Verse of the Day 9-15-22

You, LORD, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger. Psalm 85:1-3

This psalm presents a community’s prayer for restoration. In the past, the Israelites sinned and God forgave them. He disciplined them with drought, famine and agricultural hardship, yet he restored their health and harvests (v. 1). He turned from his anger, proving that he is both just and merciful, as he told Moses (Exodus 34:6-7).

The perfect form of the Hebrew verbs denoting completed action, supports a post-exilic date for this psalm that celebrates Jacob’s return from Babylonian captivity. The idiomatic expression “restored the fortunes” includes the concept of a release from imprisonment or debt combined with the return of the Lord’s people to their homeland. As a key word of this psalm, the root shuv (“turn,” “restore” or “revive”) occurs five times.

The Hebrew term for “covered,” when combined with the word for “sin,” means “forgave,” especially in context with the previous line. The Hebrew root avar (“anger or fury”) functions as a wordplay with a second related Hebrew root avar, meaning “pass over or forgive” (“pardon” as used in Job 7:21). The Lord has forgiven Israel’s sins and “turned” (Hebrew shuv) his anger away from them.

Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, LORD,
and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85:4-7

Now that this current generation has reminded themselves of God’s grace in the past they are now seeking similar grace for themselves in the future. They need the same mercy their ancestors received. They have again inflamed God’s righteous anger, and they are weary, wondering if his wrath will ever be satisfied (v. 5). Their land is dry and their crops are poor, so they beg God to save them. They need him to strengthen their hearts, revive their hope and return to bless them. So they remind him about his loyal love-is he not a covenant keeping God? Of course God is a covenant keeping God, they had his words spoken to Moses in the books of the Law, and more importantly they had God’s great answer Solomon’s prayer of dedication to the temple he had built in Jerusalem of God: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land. Psalm 85:8-9

The psalmist now contemplates what God already revealed: God wants peace for his people but not if they turn to idols, hurt each other or pollute their communities with immoral living. God loves helping those who orient their lives around the truth. He always intended to make Israel his home. Psalm 85:9 may suggest that the people had returned from exile and resettled in their land but knew that God was still far off. For many centuries, God’s glory inhabited Israel through his presence in the temple. In the incarnation, Christ came and lived with us on the earth. Christians now experience God’s presence through the Holy Spirit, who fills believers and makes them fruitful servants and bold witnesses. One day the new world he (God) makes will be filled with his glory.

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps. Psalm 85:10-13

The psalmist concludes by describing harmony among God’s attributes. These divine characteristics-always united and inseparable in God-are depicted poetically as coming together. The people had felt that God was not being consistent, but now they see every element of his character displayed. The reunion is described as a meeting, as a kiss and as rain that creates a harvest. God is always just and never fails to keep his covenant.

But how does all this apply to us who are not Israelites and thus able in the eyes of those who are Jewish by birth to come under God’s covenant. Thankfully Paul answered that question for us in his letter to the Roman church with these words, “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:13-15) For you see we as followers of Christ are heirs to the promise God gave Abraham (the old covenant) because Abraham had faith before he was circumcised (the sign of the old covenant). (For a more detailed explanation of this see “Through the Bible in One Year Day 255” and “Through the Bible in One Year Day 256”.)

Today’s Bible Readings:

Isaiah 19-21, Galatians 2:1-16, Psalm 59:1-17 and Proverbs 23:13-14


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