Bible Commentaries
Psalms 85

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-13

The Prayer of a Patriot

Psalms 85:6

An old commentator has summed up the purport of this Psalm in the following words: 'The prayer of a patriot for his afflicted country, in which he pleads God's former mercies and by faith foresees better days'. Such a Psalm reminds us, first of all, that a good Christian must be a good patriot, ardently concerned for the truest welfare of his own people and his native land. Moreover, it suggests that we may appropriate to this England of ours in a modified yet real and profound sense the sacred word which applied originally to Israel.

I. This Psalm, with the reiterated stress which it lays on the pardon of man's sin and the turning away of God's wrath, reminds us of one truth which Christian workers never dare forget. The first and the supreme need of men is their need to be forgiven. In the eyes of the Apostles the world seemed divided into two great classes, the forgiven and the unforgiven. Compared with this ultimate distinction nothing else seriously matters. While we strive for social betterment and take counsel together over plans and efforts to cure the evils which afflict our land, let us give due place to that Divine remedy which implicitly includes the rest.

II. Wilt Thou not quicken us again? We implore Him who is the Lord and Giver of life to revive among us that life of the spirit which is so apt to be stifled and deadened by the pressure of the world. Nothing can give thoughtful Englishmen greater concern than the decay of high ideals alike in the politics and the literature of the nation. And in the Church itself, while we raise vast sums of money and multiply our religious machinery, do we not grow painfully aware of a certain dearth and poverty of spiritual passion which can only be reinspired and rekindled from above?

III. We note finally this test and touchstone of a real revival. It fills Christians with new joy and delight in God Himself. As the Holy Ghost comes upon us and the power of the Highest overshadows us the Church breaks out in a fresh Magnificat, and sings: 'My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour'. And the Church becomes the irresistible missionary when it can chant that victorious song.

T. H. Darlow, The Upward Galling, p. 134.

References. LXXXV. 6. C. Perren, Revival Sermon, p. 271. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (10th Series), p. 210. J. Kerry, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 161. LXXXV. 9. E. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p. 283.

Psalms 85:10

'Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other,' was the text of Dr. Thomas Goodwin, the great Independent divine, at the opening of Parliament, 27 January, 1659, when Richard Cromwell was installed as Protector. The sermon is a reasonable plea for liberty of conscience, and an exhortation to unity and peace seed cast on stormy waters, not to be found till after many days.

J. K.

Reference. LXXXV.11. P. Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 20.

The True Outlook for Faith

Psalms 85:13

I. Why should the Psalmist say that God's righteousness goes before Him; why should he not have written, 'His righteousness will be seen as He is passing by'? Because this latter would not be true. It is nut as God passes that His righteousness is seen. The idea I take to be that we cannot expect to understand the goodness of God until His plan has been unfolded. We feel His action today; we shall only learn its wisdom tomorrow. We see the storing of vegetable matter in the depths of the earth; we say, 'To what purpose is this waste?' By and by it is dug up for coal; it becomes the source of household fires and the means of swift locomotion. We find that in its buried state it has been waiting to be the minister to human civilization, and we say to God, 'Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off Thou hast made provision in advance'. We see a man of great powers immured in a wilderness; we say again, 'To what purpose is this waste?' By and by the wilderness becomes a thoroughfare, and the solitude is broken. We find that in his buried state the man has been waiting for the hour of a great destiny, and we cry to God, 'The completed years have praised Thee'. We see the Priest of human souls crucified by the world; we say once more, 'To what purpose is this waste?' By and by that Cross becomes His glory, His kingdom, His crown. We find that in His buried state He has redeemed the world, and we cry to God, 'The fullness of the time has justified Thee'.

II. In all these acts the righteousness of God has gone before Him. It has not been seen while He was passing by. The thing seen was something apparently adverse to God something which seemed to derogate from His providence. But the object present to the Divine eye was always the future. It rested not on the buried vegetation but on the coming coalfield, not on the deserted place but on the desert made populous, not on the death in humiliation but on the days when such humiliation should be deemed the climax of glory. To see the righteousness of God you must see Him by tomorrow's light.

G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 93.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 85". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.