Peace & Obedience

Jesus is the answer!

We all want to live a life of peace. None of us wants a life of suffering and misery. God even wants us to have a life of peace. Even when suffering is part of our destiny, He has provided so we can have an inner peace in the midst of adverse circumstances. He is very merciful and loving. There is a big HOWEVER, though. That however is found in the word "Obedience".
I want to look at Psalm 85. It lays directions for us to see God's supplied peace and our need of obedience. This is such an incredible psalm. As Moses was admonished to do at the burning bush, ". . . put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." (Exodus 3:5), so let us stand reverently before this psalm:
Psalm 85
To the chief Musician.
A Psalm for the sons of Korah.

1Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.
2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.
3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.
4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.
5 Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?
6 Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
7 Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.
8 I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

Before looking in depth at each section, I wanted to point out something about the layout of this psalm in its original Hebrew. It's written as a poem. Hebrew also uses a lot fewer words to convey ideas than English. When you view the Hebrew writing of this, the powerful pattern stands out. In English, each verse flows as a sentence. In Hebrew, each verse breaks in the middle to form a second column that reflects a kind of a mirror image of what's in the first column. The brevity of words also makes for a real clear focus of what we're supposed to notice. For every verse, except verse 8 (and there's an important reason for that exception), contains only three or four words per section of each verse. When you see it like this, you can't help but get the point.

For example: Look at verse 10. In Hebrew the first half is "Mercy and truth are met together" which are three Hebrew words. The second half is "righteousness and peace have kissed each other" which are again three Hebrew words. Laying this out in an abbreviated form to try and imitate the Hebrew, (only they would also see the proper tenses and possession inflections), we would essentially see:

Mercy, truth - met   
Righteousness, peace - kissed

From this, we can see how the traits are laid for clear consideration and comparison. The exceptional verse to this psalm is also its turning point and begins the "thus saith the Lord" portion. It's break in orderliness is like the sudden insertion in a song of some off-beats that serve the purpose to wake us up. To get our attention at a climactic point of change. We'll look more thoroughly at this shortly.
Psalm 85 naturally divides into three sections: verses 1-3, 4-7 and 8-13. Proceeding in order, we have:

The "Thou Hasts"    Verses 1-3

This psalm launches us from the position of viewing what God has already done.

Verse 1 - In the first verse, we see the gratitude for God's restoring the Israelites to their promised land, after having been taken as captives. We don't know exactly when this was written. It may have been written after the Babylonian captivity, during the reign of the kings while being held in servitude to other countries, or under the judges in a similar fashion. Whatever the situation, it clearly outlines an important theme through this psalm, that of God's mercy on the land of Israel in setting them free from bondage.

Verse 2 - Forgiven iniquity - covered sin! Then comes that "Selah". That pause for contemplation. Following that statement, I would say we could put in the word "Sigh". Oh what a statement of incredible joy and relief. Don't overlook the other important point of this verse. It doesn't say, "forgiven the iniquity of all". It specifically says, "thy people". Which verse 1 clearly tells us this was Israel at that time.

Verse 3 - This verse focuses in on an often forgotten necessity of life, the fear of God! Without our sins being properly covered, there's no other option for a righteous and holy God, but for Him to vent His wrath and fierce anger on an evil people. The rejoicing of this verse is that God has Himself turned away his necessity of righteous judgment through the provision of His covering of our sin and bringing us out of captivity. Spiritually speaking, we are no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:11-18).

This wraps up the first section of "Thou Hasts" of what God has done for His people. Knowing this quick basic provision, we are ready to grapple with the grief of the following section.

The "Pleadings of  His Sinning People"     Verses 4-7

It first appears like some kind of regression. They pick up the theme of God's wrath again, but why? Wasn't that dealt with in verse three? There are two reasons for this regression. One is positional to the dispensation they were in. They had the coverings for sin being continually sacrificed, looking forward to the one sacrifice to cover once and for all. The other is the aspect of obedience, or lack thereof, of His people. Let's take a look at these verses now:

Verse 4 - In the first part of this verse, it's important to note what the Hebrew is actually saying. For the word translated as "God", the Hebrew is of Elohe. For the word "salvation", we find the word that eventually gets translated into Greek as "Jesus". From this we see that Jesus is God and that Jesus is part of Eloheem. The God of creation detailed in Genesis chapter 1.
It's important to note these verses are also lines of a prayer. The author is speaking to God in verses 1 through 7. The prayer started with the praises of verses 1-3 and switched here to the "forgive us our debts" portion. In the clear pattern we can see:

Turn us, God - Our salvation 
To cease, Your anger - with us

This is beautiful! The plan of salvation is reflected in just this tiny little portion. The word for "repent" in the New Testament is based on the concept of "an about face" a turning from going one direction, to make a complete turn around and go in the opposite direction. The path of sinning to that of living in righteousness. This verse starts out with the cry for God to bring us to repentance, for Him to cause us to repent. This follows naturally with God as being the one who is our true salvation! Even our repentance must come from Him! To find the truth of the first part of this verse will result in the second part: having his anger toward our sins resolved without our having to be annihilated. This verse is the beginning of the "sinner's prayer".

Verse 5 - This verse raises a howl of grief in pleading for mercy. The pleader realized the great consequences of eternal wrath of God, the verse repeats this aspect in both halves. The theme doesn't continue to develop in the second part, it simply repeats the serious prospect of God's eternal wrath with that wonderful word designating a question, "Wilt". In such a word we see the hope. This verse is not stating a hopeless vista that lay before us that can't be changed. It tells us we deserve such, BUT the merciful God can be appealed to in regards to this potential predicament.

Verse 6 - The flow of hope! This verse is again incredible. The first portion seeks God to "revive us again". The Hebrew simply uses the expression, "return us to life". Think about that a moment. "Return us to life" bears the similar thought Jesus referred to when He spoke with Nicodemus, and was surprised he didn't know what it meant to be "born again". We have "born again" and "life again". Now who creates this "life again"? This verse seeks God's face for that miracle.
The second part of this verse shows the perfect reflection of His new life. Our response as His "people" of simply rejoicing. His wrath turned, our new life gained, we simply REJOICE! NOTE: We do not work for this blessed position. We simply seek His face and His working in us. He does the rest, hence we can truly rejoice.

Verse 7 - This verse reflects even more of what was yet to be opened up in a new way in the New Testament. We find this verse opens up with a "shew us". The Hebrew word for "shew us" is in the base of "seeing" as with our eyes. Remember the man born blind that Jesus gave sight to in John 9? Jesus said that unless we realize we are blind, we are unable to receive His gift of sight. If we realize we are blind, as this verse 7 indicates, we are then able to receive that gift of true spiritual sight. In that seeing, we receive His free gift of mercy and salvation from His wrath.
The second half of this verse can be simply laid out as such:

Your salvation - give to us

The King James word of "grant" may cause some people to wonder if all is done so we can get it. Such as whether or not we qualify for some government grant to help us with schooling. We may wonder if we qualify. The Hebrew doesn't carry that thought in it's wording. It simply is the word for "give". What a burden gone! Again, REJOICE!

God's Answer!    Verses 8-13

The remaining verses turn from a prayer into a "sermon", as it were, to the listeners of what God would have us to know:

Verse 8 - This is the verse that momentarily breaks away from the simple pattern the rest of the psalm follows. It starts the final section of this psalm with a type of "thus saith the Lord". It is carried on through God being spoken of in the third person, but the prophetic answer is the same. It is a word from God.
God's answer to the prayer thus far starts out with the word of "Peace". He wants them to know He has accepted their cry for mercy and salvation so they can be at peace. He further shows their exalted position in Him of being called "his people" and even more "his saints". In this two-fold addressing, He's making a clear point that He hasn't only accepted those seeking His mercy and salvation, he has purified them. They're not simply His people, of questionable character, but no, now they're so cleanly accepted, they're designated with that wonderful title of "saints". Those pure of their sins and clean in His sight!
This verse doesn't end with "saints" however! Once a saint, not always a saint, as this verse continues to warn. We are given a position freely by grace of purity before God and given a new life to live in that purity. The decision to continue in that way is still up to us. Don't miss that important end of this verse for us not to turn "again" to the old foolish ways.

Verse 9 - This flows from the end of verse 8. Carefully note that first section: "salvation is nigh them that fear him". We cannot separate saving grace from the fear of the Lord. The fear seen in verse 5 must abide in us! As soon as that fear vaporizes, so does our realization of our fallen nature. We think we are "saints" by our own right! We count on love to keep us always obeying, but don't take into account our natural tendency towards degeneracy. We can only maintain God's victorious life as we humbly let go of our own natural ability and let His grace poor through us.
The second half of this verse starts with a "that". This is an important "that". It shows that for the "glory" to be in the midst of His people, there must be "fear him" preceding the "that". Without the "fear him", there will be no "glory"!

Verse 10 - This is the example verse I outlined at the beginning of this message:

Mercy, truth - met 
Righteousness, peace - kissed

This, and the following verses, flow as a joyful song of rejoicing of that glory to dwell in the land, from the end of verse 9. Since the nation of Israel was critically tied to the land, so the blessing naturally tightly twines together with that land. We saw the land start out this psalm in verse 1. We see the land here in verse 10, and we see the same Hebrew word, translated as "earth" in verse 11. It would have been better translated as "land" in 11 as well. Finally we see the last usage of that same word for "land" in verse 12. The constant theme of the blessing on the national heritage of Israel, promised to Abraham, flows throughout, clinging tightly to that wonderful land of promise.
We have the beginning of a Messianic portion here. A prophecy pointing to Jesus. To see this, we need to pay careful heed to a few key words. We find this verse leads out with "mercy", which was used and followed with "salvation" in verse 7. Here it is followed with a new word, "truth" that "met" to form a unit. As mercy is followed with salvation so does truth, for in Christ Jesus, they are one and the same person. We are told in John by Jesus Himself:

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.    
   John 14:6

Jesus said He was Himself "THE TRUTH", not a truth, or the truth was about Him, or He taught the truth, but that He was specifically "THE TRUTH" personified. This is identical to Jesus being our salvation. In regards to that we find:

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:   
1 Corinthians 1:30

Here we are told Jesus is made unto us redemption. It doesn't say He provided a thing called redemption, but it says He is our redemption. He is redemption personified.
 In the same manner we see the word "truth" introduced at this junction. The question may arise as to why the word "truth" would be used. The answer to that would point us back to verse 8. It started with, "what God the Lord will speak:". God spoke the Word:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  
 John 1:1

The Word was Jesus personified, the Word was not about Jesus, but was personally Jesus. That Word is also the Truth, as already discussed. This Word of God in verse 8, and this Truth of God in verses 10 and 11 are one and the same person to answer for that need of righteousness.
For this verse 10,we see that Truth is God's Mercy. They meet together, they are found in one and the same person!
The second part of this verse concludes that truth with the need for "righteousness" being properly satisfied so that "peace" can likewise come together for God's people. Christ is supplied for the first part of verse 10, so the second part can be provided.

Verse 11 - This verse is the flower of verse 10. You have God's part provided from heaven with His part provided in the land of Israel. He met our need in Heaven and on earth.
"Truth", who is Jesus, came forth for their need of God's mercy and to be the "glory" in the land of verse 9. Jesus was what God spoke (v. 8) that went forth to meet the need of salvation. "Righteousness" came from heaven upon men as Jesus came from heaven to provide His righteousness for us. Hence, we see Christ sent down from heaven to be our righteousness and appearing as God's Word that came forth out of the land to meet the need of His people!

Verse 12 - In this verse we see a jumping back again to a previous verse. In verse 7 we saw that God "gave" us salvation. Here we see that the "Lord" gave us something. In the abbreviated form from Hebrew, we see it simply laid out:

Also, Yahweh give the good       
Land, give increase

As Jesus said, ". . . Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God" (Luke 18:19) Jesus is God and He is that "Good" that God gave that is the fulfillment of verse 11.
The second half of this verse has another thing "given". As verse 10 had givens on both heaven and earth, so this verse followed suit. The land's giving increase is significant because the curse in the Garden of Eden was for man's labor in the field to suffer with thorns and thistles. So there was a curse that stanched the land's giving increase without a travailing labor. When God sends forth His answer of salvation from heaven, the curse upon earth is removed. The land can finally yield her increase to us.

Verse 13 - This verse brings the psalm to a conclusion with its two halves holding both parts, as it were in a scales of justice. On the one side of the scales, we see God's provided righteousness. On the other side, we see our following in His footsteps. This side showing obedience to His example. Not only to His example in heaven, but the literal example He gave as a man, walking through this world. The symbolism of footsteps is so basic to our humanity, it makes a clear picture of the solution and direction God was intending to provide for us: JESUS! God's provided righteousness and the footsteps we could almost literally follow! Great is the Lord!

Our Responsibility

What a psalm to rejoice in! Where does that leave us now? What difference will it make to our lives? That is for each of us to determine individually. How will we respond to God's grace and mercy? Now is the time to decide. To put off responding to God's outstretched hand now, may be the last opportunity we will have. Then only God's eternal wrath of verse 5 can be expected. Is the risk worth the delay?

2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)   
2 Corinthians 6:2

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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