Prayer for the People’s Salvation
1 For the director.[b] A psalm of the sons of Korah.
2 O Lord, you showed favor to your land;
you restored the good fortune of Jacob.[c]
3 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you canceled all their sins. Selah
4 You cast aside all your wrath;
you put an end to your great anger.
5 [d]Restore us once again, O God, our Savior,
and cease your displeasure toward us.
6 Will you remain angry with us forever?
Will you hold onto your wrath for all generations?
7 Will you not once again give us life
so that your people may exult in you?
8 Show us, O Lord, your kindness[e]
and grant us your salvation.
9 [f]I will listen for God’s response;
surely the Lord will proclaim peace to his people, his saints,[g]
to those who turn to him with their whole heart.
10 His salvation is indeed near for those who fear him;
his glory[h] will dwell in our land.
11 [i]Kindness and faithfulness[j] will meet;
righteousness and peace will embrace.
12 Faithfulness will spring forth from the earth,
and righteousness[k] will look down from heaven.
13 [l]The Lord will grant us prosperity,[m]
and our land will yield its harvest.
14 Righteousness will go forth in front of him,
and he will set us on the way he treads.
- Psalm 85:1 This psalm is a national lament recalling God’s goodwill in bringing his people back from the Exile to their homeland (538 B.C.) but also indicates that the repatriates are having difficulty in reestablishing themselves in Judea. The psalmist as much as says: “You have enabled us to come back to our land; now let us come back to our lives.” The lament becomes a prayer of hope, for the Prophets had announced a better future (see Isa 58:8; Zec 8:12). The temple of Jerusalem is being rebuilt (520–515 B.C.) and will be a visible sign of the presence of God, of his “glory” (v. 10; see Ezek 43:2). Happiness is promised to those who remain faithful. All these thoughts are similar to those expressed by the post-Exilic Prophets (see Hag 1:5-11; 2:6-9; Mal 3:13-21).
In praying this psalm, we can keep in mind that in Jesus, the Son of God, the promise becomes reality (see Jn 14:27; Col 1:20). When love and truth, justice and peace dwell on the earth, a new world is being born, and God is there.
- Psalm 85:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Sons of Korah: see note on Ps 42:1.
- Psalm 85:2 Restored the good fortune of Jacob: another translation possible is: “brought Jacob back from exile.” Jacob: i.e., Israel (see Gen 32:28-29).
- Psalm 85:5 The psalmist begs God to favor his penitent people with pardon and peace.
- Psalm 85:8 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 85:9 God answers the prayer through a reassuring word of a priest or Levite.
- Psalm 85:9 Saints: see notes on Pss 4:4; 16:3; 34:10. To those . . . heart: other translations possible are: “and to those who turn from folly” and “but let them not return to folly” (the Hebrew word for “folly” includes the connotation of moral deficiency).
- Psalm 85:10 Only those who fear God in the spirit of wisdom (in contrast to the spirit of folly, v. 9) will inherit his benefits, which will be their glory. They will experience a renewed spirit since they are the heirs of the new age of restoration, which is described by various terms: salvation and glory (v. 10), kindness, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace (vv. 11-12), good and harvest (v. 13). Glory: the Lord’s glory—a visible manifestation of his power and divinity—had left the temple and the holy city (see Ezek 11:23); it would return there once the temple was restored (see Ezek 43:2; Hag 2:9). See also Jn 1:14.
- Psalm 85:11 People will regulate their lives by the divine norms. The divine attributes, as well as the moral virtues that correspond to them, are here personified (see Pss 89:15; 97:2) as courtiers of the returning king.
- Psalm 85:11 Kindness and faithfulness: often found together to express God’s loyalty (see Pss 25:10; 40:12f; 57:11; 61:8; Ex 34:6).
- Psalm 85:12 Righteousness: personification of God’s attribute, which expresses his kingship in and over his people (see Pss 4:2; 22:31, alternative translation).
- Psalm 85:13 The goodness and blessings that the psalmist sees in a vision of the future are, for Christians, fulfilled in Christ. Yet the completion of salvation is also for Christians an object of promise and of longing expectation.
- Psalm 85:13 Prosperity: the benefits of God’s kingdom enjoyed by those who fear him: forgiveness (v. 3), reconciliation, renewal of covenant status (vv. 9-10), and fullness of restoration (vv. 10-14). Thus, faith in God leads to hope in a new age of righteousness (see Gal 5:5; 2 Pet 3:13).