This is one of the two final psalms in the Sons of Korah series found following I Chronicles 26 with the assignment of the gatekeepers.
This seems like a straight forward psalm in three parts, past, present, and future.
In verse 1-3 the psalmist is praising the Lord for His past mercies.
- ...showed favor to His land
- ...returned Jacob's fortunes
- forgave iniquity
- covered sin
- side aside His wrath
- turned from His own fierce anger
Then in verses 5-7 we get to the current need.
- Restore us, Lord.
- Put away your displeasure
- Will you be angry with us forever?
- prolong your anger through generations?
- Will you not revive so we can rejoice in you?
- Show us your unfailing love and grant us salvation.
Distress does weird things to the mind. Even though life is a series of cycles, and we often know better, when things are good, we can't imagine the good times ending. Which is often when people sin because they come to assume they have done something to earn unending favor.
Then the opposite is true. When bad times hit, it feels like it might never end, even if it's been a short while.
I read a memoir from Michael J Fox about his early struggle with early-onset Parkinson's disease. He said that he was on medication that could mask the symptoms and he felt almost normal. When they kicked in he had this feeling that he was better and he couldn't imagine the "normal" feeling going away. And then they wore off and he had the symptoms and he thought the pain would never end. There was a hopelessness that came with it.
His description stuck with me because I was in a similar cycle with pain and consequences after I broke my back years ago. There were times when I would look in the mirror and think I was going crazy. Pain is just so distracting. We are such creators of our five senses that we can lose track of the fact that we're moving through time and things change.
I hear that hopelessness in psalmist. Is this going to last forever? Is this going to go through generations? When will this end?
Then wisdom kicks in and the psalmist moves away from the pain to the only genuine help we have in this world, the Lord Himself.
I will listen to what the Lord says...Psalm 85:8a
He turns to God's own Word for direction. God promises peace. He will not let them turn to folly. His salvation is near for those who fear Him, that HIS GLORY MAY DWELL IN THE LAND.
He does it for His name's sake. Not just a genie granting wishes.
Once he goes to God and God's word for help, the pslamist finds hope.
- Love and faithfulness meet
- Righteousness and peace kiss.
The Lord does require righteousness. He even provides the way to righteousness, since we cannot do it for ourselves. But the people cannot do as they please and still hope God does what they ask.