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85. Psalm 85

Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.

2Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.

3Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

4Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.

5Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?

6Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?

7Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.

8I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

9Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.

10Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.

13Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

4 Turn us, O God of our salvation! The faithful now make a practical application to themselves, in their present circumstances, of what they had rehearsed before concerning God’s paternal tenderness towards his people whom he had redeemed. And they attribute to him, by whom they desire to be restored to their former state, the appellation, O God of our salvation! to encourage themselves, even in the most desperate circumstances, in the hope of being delivered by the power of God. Although to the eye of sense and reason there may be no apparent ground to hope favourably as to our condition, it becomes us to believe that our salvation rests secure in his hand, and that, whenever he pleases, he can easily and readily find the means of bringing salvation to us. God’s anger being the cause and origin of all calamities, the faithful beseech him to remove it. This order demands our special attention; for so effeminate and faint-hearted in bearing adversity are we, that no sooner does God begin to smite us with his little finger, than we entreat him, with groaning and lamentable cries, to spare us. But we forget to plead, what should chiefly engage our thoughts, that he would deliver us from guilt and condemnation; and we forget this because we are reluctant to descend into our own hearts and to examine ourselves.

5 Wilt thou be wroth against us for ever? Here the godly bewail the long continuance of their afflictions, and derive an argument in prayer from the nature of God, as it is described in the law, —

“The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin,”
(Exodus 34:6, 7,)

— a truth which has also been brought under our notice in Psalm 30:5, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” It thus becomes us, when we engage in prayer, to meditate upon the Divine promises that we may be furnished with suitable expressions. It may seem, at first view, that these devout Jews find fault with God, as if he exhibited his character to them in a light very different from that in which he was wont to exhibit it; but the object they had in view undoubtedly was to obtain, in the struggle they were resolutely maintaining against temptation, hope of relief from the contemplation of the nature of God; as if they laid it down as a fixed principle, that it is impossible for Him to be angry for ever. We may observe, by the way, that it is evident, from their praying in this manner, that they were weighed down with such an oppressive load of calamities, as to be almost unable any longer to endure them. Let us therefore learn, that although God may not immediately grant us manifest tokens of his returning favor, yet we must not cease to persevere in earnest prayer. If it is objected, that then God has promised in vain that his anger would be of short duration, I answer, that if we entertain suitable views of our own sins, his anger will assuredly appear to be always of short continuance; and if we call to remembrance the everlasting course of his mercy, we will confess that his anger endures but for a moment. As our corrupt nature is ever relapsing into the wanton indulgence of its native propensities, manifold corrections are indispensably necessary to subdue it thoroughly.

The godly, still dwelling on the same theme, ask, in the 6th verse, whether God will not turn again and quicken them Being fully convinced of the truth of this principle, That the punishments with which God chastises his children are only temporary; they thereby encourage themselves in the confident expectation, that although he may be now justly displeased, and may have turned away his face from them, yet, when they implore his mercy, he will be entreated, and raising the dead to life again, will turn their mourning into gladness. By the word quicken, they complain that they almost resemble persons who are dead, or that they are stunned and laid prostrate with afflictions. And when they promise themselves matter of rejoicing, they intimate that in the meantime they are well nigh worn out with sorrow.

7. Show us thy mercy, O Jehovah! In these words there is the same contrast as in the preceding sentence. In supplicating that mercy may be extended to them, and deliverance granted them, they confess that they are deprived of all sense of both these blessings. Such having been the state of the saints in old time, let us learn, even when we are so oppressed with calamities as to be reduced to extremity, and on the brink of despair, to betake ourselves notwithstanding to God. Mercy is appropriately put in the first place; and then there is added salvation, which is the work and fruit of mercy; for no other reason can be assigned why God is induced to show himself our Savior, but that he is merciful. Whence it follows, that all who urge their own merits before Him as a plea for obtaining his favor, are shutting up the way of salvation.


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