Psalm 85

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.

1 Lord, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.

2 You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin. Selah

3 You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.

Restore us, O God of our salvation,
And cause Your anger toward us to cease.

5 Will You be angry with us forever?
Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?

6 Will You not revive us again,
That Your people may rejoice in You?

7 Show us Your mercy, Lord,
And grant us Your salvation.

I will hear what God the Lord will speak,
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly.

9 Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.

11 Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good;
And our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness will go before Him,
And shall make His footsteps our pathway.

The Three Tenses of Divine Love—Past (vs. 1-3) — God’s “showing of favor” is specifically connected in Scripture with God’s “compassion” or “tender love.” … This tender love was expressed toward Israel in the past not only by his having restored the fortunes (not “captivity”) of Jacob (v.1)—referring to God’s restoration of the people to an outward state of prosperity following a period of chastisement or testing (cf., e.g., the same expression in Job 42:10 and Ezra 16:53)—but also by His having forgiven their iniquity (v.2). — Wechsler, page 209.


Present (vs. 4-7) — Based on the example of God’s past expression of love towards his covenant people, the psalmist expectantly implores God’s present expression of the same, as on of “the sons of Korah,” he is writing (most likely) during the time of the divided kingdom, when the material fortunes and spiritual state of his people were in the decline—and hence the onset of God’s paternal chastisement looming larger. — Wechsler, page 209.


Future (vs. 8-13) — That God will (not might; “[He] will …” in vs. 8b, 12-13) continue to express His compassion and love toward Israel in the future is driven home by the psalmist in this last section—in which v.10 is especially poignant (and memorable), due both to its perfectly symmetrical poetic meter and (rare) rhyme, as well as its conceptual emphasis on the “bonding” or “bringing together” of all those ideal qualities and attributes, which “bringing together” of such attributes is ultimately fulfilled and eternally exemplified in the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 11:1-5; Zechariah 6:13). — Wechsler, page 209-210.


When … salvation comes it will be seen (v.10) first to involve absolute harmony of the divine attributes: He shows steadfast love to sinners without abandoning faithfulness to His own holy nature; His righteousness of character is not at loggerheads with His gift of peace to men. — Guthrie, page 504.

Phillips sees the entire psalm as prophetic.

Verses 1-3 visualize the fullest blessings for the Remnant of believers whose sins have been forgiven through Messiah’s atonement. Let it be emphasized that their iniquity will be taken away and their sins all covered. This glorious prediction will not become a reality until the Messiah returns and the Remnant acknowledges Him (Romans 11:26-27).

Verses 4-7 express faith that looks forward, resting upon the promises of God. Faith sees that which is to be accomplished as though it had already been fulfilled, because God never fails. His promises are as sure as the morning. These verses express a prophetic declaration of repentance on the part of the believing Remnant, as they look forward to national and spiritual revival. God will answer that prayer and show them His lovingkindness.

Verses 8-13 express the highest hopes and glories of Israel’s salvation and restoration. All the prophets of god have spoken of the blessed destiny of Israel, as well as that of her land. The Church is not in view here at all. In fact, the Church is not in view in any of the Psalms. The blessings and glory promised to Israel are hers, and God will fulfill every detail of His promises.

“He will speak peace to the people” (v.8). The Messiah is the prince of peace, and, with His return, Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely. He will also speak peace to the nations and wars will cease to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 4:5-6). — Phillips, pages 175-177.

I think Phillips is probably right that the entire psalm is prophetic, but I think it also had an application for those in Israel when it was written and ever since.

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