Meditations on the Psalms #164

Psalm 85 Part 1

The circumstance of this psalm is unspecified, most probably post Babylonian captivity. Whatever its background, we all find ourselves in this place from time to time and this beautiful Psalm is therefore appropriate to us.  

The author uses two significant words for pardon,(forgiven and covered) both of which occur in Psalm32:1-11. In v2a, sin is regarded as a weight pressing down the nation, which God’s chesed – lovingkindness(NASB) lifts off and takes away; it is conceived of as a hideous stain or foulness, which His mercy hides so that it is no longer an offence to heaven. These opening verses are an allusion to the annual ceremony of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. 

He found peace in the satisfaction of God’s wrath (v3). Once they were the righteous subjects of God’s judgment (wrath), and now they were delivered from it. There is a special beauty in the words ‘all Your wrath,’ speaking of a complete work. As with the previous verse (covered all their sin), this looks forward to the complete work of Jesus on the cross, where He satisfied God’s righteous requirement to the full, with a once-for-all sacrifice(Heb.7:27,9:12,10:10). Paul appeals constantly to the deliverance from God’s wrath through the work of Jesus. (One of my favourite NT verses is Gal3:10-13.) 

Some of the strongest salvation language in Scripture is present in these verses. ‘Covered their sins’ describes what is meant by atonement. ‘Set aside your wrath’ is what is meant by the word justification. There is great relief in knowing God’s anger against sin has passed because of the death of Jesus. This is especially true when considering the ‘fierceness’ of His anger against sin.

V6&7are a simple and wonderful prayer for revival. It recognizes that revival is not man-made, but given by God. Yet it also recognizes that one may and should pray for revival with godly expectation. In the last section of this psalm (V8ff), the psalmist expressed surrender and submission to God. The proper attitude of the believer praying for revival is to surrender to the authority of God’s word.  

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