Restore Us

Psalm 85

Like to reminisce, talk about the “old days”. Dad & Aunt Nina just two of many who can spend endless hours describing in detail how things used to be. What that road was called; who lived in the house on the corner; how this person was related to that one; a day’s wage, cost of gallon of gas or milk; disappearing dot at center of tv tube; party phone lines. All good stuff, mostly!

On occasion, topic turns to things of more spiritual nature. What it used to be like at church; people, events, physical changes like indoor plumbing, songs we used to sing, choir we used to have, how many children in Sunday School and Youth Group. The writer of this psalm no stranger to reminiscing. Important to understand his thought process as he does so; not just a trip down memory lane so as to revisit fond memories.

He begins in the past, remembering how it used to be, then quickly moves to present. An implied comparison: used to be way better than now and he prays for God to act. Then able, through eye of faith, to see a “new” future, the outcome of God’s action in the present. Key principle here: while writer may have considered physical circumstances, was far more concerned with underlying spiritual condition. What he saw in past, desired in present, believed would be true in future – God’s blessing on his people.

Job’s friends did not get everything wrong; had the basic idea correct. But, blew it when making application to specific individual without considering all possibilities. For just a moment, let’s look at 2 Chr. 6:26-27; 7:12-14

Psalmist taking those principles expressed in Solomon’s prayer / God’s reply and applying to his current situation. Proper application can be made today, relating same principles to God’s people the church. Notice how writer prays: after comparing how it used to be with present, doesn’t pray that God would bless. Doesn’t ask for return of good times, tangible external evidence of some kind of prosperity. Doesn’t pray that God would change their circumstances, prays that God would change his people.

Keep that in mind as we consider this psalm – how has it been in the past, what do we really want God to do in the present, here, in White Rock? and Ust-Kut? and Kharkiv? etc.

A. past mercy v.1-3

attempts to date psalm from after Babylonian exile: “brought back the captivity”; several reasons why not a good translation, one being same phrase in Job 42:10 – “the Lord restored Job’s losses”

details are generic enough to apply to any situation where it seems likely God is not blessing as he had in the past

you showed favor (1)

at least one time in memory when God clearly showed favor to “his land”, brought it back from devastation

drought, locusts, pestilence – things that have physical manifestation: would wreak havoc on agricultural economy plus make life miserable for survivors

spiritual application also – times of difficulty in the church (ancient and modern): dryness and lack of nourishment for souls; new growth eaten up / taken away; those left behind afflicted with illness from malnutrition

second line of verse: “you restored the fortunes of Jacob”; period of well-being that followed time of God’s displeasure as evident in their circumstances

crucial point: not politics or programs that caused the change of fortune; it was Yahweh, God of the covenant

every time God’s nation tried political solution, only got them deeper into trouble; when church follows man’s methods, result is disaster

when God’s people go to God on God’s terms seeking God’s solution, he restores their well-being – 2 Ch. 7:14

certainly in history books (incl. Bible), perhaps in personal experience are examples/instances of God keeping his promise

you forgave (2)

effect described first, then the cause: return of God’s blessing on his people the evidence they have been forgiven

all their sin has been covered up by the blood of the sacrifice, eternally “hidden” from the eye of God

given what God in Christ has graciously done to forgive sin of his people, certainly deserves a Selah

“Every believer in Jesus enjoys the blessing of pardoned sin, and he should regard this priceless boon as the pledge of all other needed mercies. He should plead it with God: “Lord hast thou pardoned me, and wilt thou let me perish for lack of grace, or fall into thine enemies hands for want of help? Thou wilt not thus leave thy work unfinished.”” CHS

you turned from wrath (3)

no longer any reason / need for God to direct his wrath toward his people

does not mean God was over his “outburst”; his wrath and anger toward sin is always there – individuals/groups only “feel” it when it is warranted

was this sort of act on God’s part toward Nineveh that got Jonah peeved – threatened consequences for sin, they repented, God relented/redirected his wrath

B. present repentance v.4-7

restore us (4-5)

clear from prayer / plea that writer believes problem is not circumstances but condition of the people

only way to rightly expect return to former glory is if it is accompanied by return to right spiritual condition

repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation – until inward spiritual difficulty is resolved, outward blessing of little importance

plea for God to do what is necessary in hearts / minds of his people so he can legitimately not be angry

two rhetorical questions – expected answer is “no, of course not”, especially when God’s character is considered

The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin,” (Ex. 34:6-7)

revive us (6)

compelling desire is for restoration – bringing back the “good times”, when was obvious God was blessing his people

impossible to experience true joy / rejoicing when God is displeased – it’s that way because of how joy is defined

joy transcends present circumstances (can rejoice and be miserable, sorrowful) – joy is “pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by a rational [reasonable] prospect of possessing what we love or desire”

God is object of Christian’s desire; reasonably expect to possess him/his favor/presence in small measure here, full measure in heaven – joy is emotion, feeling we experience when we think about that “prospect”

life, joy, pleasure are all connected: Psa. 16:11You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

important note: revival comes from God, on his terms, when his people are in his favor and pray for it

so, when we pray for revival, should have in mind v.4-5, also v.7

show us mercy (7)

even our absolute best effort fully enabled by God falls short of perfection; it comes from people who are imperfect

Heavenly Father is merciful to his children – shows them loyal love, accepts their offerings and continues to deliver from sin and harm

only way this is possible: because of our kinsman-redeemer – our elder brother who took our place, satisfying our Father’s demands for perfection and justice

C. future blessing v.8-13

he will speak (8)

it’s a given, God will speak – in his way, at the appropriate time, with the right words – to accomplish his purpose

shalom – completion and fulfilment – of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship

contingent: God will only speak that way so long as his people remain faithful, striving to do life God’s way

when God speaks peace, if his people listen, really hear him, he will revive / strengthen / enable them to please him

deliverance is near (9)

like everything else, must get things in right order: fear of the Lord must be the foundation

tendency even of Christians to focus on asking for benefits, overlooking conditions that must be present first

he will give (12)

God can be counted on to bless his people – may choose to do so in material way, will bless faithfulness in spiritual ways beginning in this life, extending to next

he will guide (13)

here’s the picture: righteousness is breaking the trail, God close behind treading down the brush, we walk in God’s footsteps

what does it mean? God always chooses the right way; he makes certain it is plain, well marked, cleared of obstructions, expects we will follow him

don’t forget: God is good and helpful trail guide – stands there ready to give hand, supplies, encouragement

Conditions of blessing: mercy and truth go together; peace follows righteousness (v.10-11)

so,… if we sincerely desire God to restore us, to bring new life to old bodies whether physical body or church body, what is our part?

must be people who pursue righteousness, mercy and truth in all our dealings – Mic. 6:8 “…what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

here’s the good part: this isn’t all theory, philosophical principles that live in some ivory tower but never make it to the asphalt where we live

v.13 speaks of “his footsteps”; whose footsteps? the Lord Jesus’

Heb. 4:14-15 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to the confession.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. HCSB

Heb. 6:19-20 ​We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. ESV

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