the record of what God has done in the past we know that God is real, loving, and faithful to us. History, God’s promises, and experience confirm this. Think back about what God has done for you and trust him and live for him now.
  3. Pray for spiritual revival of believers and churches. Without a turning back (shub, revival, return) to God and his word, believers in the United States and around the world are going to face worse and worse opposition, rejection, and persecution.
  4. The psalmist prayed for national revival. The United States had a good beginning based on belief in God and biblical values. We are not Israel, but by application the only way for God to bless this country is for a spiritual revival among believers and then that spiritual revival spread to the American people and the culture.
  5. This psalm says what to do: pray for revival, listen to God, do not go back to sinful ways, fear the LORD.