Please read Psalm 85 in your Bible. I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.
Jesus is Keeper of all God’s promises, the Giver of all good things.
One part of the process of maturing is setting aside the myths and mistaken thinking that comfort and guide us when we are young and/or immature. For example, the inevitable moment in growing up when we set aside the Santa Claus myth.
In his book Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller tells the story of when he first realized that Santa was not real. He was eight years old at the time and at the mall. Needing to use the restroom, he went inside and was awestruck to see Santa himself, standing there using the facilities. He thought it an honor to see jolly ol’ St. Nick, even though he was outside of his usual environment.
Santa finished what he came for, turned around and caught young Donnie staring at him. He said, “Ho, ho, ho, kid.”
There were no words in young Donald’s mind and nothing came out of his mouth. Santa shrugged & walked out of the bathroom.
After being starstruck wore off, Donald realized that Santa had left the men’s room without washing his hands. Yuck! He could not believe that someone with Santa’s reputation for fussiness about keeping naughty and nice lists could be so lacking in simple hygiene. It was then and there that Donald decided there was no such person as Santa Claus and the guy with germy hands was just someone trying to earn some extra money during the holidays.
He left the restroom to join his family who were already in line to see Santa Claus. He asked his mother to be excused. He sat down in the lingerie department and consider the ramifications of this important decision.
(Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller, 2004, pp. 22-25.)
This process is not just for children, however. All our lives we are supposed to continue maturing, continuing to put away the myths, superstitions, and half-truths that have made us comfortable but are wrong.
Jesus came, in part, to keep God’s promises. He became one of us to give us the whole truth about God and set us free from the untrue things that hold us back from real life with God. Psalm 85 is packed with “adult words” and encouraging promises.
- The key words in these promises.
FAVOR (v. 1). The object of God’s FAVOR is the LAND. The Promised Land was one of the chief points of Jewish theology, it was a sign of God’s love for His people.
Restoration (v. 1+4). The historical object of restoration was to be returned to their LAND, to end their 70 years of captivity.
Forgiveness is named and described in four different ways.
God forgave and COVERED ALL THEIR SINS (v. 2). True forgiveness requires some forgetting, putting away the offense. When God forgives, He forgets completely. We must do the same.
The psalmist pleaded with God to forgive and SET ASIDE ALL YOUR WRATH AND TURN FROM YOUR FIERCE ANGER (v. 3). Forgiveness requires giving up one’s right to seek revenge or punish. To truly forgive, both the forgiver and the forgiven need to humble themselves and make some sacrifices
He also pleaded with him to PUT AWAY YOUR DISPLEASURE (v. 4). Forgiveness does not allow grudge-holding. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. This truth is expressed twice in verse five, in slightly different ways. (Do not BE ANGRY WITH US FOREVER, and do not PROLONG YOUR ANGER THROUGH ALL GENERATIONS.) They show a concern for the future and a desire to move forward.
Revival (v. 6). To “revive” something is to restore or renew life; to spark vitality where life is ebbing. This is a gift from God, another act of grace. Asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness is the first step toward revival. Every revival has begun with intense times of conviction of sin and repentance.
LOVE (v. 7). LOVE is an Old Testament virtue. It may not be as obvious as it is in the NT, but it is true that throughout the Bible, LOVE is the greatest virtue. This verse is as accurate and abridged statement of the Gospel as you’d hope to find in the NT. LOVE has always been God’s thing.
RIGHTEOUSNESS (vs. 11+13). We think of RIGHTEOUSNESS in moral terms and that’s true, but not the whole truth. The origin of RIGHTEOUSNESS is not in our moral willpower. It comes with the Holy Spirit. It is another grace God gives us. The Bible says that any righteousness we can achieve is inadequate to save us. As v. 13 makes clear, the human form of RIGHTEOUSNESS was expressed in the living and teaching of Jesus. We follow His example.
- The results of the promises kept.
REJOICE IN YOU (v. 6). Joy is supposed to be our “default setting.” If life is characterized by anger or gloom, something must change.
SALVATION (vs. 7+9). It is likely the original readers/singers of this psalm saw restoration, revival, and SALVATION as returning home from Babylon. For us, SALVATION takes on a more eternal perspective. We think of SALVATION as our going from earth to heaven.
PEACE (v. 8). This is REAL peace, the kind that passes human understanding (see Philippians 4:7). More than the absence of conflict, this is an emotional stability that exists in the face of conflict, a contagious positivity and ease.
HIS GLORY will DWELL IN OUR LAND (v. 9). God’s presence is His glory and is manifest in light. God is among His people and in the LAND.
The combined virtues of LOVE and FAITHFULNESS, RIGHTEOUSNESS and PEACE become possible (v. 10). We know it is difficult to be loving AND faithful at the same time. God will sometimes require us to do the faithful thing and someone will feel like we’ve been unloving. Doing the right thing will put us at odds with people doing the wrong thing, or doing nothing. When your choice is between doing God’s will OR anything else, pick God’s way. Be obedient to God first and let the people sort themselves out. We have to answer to God.
THE LORD WILL GIVE WHAT IS GOOD, the LAND WILL YIELD A HARVEST (v. 12). Whether or not we recognize it at the time, the LORD will do what is GOOD for us. What we HARVEST depends on what we have planted (see Galatians 6:7-8).
- Our part in receiving these promises.
We must LISTEN TO WHAT THE LORD GOD SAYS (v. 8). On a practical level, this means two things. First, listen to the LORD, not the world and CERTAINLY not the devil. Second, as James 1:22-23 states, don’t just listen to God’s word and then go out and do whatever you please. Apply the word.
Be FAITHFUL SERVANTS (v. 8). Pride can get in the way of being a SERVANT, but you must serve others if you want to serve the LORD. God’s will is that we should serve each other, not be individuals unconcerned about each other, or worse, in competition with each other, or worst of all, in conflict.
TURN NOT TO FOLLY (v. 8). FOLLY here refers to claiming to be a child of God but behaving like a worldly person, not following the way of God. It is the worst kind of FOLLY to see the life that God offers and then reject Him.
FEAR HIM (v. 9). FEAR of God means at least three things. One, feeling awe for God; being overwhelmed by His glory and goodness. Two, having respect for God; complying with His will because you recognize His authority. Three, it is legitimate to have a healthy FEAR of God. A healthy fear is based on knowledge that God has all power and that one day we will have to stand before Him in judgment.
Verse 11 lists two virtues and describes their different points of origin. FAITHFULNESS is something we practice: that’s why it SPRINGS FORTH FROM THE EARTH. To be faithful, we must make our daily decisions based on the guidance we receive from God’s word; it involves our will.
RIGHTEOUSNESS is a virtue we receive from heaven: that’s why it’s said to look DOWN FROM HEAVEN. To be righteous, we must allow the Holy Spirit within us to guide us into the right things to say and do.
- Jesus was born to keep these promises.
This truth is affirmed in the Gospels. In Matthew 1:21, an angel declared to Joseph one reason for the birth of Jesus; “[Mary] WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, AND YOU ARE TO GIVE HIM THE NAME JESUS, BECAUSE HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.”
To Mary, the angel Gabriel declared a different purpose, “YOU WILL CONCEIVE AND GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, AND YOU ARE TO CALL HIM JESUS. HE WILL BE GREAT AND WILL BE CALLED THE SON OF THE MOST HIGH. THE LORD GOD WILL GIVE HIM THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID, AND HE WILL REIGN OVER JACOB’S DESCENDANTS FOREVER; HIS KINGDOM WILL NEVER END.” (Luke 1:30-33).
Paul affirmed Jesus was the keeper of God the Father’s promises (see 1 Corinthians 1:30-31). He is our RIGHTEOUSNESS, HOLINESS, and REDEMPTION
Jesus is Keeper of all God’s promises, the Giver of all good things.
Don’t be content to just hear the words; be ambitious to do them. The world needs godly people ambitious to do God’s will.