Bible Commentaries
Psalms 85

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 1

Psalms 85:0.

The Psalmist, from an experience of former mercies, prayeth for the continuance thereof: he promiseth to wait thereon, out of confidence of God's goodness.

To the chief musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.

Title. מזמור קרח לבני למנצח lamnaeach libnei korach mizmor. This psalm is a thankful acknowledgment of God's mercy in turning their captivity, and an humble prayer for the confirming, continuing, and perfecting this mercy. It has some degree of application to David's return to Jerusalem after his flight from Absalom; but much more to the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the captivity. After having in the first three verses acknowledged the goodness of God, in bringing them back to their own land; from the fourth onward, the author prays God to restore them again to their ancient prosperity. In the eighth he hears God's promise to do it; upon which, in the four last verses he bursts forth into an exultation at the prospect.

Verse 4

Psalms 85:4. Turn us, O God of our salvation The meaning is, "Restore us entirely to our former happy state, by completing the deliverance which thou hast begun; and by averting these new troubles which have befallen us." See Ezra 4:4-5; Ezra 4:21; Ezra 4:23. It is not improbable, that this psalm was ordered to be sung presently after the Jews had laid the foundation of the new temple, when they were hindered from proceeding with the work by the opposition of their enemies.

Verse 6

Psalms 85:6. Wilt thou not revive us again To send a people into captivity, is to inflict civil death upon them. To restore them to their own land, is to revive, or give them a new life: thus the final restoration of the Jewish people is called by St. Paul, life from the dead. Green. The expression may also be taken in a most spiritual sense.

Verse 8

Psalms 85:8. I will hear, &c.— I will hearken what the Lord God will pronounce. Yes, he pronounceth prosperity to his people, and to his favoured ones, provided they return no more to folly; i.e. to their old idolatry, and their other crimes; for which God drove them out of Judea. See Mudge.

Verse 9

Psalms 85:9. That glory may dwell, &c.— That is, "We shall once again see glorious days in our land;" or perhaps, "the glory, the Shechinah, resident among us."

Verses 10-11

Psalms 85:10-11. Mercy and truth, &c.— The favour and justice which God shewed his people, are considered as coming down from heaven, and meeting and embracing truth and prosperity, springing up from the earth: i.e. as soon as God is determined to shew favour to his people, they are immediately answered by prosperity and plenty, as a necessary consequence of the truth of God's promise. But in these two verses, in a more eminent manner is signified the reconciliation of God's justice and mercy, and the happy effects of it upon earth, at the coming of the Messiah.

Verse 13

Psalms 85:13. Righteousness shall go before him, &c.— Before him righteousness shall walk; and that's the path his feet shall tread: Hebrew: he shall set his feet in the way; that way of righteousness, says Fenwick, (referring the psalm to Christ) in which his harbinger, the Baptist, shall go before him. This blessed way he will adorn by setting his feet, and walking therein himself. In a general view, the righteousness or goodness of God is here poetically represented as going before him, like a prodromus, or usher, when he comes in a gracious manner to visit the earth, and as directing his people likewise to walk in the steps of that righteousness. We may render the last clause, And shall set, or imprint its footsteps in the way.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Experience of past mercies gives encouragement under present distress. Thus the people of God here draw near to him.

1. They thankfully acknowledge his great goodness in time past, and this in many particulars: in his favour shewn them, which is the chief blessing and the spring of all the rest; in the restoration of them from captivity, in the full and free forgiveness of their manifold transgressions; and in the blessed effects thereof, the removal of all that wrath and indignation which they had so highly provoked. Note; (1.) Present distress should never obliterate the grateful memory of past mercies. (2.) What can so deservedly engage our thanks, as the deliverance wrought by Jesus for his faithful people, from the captivity of sin and Satan? (3.) When God pardons, he does it fully as freely; the blood of Jesus sprinkled on the conscience covers all sin. (4.) When guilt is removed, wrath ceases of course.

2. They cry for mercy and salvation under their present troubles. Turn us, O God of our salvation: they had backslidden, and suffered for their faithlessness: therefore they beg of God to turn them from their sins, that their sufferings may be removed; and plead the covenant of mercy, which still affords them grounds of hope: and cause thine anger toward us to cease, sin, the cause of it, being removed. Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, how thy grace abounds beyond all our demerit, and grant us thy salvation; appear for our deliverance, and make us know that thou art able to save to the uttermost. Note; (1.) Though we may have been unfaithful, God is not inexorable; when we are led to cry, Turn us, he will return in mercy. (2.) No salvation can be hoped for, while we continue in our sins, and without desire to part from them. (3.) All that a sinner can ever ask at God's hands is mercy: unless he save freely without respect to our deserts, we are undone eternally.

3. They humbly expostulate on his displeasure now testified towards them. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? That we have deserved thy anger we own, but must perish if it be not removed. Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? no; thou art still, though our offended, yet our covenant God, and wilt not retain thine anger for ever towards returning penitents. Wilt thou not revive us again with words of consolation, with the light of thy countenance, and the interposition of thy grace and providence, raising us from our state of languishing through our backsliding, and from the sufferings under which we are oppressed; that thy people may rejoice in thee, experiencing thy love, power, and faithfulness, and ascribing to thee the entire glory of their salvation? Note; They who experience the power of restoring grace, will rejoice in God their Saviour, and speak, to his glory, of the wonders of his grace.

2nd, The Psalmist's prayer quickly meets an answer of peace.
1. He waits in confidence of being heard and answered. I will hear what God the Lord will speak, patiently, composedly, and confidently expecting a reply to his petitions; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; they are his, separated for his blessed work and service. But let them not turn again to folly, to sin and backsliding. Note; (1.) They who pray, should expect an answer. (2.) When God has spoken peace to our souls, let us be careful not to provoke him again to withdraw it from us, through our folly.

2. He enlarges on the blessings which in faith he expects to receive, and seems particularly to have in view the coming of the glorious Messiah and his kingdom, the great hope and happiness of Israel. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; his salvation, for from God alone cometh our help; and it is nigh; when believers are most oppressed he is at hand; and those who fear him will not be forsaken by him in any of their distresses: and this may refer to the Lord Jesus, whose day, by faith, the believers of old beheld approaching, and rejoiced in his salvation; that glory may dwell in our land, honourable as well as safe, under the divine protection, and most eminently glorious by the appearing of Immanuel, and the preaching of the everlasting gospel. Mercy, or grace, and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other; so full of these good fruits is their land, and such harmony maintained among the Israel of God; or rather in the Redeemer's person grace and truth are met, Joh 14:17 grace in the most transcendant manner shewn to perishing sinners, and God's faithfulness to all his promises eminently manifested; the salvation of God now fully revealed and magnified, and peace on earth and good will to men restored, Luke 2:14. The punishment of sin is exacted, yet the sinner saved; the justice of God awfully executed, and withal abounding grace extended to the fallen sons of Adam. Truth shall spring out of the earth, either the gospel-word, so universally spread abroad, as grass covers the earth watered with vernal showers; or the truth of divine grace springing up in the heart, through the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Spirit of truth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven, the righteous God being well pleased with beholding the Redeemer executing his work of redemption, and regarding with delight all those who, washed in his blood, are now entirely justified. Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; not merely temporal gifts, but the greater spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, of pardon, grace, and glory; and our land shall yield her increase; not only abundance of corn and wine and oil, but those fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God; or the Saviour himself born on earth, the most blessed fruit it ever produced. Righteousness shall go before him, in perfect righteousness all his ways will be directed; or it may signify a righteous person, as John the Baptist, sent to prepare the way of the Lord; and shall set us in the way of his steps, pointing us to the Lamb of God, and teaching us to be the followers of him in faithfulness and truth, that we may be led into the paths of everlasting peace.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 85". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.