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Psalm 85:9-13

9. Surely 475475     Walford, who thinks that the composition of this psalm is referable to some period subsequent to the return of God’s ancient people from Babylon, explains this concluding clause of the 9th verse as follows: — “The glory that is here spoken of is that which was formerly enjoyed, when they were surrounded on all sides by prosperity; and when especially they were favored with the tokens of the divine presence, in the performance of all the instituted worship of the sanctuary, when the ark, the temples etc., were in their pristine beauty and splendor.” his salvation is near to them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10. Mercy and truth shall meet together; righteousness and peace shall kiss each other. 11. Truth shall spring [or bud] out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12. Likewise, Jehovah will grant prosperity: and our land shall yield her increase. 13. Righteousness shall go before him; and set her steps in the way.

 

9 Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him. Here the Psalmist confirms the statement made in the preceding verse. He encourages both himself and other servants of God in the hope, that although to outward appearance God was far off from his people, yet deliverance was near at hand; because it is certain, that God secretly regards those whom he seems openly to neglect. If it is considered preferable to take the particle אך, ach, adversatively, Yet his salvation, etc., — a sense in which it is often used in Hebrew — the sentence will be fuller. The prophet had just now said, that God continues to lengthen out the chastisement of his people, when he perceives that they are too prone to fall anew into sin; and here, lest his slowness in removing the stroke of his hand should prove too much for their patience, he qualifies the above statement, by observing, that even when the Divine help seems slowest in coming it is then near at hand. The glory which in the second part of the verse he anticipates will dwell in the land, is undoubtedly set in opposition to the ruinous appearance it then presented to the eye, which was a token of the dreadful anger of God, and which consigned the land to ignominy and reproach. 476476     Mercy and truth are very generally applied by commentators to God; and the passage is understood as the celebration of the harmony of the divine attributes in the salvation of man. The description is one of great beauty and sublimity. “How admirable,” says Bishop Lowth, in illustrating this verse, “is that celebrated personification of the divine attributes by the Psalmist; How just, elegant, and splendid does it appear, if applied only according to the literal sense, to the restoration of the Jewish nation from the Babylonish captivity! but if interpreted as relating to that sublimer, more sacred, and mystical sense, which is not obscurely shadowed under the ostensible image, it is certainly uncommonly noble and elevated, mysterious and sublime.” — (Lowths Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, volume 1, page 284.)
   Dr Adam Clarke gives a turn to the text, which still more heightens its effect. “It would be more simple,” says he, “to translate the original,

   ‘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: 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 Calvary.”
By this language, therefore, he encourages himself and other genuine believers to repentance, putting them in mind, that the grievous oppression, accompanied with insult and derision, to which they were subjected by the tyranny of their enemies, was to be ascribed entirely to their having driven away the salvation of God from them by their sins.

10. Mercy and truth shall meet together. Here the verbs are in the past tense; but it is evident from the scope of the passage, that they should be translated into the future. I cordially embrace the opinion which is held by many, that we have here a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Christ. There is no doubt, that the faithful lifted up their eyes to Him, when their faith had need of encouragement and support in reference to the restoration of the Church; and especially after their return from Babylon. Meanwhile, the design of the prophet is, to show how bountifully God deals with his Church, after he is reconciled to her. The fruits which he represents as springing from this reconciliation are, first, that mercy and truth meet together; and, secondly, that righteousness and peace embrace each other From these words, Augustine deduces a beautiful sentiment, and one fraught with the sweetest consolation, That the mercy of God is the origin and source of all his promises, from whence issues the righteousness which is offered to us by the gospel, while from that righteousness proceeds the peace which we obtain by faith, when God justifies us freely. According to him, righteousness is represented as looking down from heaven, because it is the free gift of God, and not acquired by the merit of works; and that it comes from heaven, because it is not to be found among men, who are by nature utterly destitute of it. He also explains truth springing out of the earth as meaning, that God affords the most incontestable evidence of his faithfulness, in fulfilling what he has promised. But as we ought rather to seek after the solid truth, than exercise our ingenuity in searching out refined interpretations, let us rest contented with the natural meaning of the passage, which is, that mercy, truth, peace, and righteousness, will form the grand and ennobling distinction of the kingdom of Christ. The prophet does not proclaim the praises of men, but commends the grace which he had before hoped for, and supplicated from God only; thus teaching us to regard it as an undoubted truth, that all these blessings flow from God. By the figure synecdoche, some parts being put for the whole, there is described in these four words all the ingredients of true happiness. When cruelty rages with impunity, when truth is extinguished, when righteousness is oppressed and trampled under foot, and when all things are embroiled in confusion, were it not better that the world should be brought to an end, than that such a state of things should continue? Whence it follows, that nothing can contribute more effectually to the promotion of a happy life, than that these four virtues should flourish and rule supreme. The reign of Christ, in other parts of Scripture, is adorned with almost similar encomiums. If, however, any one would rather understand mercy and truth as referring to God, I have no disposition to enter into dispute with him. 477477     “Pource qu’on luy defend de se trouver en public et que chacun la repousse.” — Fr. The springing of truth out of the earth, and the looking down of righteousness from heaven, without doubt imply, that truth and righteousness will be universally diffused, as well above as beneath, so as to fill both heaven and earth. It is not meant to attribute something different to each of them, but to affirm in general, that there will be no corner of the earth where these qualities do not flourish.

12. Likewise, Jehovah will grant prosperity. Some take this verse allegorically, and interpret it of the increase of spiritual blessings; but this does not agree with the particle גם, gam, rendered likewise, by which the prophet, in my opinion, intends to express the completeness of that blessedness of which he had spoken. He therefore mentions the fruit of the earth, as an additional proof of God’s surpassing beneficence. The chief happiness of the Church is comprehended in these four blessings which he had specified; but the provision which is required for the support of our bodies ought not to be considered as unworthy of attention, provided our care about this matter is kept within proper bounds. If it is objected that these two subjects — the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and the fruitfulness of the earth, are improperly intermingled, it may be easily observed in reply, that there is nothing at all incongruous in this, when we consider that God, while he bestows upon his people spiritual blessings, gives them, in addition to these, some taste of his fatherly love, in the outward benefits which relate to the life of the body; it being evident from the testimony of Paul, that

“godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8.)

But let it be observed, that the faithful generally have only granted to them a limited portion of the comforts of this transitory life: that they may not be lulled asleep by the allurements of earth. I have therefore said, that, while on earth, they only taste of God’s fatherly love, and are not filled with an overflowing abundance of the good things of this world. Moreover, we are taught from this verse, that the power and capacity of the earth to produce fruit for the sustenance of our bodies was not given to it once for all, — as the heathen imagine God at the first creation to have adapted each element to its proper office, while he now sits in heaven in a state of indolence and repose; — but that the earth is from year to year rendered fruitful by the secret influence of God, who designs hereby to afford us a manifestation of his goodness.

13. Righteousness shall go before him. The word righteousness is taken by some for a righteous person; but this is unnatural. Viewed in this light, the passage, indeed, contains the useful and important truth, That the righteous man will walk before God, and will make it his object to regulate all his actions according to the principles of moral rectitude. But there being no necessity for wresting the word righteousness so violently, it will be better to adopt the more correct and simple view, which is, that under the reign of Christ order will be so well established, that righteousness will walk before God, and occupy every path. The prophet seems thus to call back the attention of the faithful to what constitutes the chief elements of blessedness; for although God may grant to his servants an abundant supply of sustenance for the body, it is unbecoming for them to have their hearts set upon this. And in truth, one difference between us and the lower animals is, that God, instead of pampering and stuffing our bellies, for the mere gratification of our animal appetites, directs our views to higher and more important objects. When it is said that righteousness shall go before God, the meaning is, that the prevalence and unobstructed course of righteousness, which is equivalent to setting her steps in the way, is to be attributed to the appointment of God. Isaiah, on the contrary, complains that equity, instead of setting her steps in the way, is prohibited from making her appearance in public, and meets with a universal repulse. “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter,” (Isaiah 59:14.) In this psalm prayers and holy meditations, engaged in with the view of nourishing and confirming faith, together with praises and thanksgivings, are intermingled. It having been difficult in the judgment of carnal reason for David to escape from the distresses with which he was environed, he sets in opposition to its conclusions the infinite goodness and power of God. Nor does he simply request deliverance from his enemies; but he also prays that the fear of God may be implanted and firmly established in his heart.


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