READ PSALM 85
Throughout our study in the book of Psalms, we’ve reminded ourselves that the Psalms were not written chronologically, as most books of the Bible were, but were assembled in a strategic order to create a prayer book, or a worship manual, for the people of God. This is going to be most important for us to keep in mind this week – not just so that we appropriately exegete the historic context of each psalm we are looking at, but so that we can also understand how the two relate to one another.
Let’s start by considering Psalm 85. Before we dive into the exegesis of the content, we will notice that this is the first psalm in our study written by the Sons of Korah. It is certainly worth pausing here to understand this psalm’s authors, and I cannot give them context better than commentator Derek Kidner:
“Twelve psalms are ascribed to this Levitical family, descendants of the rebel leader of that name, whose children were spared – to our great gain – when he died for his rebellion. One part of this family became the temple doorkeepers and guardians, another part the singers and musicians of the temple choir founded under David … whose fellow-Levites Asaph and Jeduthus directed the choirs draw from the other two clans of that tribe.” (Kidner Classic Commentaries, p. 49-50)
What insight does this give you about the authors of this psalm? Particularly consider their role in the Levitical tribe, and the Levitical tribe’s role within the nation of Israel.
Read the entire psalm three times (aloud if possible). What core themes do you recognize? What repeated words or phrases do you notice?
This psalm is all about salvation. And the sons of Korah are uniquely positioned within the nation of Israel to hold out the hope of and need for salvation before the people of God. Salvation, whether referenced directly or not, is woven into every single line of the poem, and displays for us a glorious prayer for salvation.
What do the authors ask of God? Name a few specific things?
Let’s break down the first several verses of the psalm line-by-line. What does each line of the psalm say about God’s character?
Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin.
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
The authors of this song are recounting before God’s people all the ways in which God has been faithful to keep His promises among them. He has restored them to their land, bringing them fully and finally into the land He promised to give them when He led them out of Egypt. He forgave their sins, according to His covenant. He covered their sin in His mercy. He has also withdrawn His wrath on numerous occasions and turned his hot anger aside. God has been incredibly faithful to save His people.
Then, right on the heels of this recitation of God’s faithfulness, the psalmists plead to God for salvation.
Read each of the following lines of the psalm. What are the authors asking of God?
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
In a seemingly ironic way, the authors are asking God for the same things they praised Him for – faithful salvation. They know God can restore them, as He did when He brought them back into their land, and so they ask God to restore them again. After praising God for turning aside from His anger, they ask God if His anger will, this time, endure forever. After praising God’s restorative power, they ask if God will not revive them one more time. On the heels of praising God for His steadfast, covenant-keeping love, they ask Him to be who He is and show them His salvation.
The psalmists call God “o God of our salvation.” What do you think is significant about this name?
The authors of this psalm are, in a way that is easily missed by our modern readings, appealing to God as the only author of salvation. By calling God the “God of our salvation” they are implicitly implicating God in the task of saving them. They are calling Him by a name that insists that He do the thing they are asking Him to do: be the God of our salvation.
Let’s put this in a modern context for ourselves. If you were asking a person in your community to mentor you, and you started your text with, “Hey, mentor …” it would be considered quite bold (and possibly even rude). Because, when we ask someone to do something for us, we are bold to consider that the answer is yes before we have heard it from them. Similarly, it is incredibly bold for Israel to cry to God for salvation starting with the words, “O God of our salvation.” It’s incredibly forward, bold, and possibly even a bit rude. In doing so, they are binding God to themselves and binding themselves to God.
How can Israel have the confidence to pray this way?
Because God has set Himself up as the covenant keeping God. He has made a promise to save them, and embedded in who He is is a faithfulness that will keep that promise.
Do your prayers for help sound this bold? Do you pray in such a way that reflects that God has bound Himself to you in Christ, and you to Christ in faith?
PRAY & REFLECT
Supplication: What needs for salvation do you have? Do you need salvation from sin? From yourself? From the enemy? Present these needs before God.
Submission: Pray your salvation story back to God. Thank Him for how He called you, how He saved you, and ask Him to be the God of your salvation today.