Israel knew the pain of sin and rebellion. They had lived through the self-inflicted torture of captivity and poverty. They had experienced the consequences of their own bad decisions and come to recognize God’s justice in the process. Therefore, when the sons of Korah penned Psalm 85, they had come to grips with their responsibility and acknowledged both their sin and their need. As they reflected on the grace of God that gave them Canaan and brought them out of Egyptian bondage (Psa. 85:1), they remembered His forbearance and forgiveness when the people sinned time and time again (Psa. 85:2). Thus, the recognition that God had let His anger subside (Psa. 85:3) gave them hope for their future as well, causing them to call out to Him with a passionate and urgent plea for a renewed relationship. This is similar to where each of us finds ourselves at some point in life—previously safe in the arms of Jesus but then, through our own lust, trapped in the despair of our own sin. Consequently, the plea of the psalm provides a pattern for a personal petition of renewal even today.
Restoration of the soul’s relationship with God depends first on the grace and mercy of God. Without His patience, without His longsuffering, without His willingness to provide unearned opportunity, there could be no hope. And yet this is precisely what we require and what He offers (Psa. 85:4-5). Our cry for salvation does not fall on deaf ears, but the LORD extends His hand from His own mercy rather than our innate goodness, and the new opportunity granted serves a greater purpose than mere selfish survival. “Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, LORD, And grant us Your salvation” (Psa. 85:6-7). He has indeed answered in glorious fashion; however, the gracious opportunity made possible by the love of God (1 John 4:7-11) comes with high expectations and conditions. God requires His people to listen and learn how to act as His people rather than turned to their own heart of foolishness (Psa. 85:8). His people should revere Him in love for the deliverance He makes possible and acknowledge the necessity of His hand in enjoying blessings in life (Psa. 85:9). Therefore, new life has new responsibilities, and God’s people must live accordingly (Rom. 6:3-4). In God’s redemptive scheme, He has found a way for His mercy and His standard of truth to meet so that there can be peace with God despite our spiritual failures (Psa. 85:10-11). God alone has made this possible because He truly is the Author of all that is good (Psa. 85:12; Jas. 1:17). He wants what is best for us, and that is the reason why we should always follow Him wherever He leads (Psa. 85:13; John 14:6).
You may come to a point in life where you realize sin owns you (Rom. 6:16-18), but this is why we can rejoice that Jesus has paid the price for us (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Yet, just like with Israel, we must respond in line with God’s character, listening to His Word and submitting to His will—not in some vain assumption we impose on Him of our own desires, but in the humble recognition of what His Word requires (Jas. 4:10; John 17:17). Only the scheme of redemption planned in the mind of God and expressed in Holy Scripture can bring mercy and truth together in complete harmony. Only the love and light of God Himself could make righteousness and peace kiss. Let us then embrace their beauty and submit to their wisdom.