(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from

The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon)  "Excerpted text

Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.  Materials are reproduced

by permission."

 

                                                            Psalm 85 

 

 

 

Title. To the Chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. There is no

need to repeat our observations upon a title which is of so frequent

occurrence; the reader is referred to notes placed in the headings of

preceding psalms. Yet it may not be out of place to quote Nehemiah 12:46

In the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers,

 and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.”

 

Subject and Occasion. It is the prayer of a patriot for his afflicted country,

in which he pleads the Lord's former mercies, and by faith foresees brighter

days. We believe that David wrote it, but many question that assertion.

Certain interpreters appear to grudge the psalmist David the authorship of

any of the psalms, and refer the sacred songs by wholesale to the times of

Hezekiah, Josiah, the Captivity, and the Maccabees. It is remarkable that,

as a rule, the more skeptical a writer is, the more resolute is he to have

done with David; while the purely evangelic annotators are for the most

part content to leave the royal poet in the chair of authorship. The charms

of a new theory also operate greatly upon writers who would have nothing

at all to say if they did not invent a novel hypothesis, and twist the

language of the psalm in order to justify it. The present psalm has of course

been referred to the Captivity, the critics could not resist the temptation to

do that, though, for our part we see no need to do so: it is true a captivity

is mentioned in v. 1, but that does not necessitate the nation's having been

carried away into exile, since Job's captivity was turned, and yet he had never

left his native land: moreover, the text speaks of the captivity of Jacob as

brought back, but had it referred to the Babylonian emigration, it would have

spoken of Judah; for Jacob or Israel, as such, did not return. The first verse

in speaking of "the land" proves that the author was not an exile. Our own

belief is that David penned this national hymn when the land was oppressed by

the Philistines, and in the spirit of prophecy he foretold the peaceful years of

his own reign and the repose of the rule of Solomon, the psalm having all along

an inner sense of which Jesus and His salvation are the key. The presence of

Jesus the Saviour reconciles earth and heaven, and secures to us the golden age,

the balmy days of universal peace.

 

Divisions. In vs. 1-4 the poet sings of the Lord's former mercies and

begs Him to remember His people; from vs. 5-7 he pleads the cause

of afflicted Israel; and then, having listened to the sacred oracle in v. 8, he

publishes joyfully the tidings of future good, vs. 9-13.

 

1   “LORD, thou hast been favorable unto thy land:” -  The self existent,

all sufficient JEHOVAH is addressed: by that name He revealed Himself to

Moses when His people were in bondage, by that name He is here pleaded

with. It is wise to dwell upon that view of the divine character which

arouses the sweetest memories of His love. Sweeter still is that dear name

of "Our Father," with which Christians have learned to commence their

prayers. The psalmist speaks of Canaan as the Lord's land, for He chose it

for His people, conveyed it to them by covenant, conquered it by His power,

and dwelt in it in mercy; it was meet therefore that He should smile upon a

land so peculiarly His own. It is most wise to plead the Lord's union of

interest with ourselves, to lash our little boat as it were close to His great

bark, and experience a sacred community in the tossings of the storm. It

is our land that is devastated, but O Jehovah, it is also thy land. The

psalmist dwells upon the Lord's favor to the chosen land, which He had

shewed in a thousand ways. God's past doings are prophetic of what He

will do; hence the encouraging argument—"Thou hast been favorable

unto thy land," therefore deal graciously with it again. Many a time had

foes been baffled, pestilence stayed, famine averted, and deliverance

vouchsafed, because of the Lord's favor; that same favorable regard is

therefore again invoked. With an immutable God this is powerful

reasoning; it is because He changes not that we are not consumed

(Malachi 3:6), and know we never shall be if He has once been favorable to us.

From this example of prayer let us learn how to order our cause before God.

It is clear that Israel was not in exile, or the prayer before us would not have

referred to the land but to the nation - “thou hast brought back the captivity

of Jacob.”  When down trodden and oppressed through their sins, the Ever

merciful One had looked upon them, changed their sad condition, chased away

the invaders, and given to His people rest: this He had done not once, nor twice,

but times without number. Many a time have we also been brought into soul

captivity by our backslidings, but we have not been left therein; the God who

brought Jacob back from Padanaram to his father's house, has restored

us to the enjoyment of holy fellowship; —will He not do the like again?

Let us appeal to Him with Jacob like-wrestlings, beseeching Him to be favorable,

or sovereignly gracious to us notwithstanding all our provocations of His love.

Let declining churches remember their former history, and with holy

confidence plead with the Lord to turn their captivity yet again.

 

2  “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people,” -  Often and often had

He done this, pausing to pardon even when His sword was bared to punish.

Who is a pardoning God like thee, O Jehovah? Who is so slow to anger, so

ready for forgive? Every believer in Jesus enjoys the blessing of pardoned

sin, and he should regard this priceless boon as the pledge of all other

needful mercies. He should plead it with God—"Lord, hast thou pardoned

me, and wilt thou let me perish for lack of grace, or fall into mine enemies'

hands for want of help. Thou wilt not thus leave thy work unfinished - “thou hast

covered all their sin.”  All of it, every spot, and wrinkle, the veil of love has

covered all. Sin has been divinely put out of sight. Hiding it beneath the

propitiatory, covering it with the sea of the atonement, blotting it out, making it

to cease to be, the Lord has put it so completely away that even His omniscient

eye sees it no more. What a miracle is this! To cover up the sun would be easy work

compared with the covering up of sin. Not without a covering atonement is sin

removed, but by means of the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, it is most

effectually put away by one act, for ever. What a covering does His blood

afford!  “Selah.”

 

3   “Thou hast taken away all thy wrath:” -  Having removed the sin, the

anger is removed also. How often did the longsuffering of God take away

from Israel the punishments which had been justly laid upon them! How

often also has the Lord's chastising hand been removed from us when

our waywardness called for heavier strokes! - “thou hast turned thyself

from the fierceness of thine anger.”  Even when judgments had been most

severe, the Lord had in mercy stayed His hand. In mid-volley He had restrained

His thunder. When ready to destroy, He had averted His face from His purpose

of judgment and allowed mercy to interpose. The book of Judges is full of

illustrations of this, and the psalmist does well to quote them while he

interceded.  Is not our experience equally studded with instances in which

judgment has been stayed and tenderness has ruled? What a difference

between the fierce anger which is feared and deprecated here, and the speaking

of peace which is foretold in v. 8. There are many changes in Christian

experience, and therefore we must not despair when we are undergoing the

drearier portion of the spiritual life, for soon, very soon, it may be transformed

into gladness.

 

                        "The Lord can clear the darkest skies,

                                    Can give us day for night.

                        Make drops of sacred sorrow rise

                                    To rivers of delight."

 

4   “Turn us, O God of our salvation,” -  This was the main business.

Could the erring tribes be rendered penitent all would be well. It is not that

God needs turning from His anger so much as that we need turning from

our sin; here is the hinge of the whole matter. Our trials frequently arise

out of our sins, they will not go till the sins go. We need to be turned from

our sins, but only God can turn us: God the Saviour must put His hand to

the work: it is indeed a main part of our salvation. Conversion is the dawn

of salvation. To turn a heart to God is as difficult as to make the world

revolve upon its axis. Yet when a man learns to pray for conversion there

is hope for him, he who turns to prayer is beginning to turn from sin. It is a

very blessed sight to see a whole people turn unto their God; may the Lord

so send forth His converting grace on our land that we may live to see the

people flocking to the loving worship of God as the doves to their cotes -

“and cause thine anger toward us to cease.”  Make an end of it. Let it no

longer burn. When sinners cease to rebel, the Lord ceases to be angry with

them; when they return to Him He returns to them; yea, He is first in the

reconciliation, and turns them when otherwise they would never turn of

themselves. May all those who are now enduring the hidings of Jehovah's

face seek with deep earnestness to be turned anew unto the Lord, for so

shall all their despondencies come to an end. Thus the sweet singer asks for

his nation priceless blessings, and quotes the best of arguments. Because

the God of Israel has been so rich in favor in bygone years, therefore He is

entreated to reform and restore His backsliding nation.

 

5   “Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?”  See how the psalmist makes

bold to plead. We are in time as yet and not in eternity, and does not time

come to an end, and therefore thy wrath! Wilt thou be angry always as if it

were eternity? Is there no boundary to thine indignation? Will thy wrath

never have done? And if for ever angry, yet wilt thou be angry with us, thy

favored people, the seed of Abraham, thy friend? That our enemies should be

always wroth is natural, but wilt thou, our God, be always incensed against us?

Every word is an argument. Men in distress never waste words.  “Wilt thou

draw out thine anger to all generations?” Shall sons suffer for their father's faults,

and punishment become an entailed inheritance? O merciful God, hast thou a mind

to spin out thine anger, and make it as long as the ages? Cease thou, as thou hast

ceased aforetime, and let grace reign as it has done in days of yore. When we are

under spiritual desertion we may beg in the like manner that the days of tribulation

may be shortened, lest our spirit should utterly fail beneath the trial.

 

6  “Wilt thou not revive us again:”  Hope here grows almost confident.

She feels sure that the Lord will return in all His power to save. We are

dead or dying, faint and feeble, God alone can revive us, He has in other

times refreshed His people, He is still the same, He will repeat His love. Will

He not? Why should He not? We appeal to Him— Wilt thou not? – “that thy

people may rejoice in thee?” -  Thou lovest to see thy children happy with

that best of happiness which centers in thyself, therefore revive us, for revival

will bring us the utmost joy. The words before us teach us that gratitude has an

eye to the giver, even beyond the gift— thy people may rejoice in thee. Those

who were revived would rejoice not only in the new life but in the Lord who

 was the author of it. Joy in the Lord is the ripest fruit of grace, all revivals

and renewals lead up to it. By our possession of it we may estimate our spiritual

condition, it is a sure gauge of inward prosperity. A genuine revival without joy

in the Lord is as impossible as spring without flowers, or day dawn without light.

If, either in our own souls or in the hearts of others, we see declension, it becomes

us to be much in the use of this prayer, and if on the other hand we are

enjoying visitations of the Spirit and bedewings of grace, let us abound in

holy joy and make it our constant delight to joy in God.

 

7   “Shew us thy mercy, O LORD,” -  Reveal it to our poor half blinded

eyes. We cannot see it or believe it by reason of our long woes, but thou

canst make it plain to us. Others have beheld it, Lord shew it to us. We

have seen thine anger, Lord let us see thy mercy. Thy prophets have told us

of it, but O Lord, do thou thyself display it in this our hour of need -

“and grant us thy salvation.”  This includes deliverance from the sin as well

as the chastisement, it reaches from the depth of their misery to the height

of divine love. God's salvation is perfect in kind, comprehensive in extent,

and eminent in degree; grant us this, O Lord, and we have all. 

 

Salvation is God's work:

 

 

Salvation is God's gift.

 

 

Having offered earnest intercession for the afflicted but penitent nation, the

sacred poet in the true spirit of faith awaits a response from the sacred

oracle. He pauses in joyful confidence, and then in ecstatic triumph he give

utterance to his hopes in the richest form of song.

 

8  “I will hear what God the LORD will speak:” -  When we believe that

God hears us, it is but natural that we should be eager to hear Him. Only

from Him can come the word which can speak peace to troubled spirits; the

voices of men are feeble in such a case, a plaister far too narrow for the

sore; but God's voice is power, He speaks and it is done, and hence when

we hear Him our distress is ended. Happy is the suppliant who has grace to

lie patiently at the Lord's door, and wait until His love shall act according to

its old wont and chase all sorrow far away - “for He will speak peace unto

His people, and to His saints:” -  Even though for a while His voice is stern

with merited rebuke, He will not always chide (ch. 103:9), the Great Father

will reassume His natural tone of gentleness and pity. The speaking of peace is

the peculiar prerogative of the Lord Jehovah, and deep, lasting, ay, eternal, is the

peace He thus creates. Yet not to all does the divine word bring peace, but

only to His own people, whom He means to make saints, and those whom He has

already made so - “but let them not turn again to folly.”  For if they do so, His

rod will fall upon them again, and their peace will be invaded. Those who would

enjoy communion with God must be jealous of themselves, and avoid all that

would grieve the Holy Spirit; not only the grosser sins, but even the follies

of life must be guarded against by those who are favored with the delights

of conscious fellowship. We serve a jealous God, and must needs therefore

be incessantly vigilant against evil. Backsliders should study this verse with

the utmost care, it will console them and yet warn them, draw the back to

their allegiance, and at the same time inspire them with a wholesome fear

of going further astray. To turn again to folly is worse than being foolish

for once; it argues willfulness and obstinacy, and it involves the soul in sevenfold

sin. There is no fool like the man who will be a fool cost him what it may.

 

9   “Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him;” -  Faith knows that a

saving God is always near at hand, but only (for such is the true rendering)

to those who fear the Lord, and worship Him with holy awe. In the gospel

dispensation this truth is conspicuously illustrated. If to seeking sinners

salvation is nigh, it is assuredly very nigh to those who have once enjoyed

it, and have lost its present enjoyment by their folly; they have but to turn

unto the Lord and they shall enjoy it again. We have not to go about by a

long round of personal mortifications or spiritual preparations, we may

come to the Lord, through Jesus Christ, just as we did at the first, and He

will again receive us into His loving embrace. Whether it be a nation under

adversity, or a single individual under chastisement, the sweet truth before

us is rich with encouragement to repentance, and renewed holiness - “that glory

may dwell in our land.”  The object of the return of grace will be a permanent

establishment of a better state of things, so that gloriously devout worship shall

be rendered to God continuously, and a glorious measure of prosperity shall be

enjoyed in consequence. Israel was glorious whenever she was faithful—her

dishonor always followed her disloyalty; believers also live glorious lives

when they walk obediently, and they only lose the true glory of their religion when

they fall from their steadfastness.  In these two verses we have, beneath the veil

of the letter, an intimation of the coming of THE WORD OF GOD to the nations

in times of deep apostasy and trouble, when faithful hearts would be looking and

longing for the promise which had so long tarried. By His coming salvation is

brought near, and glory, even the glory of the presence of the Lord, tabernacles

among men. Of this the succeeding verses speak without obscurity.

 

10   “Mercy and truth are met together;” -  In answer to prayer, the

exulting psalmist sees the attributes of God confederating to bless the once

afflicted nation. Mercy comes hand in hand with Truth to fulfill the faithful

promise of their gracious God; the people recognize at once the grace and

the veracity of Jehovah, He is to them neither a tyrant nor a deceiver

(but is abundant in goodness and truth – Exodus 34:6) - “righteousness and

peace have kissed each other.”   The Lord whose just severity inflicted the

smart, now in pity sends peace to bind up the wound.  The people being now

made willing to forsake their sins, and to follow after righteousness, find peace

granted to them at once. "The war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags

were furled; " for idolatry was forsaken, and Jehovah was adored. This

appears to be the immediate and primary meaning of these verses; but the inner

sense is Christ Jesus, the reconciling Word. In Him, the attributes of God unite

in glad unanimity in the salvation of guilty men, they meet and embrace in

such a manner as else were inconceivable either to our just fears or to our

enlightened hopes.  God is as true as if He had fulfilled every letter of His

threatenings, as righteous as if He had never spoken peace to a sinner's

conscience; His love in undiminished splendor shines forth, but no other

of His ever blessed characteristics is eclipsed thereby. It is the custom of modern

thinkers(?) to make sport of this representation of the result of our Lord's

substitutionary atonement; but had they ever been themselves made to feel

the weight of sin upon a spiritually awakened conscience, they would cease from

their vain ridicule. Their doctrine of atonement has well been described by Dr.

Duncan as the admission "that the Lord Jesus Christ did something or

other, which somehow or other, was in some way or other connected with

man's salvation." This is their substitute for substitution. Our facts are

infinitely superior to their dreams, and yet they sneer. It is but natural that

natural men should do so. We cannot expect animals to set much store by

the discoveries of science, neither can we hope to see unspiritual men

rightly estimate the solution of spiritual problems—they are far above and

out of their sight. (“the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of

God:  for they are foolishness unto him:  neither can he know them, because

they are spiritually discerned.”  I Corinthians 2:14) -  Meanwhile it remains for

those who rejoice in the great reconciliation to continue both to wonder and adore.

 

11   “Truth shall spring out of the earth;” -  Promises which lie unfulfilled,

like buried seeds, shall spring up and yield harvests of joy; and men

renewed by grace shall learn to be true to one another and their God, and

abhor the falsehood which they loved before - “and righteousness shall look

down from heaven.” -  as if it threw up the windows and leaned out to gaze

upon a penitent people, whom it could not have looked upon before without

an indignation which would have been fatal to them. This is a delicious scene.

Earth yielding flowers of truth, and heaven shining with stars of holiness; the

spheres echoing to each other, or being mirrors of each other's beauties.

"Earth carpeted with truth and canopied with righteousness," shall be

a nether heaven. When God looks down in grace, man sends his heart upward

in obedience. The person of our adorable Lord Jesus Christ explains this

verse most sweetly. In Him truth is found in our humanity, and His deity

 brings divine righteousness among us. His Spirit's work even now creates

a hallowed harmony between His church below, and the sovereign righteousness

above; and in the latter day, earth shall be universally adorned with every precious

virtue, and heaven shall hold intimate intercourse with it. There is a world of

meaning in these verses, only needing meditation and the Holy Spirit

to draw it ou!. Reader, "the well is deep,” but if thou hast the Spirit, it

cannot be said, that "thou hast nothing to draw with." (John 4:11)

 

12   “Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good;” -  Being Himself pure

goodness, He will readily return from His wrath, and deal out good things to

His repenting people. Our evil brings evil upon us, but when we are brought

back to follow that which is good, the Lord abundantly enriches us with

good things. Material good will always be bestowed where it can be enjoyed in

consistency with spiritual good - “and our land shall yield her increase.”

The curse of barrenness will fly with the curse of sin. (This is a major

hurdle for the people of the United States with our culture of ingrained sin –

we foolishly still expect to be blessed while acting out the devil’s wishes –

this dedicated to those who think “it is the economy, stupid” - CY – 2011) 

When the people yielded  what was due to God, the soil would recompense

their husbandry. See at this day what sin has done for Palestine, making her

gardens a wilderness; her wastes are the scars of her iniquities: nothing but

repentance and divine forgiveness will reclaim her desolations. The whole

world also shall be bright with the same blessing in the days yet to come, —

 

                        "Freed from the curse, the grateful garden gives

                        Its fruit in goodly revenue. Nor frost,

                        Nor blight, nor mildew fall, nor cankerworm,

                        Nor caterpillar, mar one ripening hope.

                        The clouds drop fatness. The very elements

                        Are subject to the prayerful will of those

                        Whose pleasure is in unison with God's."

 

13   “Righteousness shall go before Him; and shall set us in the way of

His steps.”  God's march of right will leave a track wherein His people will

joyfully follow. He who smote in justice will also bless in justice, and in

both will make His righteousness manifest, so as to affect the hearts and

lives of all His people. Such are the blessings of our Lord's first advent, and

such shall be yet more conspicuously the result of His Second Coming.

“Even so, come Lord Jesus.”  (Revelation 22:20)

 

 

 

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