Psalm 85

Return of the Good Times

Do you look back with fondness to a certain time in your life? Why?

Nostalgia. Looking back to a better time. For the self. For the family. For the nation. How many of us have fell to the temptation of basking in the gloom of a memory? Of course, age and experience tend to color our reminiscences, but we all share in those golden times when life was good, or at least exciting. Don't you wish they would return, at least for a few moments?

Nostalgia can spill over into prayer life. Oh God, return us to a simpler time. The Israelites were no different. Psalm 85 was such a hymn of nostalgia, broken down into four parts: remembrance, a plea for salvation, a promise of repentance and a renewal of faith in the promises of God.

For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by the sons of Korah.

1 YHWH, you have been favorable to your land.
You have restored the fortunes 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.

85:1-3 presented a compressed review of YHWH's salvific activity. He forgave and restored the nation, despite their transgressions.

4 Turn us, God of our salvation,
and cause your indignation toward us to cease.
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you draw out your anger to all generations?
6 Won’t you revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your loving kindness, YHWH.
Grant us your salvation.

85:4-7 pleaded with the Lord to again act in forgiveness. It asked three questions about the length of punishment and restoration. Notice that like many of the psalms, it invoked God's “loving kindness,” a phrase that reminded YHWH of his covenant with his people. “Loving kindness” and “salvation” were equivalent.

8 I will hear what God, YHWH, will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, his saints;
but let them not turn again to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

85:8-9 promised repentance on the part of the leadership. The king or high priest who prayed this psalm would remind the people of their duty to the Law (“not let them return to folly”). With such action came the glimmer of hope that the nation would return to its former glory.

10 Mercy and truth meet together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth springs out of the earth.
Righteousness has looked down from heaven.
12 Yes, YHWH will give that which is good.
Our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness goes before him,
And prepares the way for his steps.

85:10-13 ended with the invocation of “righteousness,” the proper relationship with God. 85:10 showed the relationship between mercy and the true path to YHWH, that way of life and divine peace. Those were gifts that came from God. Those who walked in the way of the Lord would see prosperity (“Our land will yield its increase”). But notice the emphasis on “righteousness,” mentioned three times. That proper relationship would result in the blessings of truth and peace.

Nostalgia, in doses, is not a bad thing, but wallowing in it can warp our view of life. We can look back to a better time, but, as Psalm 85 reminds us, we should look forward to hope and focus on a proper relationship with the Lord.

Get right with God. Then let him take care of the rest.

How can you leave your memories and worries at the feet of the Lord?