Psalms 85


Thanksgiving to God for restoration to the Divine favour, 1-3;

prayer for farther mercies, 4-7;

the psalmist waits for a gracious answer in full confidence of

receiving it, 8.

He receives the assurance of the greatest blessings, and exults

in the prospect, 9-13.


The title of this Psalm we have seen before, Ps 42:1. As to the

time, it seems to have been written during, or even after, the

return from the Babylonish captivity. In the three first verses

the psalmist acknowledges the goodness of God in bringing the

people back to their own land; he next prays to God to restore

them to their ancient prosperity. In the spirit of prophecy, he

waits on God, and hears him promise to do it; and then exults in

the prospect of so great a good. The whole Psalm seems also to

have a reference to the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ.

Verse 1. Lord, thou hast been favourable] Literally, Thou hast

been well pleased with thy land.

Thou hast brought back the captivity] This seems to fix the time

of the Psalm to be after the return of the Jews from Babylon.

Verse 2. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity] nasatha avon,

Thou hast borne, or carried away, the iniquity. An allusion to the

ceremony of the scapegoat.

Thou hast covered all their sin.] As thou hast freely forgiven

it, its offensiveness and abominable nature no longer appear. The

whole is put out of sight; and, as we are restored from our

captivity, the consequences no longer appear.

Selah.] This is true. Our return to our own land is the full


Verse 3. Thou hast taken away] asaphta, "Thou hast

gathered up all thy wrath." This carries on the metaphor in the

second verse: "Thou hast collected all thy wrath, and carried it

away with all our iniquities."

Verse 4. Turn us, O God of our salvation] Thou hast turned our

captivity; now convert our souls. And they find a reason for their

prayer in an attribute of their God; the God of their salvation.

And as his work was to save, they beg that his anger towards them

might cease. The Israelites were not restored from their captivity

all at once. A few returned with Zerubbabel; some more with Ezra

and Nehemiah; but a great number still remained in Babylonia,

Media, Assyria, Egypt, and other parts. The request of the

psalmist is, to have a complete restoration of all the Israelites

from all places of their dispersion.

Verse 5. Wilt thou draw out thine anger] We have already

suffered much and long; our fathers have suffered, and we have

succeeded to their distresses. Draw not out thy anger against us

from generation to generation.

Verse 6. Wilt thou not revive us] We have long had the sentence

of death in ourselves; and have feared an utter extinction. Shall

not our nation yet live before thee? Shall we not become once more

numerous, pious, and powerful, that

Thy people may rejoice in thee?] As the Source of all our

mercies; and give thee the glory due to thy name?

Verse 7. Show us thy mercy] Blot out all our sins.

And grant us thy salvation.] Give us such a complete deliverance

as is worthy of thy majesty and mercy to bestow!

Verse 8. I will hear what God the Lord will speak] The psalmist

goes as a prophet to consult the Lord; and, having made his

request, waits an answer from the spirit of prophecy. He is

satisfied that the answer will be gracious; and having received it

he relates it to the people.

He will speak peace] He will give prosperity to the people in

general; and to his saints-his followers, in particular.

But let them not turn again to folly.] Let them not abuse the

mercy of their God, by sinning any more against him.

Verse 9. Surely his salvation is nigh] To him who fears God,

and trembles at his word, his salvation is nigh at hand.

That glory may dwell in our land.] That thy worship may be

restored, the temple rebuilt, and the Divine shechinah, or symbol

of the presence of God, resume its place. The pure and undefiled

religion of God preached, professed, and experienced in a nation,

is the glory of that land. The Prophet Haggai had said that the

glory of the latter house-the temple built after their return from

Babylon, should be greater than the glory of the former, viz., of

that built by Solomon: but, as a building, it was far inferior to

the former; yet it had a superior glory in being visited by Jesus

Christ. This was the glory that excelled.

Verse 10. Mercy and truth are met together] It would be more

simple to translate the original,-

Chesed veemeth niphgashu;

Tsedek veshalom nashaku,--

"Mercy and truth have met on the way

Righteousness and peace have embraced."

This is a remarkable text, and much has been said on it: but

there is a beauty in it which, I think, has not been noticed.

Mercy and peace are on one side; truth and righteousness

on the other. Truth requires righteousness; mercy calls for peace.

They meet together on the way; one going to make inquisition for

sin, the other to plead for reconciliation. Having met, their

differences on certain considerations, not here particularly

mentioned, are adjusted; and their mutual claims are blended

together in one common interest; on which peace and righteousness

immediately embrace. Thus, righteousness is given to truth, and

peace is given to mercy.

Now, Where did these meet? In Christ Jesus.

When were they reconciled? When he poured out his life on


Verse 11. Truth shall spring out of the earth] In consequence of

this wonderful reconciliation, the truth of God shall prevail

among men. The seeds of it shall be so plentifully sown by the

preaching of Christ and his apostles that true religion shall be

diffused over the world.

And righteousness shall look down from heaven.] And be delighted

with the reformation of the sons of Adam; and shall be so

satisfied with the glorious work which is carried forward, that,

Verse 12. The Lord shall give-good] hattob, THE GOOD

thing-what is the supreme good, the summum bonum, for which man

has searched in vain through all his generations. Those who are

reconciled to him through the Son of his love shall enjoy the

favour of their God; to have which is the supreme happiness of


Our land shall yield her increase.] There shall be neither

dearth nor barrenness; for truth, that springs out of the

earth, shall yield an abundant harvest, in the conversion of all

nations to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 13. Righteousness shall go before him] Perhaps this verse

may receive its best solution from Ro 3:25: "Whom God hath set

for a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his

RIGHTEOUSNESS for the remission of sins that are past." This term

the apostle uses to point out God's method of justifying or saving

mankind. And this, in the preaching of the pure Gospel, is ever

going before to point out the Lord Jesus, and the redemption

that is in his blood. And thus going before him, the sinner, who

feels his need of salvation, is Set-in the way of his steps; as

Bartimeus sat by the way-side begging, by which way Jesus walked;

and when he came where he was, heard his prayer, and restored him

his sight. Or, righteousness-the pure and holy law of God, must be

proclaimed as broken by sinners, and calling aloud for vengeance,

before they can see and feel their need of Christ crucified. By

the preaching of the law they are prepared to receive the grace of

the Gospel.


Mystically, this Psalm may be considered as treating of the

redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. It has the three

following parts:-

I. An acknowledgment of God's former mercies, Ps 85:1-3.

II. A petition on that ground that he would repeat them,

Ps 85:4-7.

III. A profession of obedience, and an advice to continue in it,

Ps 85:8. That men may be partakers of the promises, both

spiritual, Ps 85:9-11; and

temporal, Ps 85:12, which shall be fulfilled to those who keep

in the ways of God, Ps 85:13.

I. In the three first verses, the psalmist commemorates God's

mercies to his people; of which his good will or favour is the

Fountain. These mercies are, 1. Temporal: "Thou hast been

favourable unto thy land," &c., Ps 85:1. 2.

Spiritual: 1. "Thou hast forgiven the iniquities of thy people:"

Justification. 2. "Thou hast taken away all thy wrath:"


II. Upon this he founds a prayer: "Turn us, O God."

1. Thou hast turned away the captivity. Restore and convert us.

2. Thou hast brought us back. Revive our hearts, that they may

rejoice in thee.

3. Thou hast been reconciled to our fathers. Be reconciled to


4. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people. Save us.

III. He promises obedience: "I will hear what God will speak;"

and I shall hear nothing from him but what is for his own glory,

and his people's good.

1. "He will speak peace:" He will turn all their sufferings to

their advantage.

2. But they must hear, and be steady. They must "not turn again

to folly;" let them remember this.

3. To such his promise is sure: "His salvation is nigh them."

4. And it comes, that "glory may dwell in our land;" that it may

be crowned with peace and plenty.

In this prosperity of theirs, there shall be a combination of

mercy, truth, justice, and peace.

1. "Justice and peace shall embrace;" for there is such a league

between these two, that where peace is made without justice, it

cannot long continue: and mercy and truth must; for it is

inconsistent with mercy to be in concord with falsehood.

2. "Truth shall spring out of the earth." Men shall observe it

in all their transactions, contracts, and promises.

3. "Righteousness shall look down from heaven." God will smile

on this state of things, and pour out upon them the continual dew

of his blessing.

4. In a word, 1. They shall enjoy all spiritual blessings; for

the "Lord shall give that which is good." 2. And all temporal;

"for the land shall yield her increase."

For these mercies he sets down our duty:-

1. "Righteousness shall go before him." All his saints shall

walk before him in righteousness and true holiness.

"And this righteousness shall set them in the way of his steps."

It shall teach them to walk constantly and steadily in the way of

his commandments all the days of their life.

By manor of the ancients and moderns the whole of this Psalm has

been applied to Christ and his salvation. See the preceding notes.

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