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Psalm 85: A Prayer for Restoration Print E-mail
Psalms
Sunday, 05 August 2012

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Restoring an old home is a big project. I have never done it myself (because I would have no idea what I was doing), but I have benefited from others who have done it to homes that I have lived in. Right now, there are two homes that are being restored on my street. I drive past both of them regularly and it is interesting to see what is being done. Neither of them seem to be happening too quickly. It takes time. And it takes effort. It is hard work restoring a home. Of course, homes are not the only (or even primary) thing that often needs restoration in life. Although many ideas could be mentioned, I think relationships are often the primary thing that needs restoring in our lives. Perhaps itís our marriage. Perhaps itís a relationship with grown up children (or children still in the home). Perhaps itís other family members or friends or co-workers or neighbors. We could probably come up with our own list of relationships that need some restoration fairly quickly. But the one that matters the most that can sometimes need restoration is our relationship with God. For various reasons we can find ourselves feeling distant from the Lord. And when we recognize it, we long for restoration.

Psalm 85 is a prayer for restoration with the Lord.  As with many of the psalms, it is difficult to know the circumstances surrounding the writing of the psalm.  But it seems that it was possibly written after the Israelites had returned home from their exile in Babylon.  Even though the Lord had restored them in that way (and in various ways throughout their history), the psalmist (along with others in Israel) is longing for further restoration in this psalm.  So then, how does he pray for such restoration?  In our time together this morning we want to examine his prayer and learn how we can pray for restoration with the Lord as well.

First, he remembers past mercies (v. 1-3)

The psalmist begins by reminding himself of Godís mercies toward him in the past.  Look at verse 1a.  The Lord has been favorable to His people in the past.  Again we donít know exactly what the psalmist is referring to here, but it could possibly be a reference to Israelís return from Exile.  Because of their sin and idolatry, the Lord had sent them to be salves among the Babylonians.  Yet, after seventy years, the Lord returned them to their land by raising up a Persian King (Cyrus) to let them go home.  Such a situation seems to fit the psalmistís description of restoration in these verses.  So then, how does he describe the restoration? 

Look at verses 1b-3.  First, he says that God restored the fortunes of Jacob.  The Lord took care of their physical needs and provided for them (which, as we will see, is a present concern for the psalmist).  Second, he notes that God forgave the iniquity of your people.  The Lord did not hold their sins against them forever.  Yes, they faced the consequence of Exile, but that consequence was not permanent.  The Lord showed them mercy and forgave their sins.  Third, the psalmist says that God withdrew His wrath.  Godís wrath is His righteous response to manís sinfulness.  It is not Ďout of control angerí but it is fierce and awful.  Likewise, it is under Godís sovereign, just, and good, control.  And He chose to remove it from Israel in this instance.  Thus, before the psalmist even asks for restoration, he reminds himself of Godís favor and mercy in the past.

Yet, can we really do this?  I mean the Lord has not rescued us out of exile in Babylon right?  No, but He has rescued us out of a much worse predicament.  The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and rebelled against God.  We were born in slavery to sin and the Devil.  And we were exiled from the Lord.  But the glorious good news is that God has lavished mercy on us by sending us His only Son, Jesus Christ, in the flesh.  He lived a perfect life and died on a cross for our sin and rebellion.  Three days later, God the Father raised Him from the dead so that we would know that His sacrifice was enough.  And if we turn from our sins and put our faith in Jesus, then we can be reconciled to God.  Our relationship with Him can be restored.  If you are here this morning and you a believer in Jesus, then just pause with me and consider Godís past mercies in your life.  Once you were dead in your sins, now you are alive in Christ.  Once you were alienated from God, now you are a part of His people.  Once you were a slave to sin, now you are a slave to righteousness.  What unbelievable mercy the Lord has shown us in Christ!  In your longing for restoration in your relationship with God, always begin with the mercy that He has shown you at the cross.  Always remember that!  He has restored your fortunes, forgiven your iniquity, and turned away His wrath at Calvary.  Never lose sight of that.

Second, he requests present grace (v. 4-7)

In verses 4-7, the psalmist cries out for restoration and forgiveness.  Look at those verses with me.  He remembers the Lordís mercies in the past (v. 1-3) and that gives him confidence to cry out for grace in the present.  What a critical lesson.  Do you ever wonder if God will forgive you?  Do you find yourself doubting His love and mercy toward you?  Then you must remember what He has done in the past to encourage you in the present.  One of my commentatorís writes: ďOur faith would immediately succumb under adversity, and sorrow would choke our hearts, were we not taught to believe from the experience of the past, that he is inclined compassionately to hear the prayers of his servants.Ē 1  When we remember the past, we have boldness to come before the Lord and cry out to Him for restoration and forgiveness.  And donít miss the fact that the psalmist struggled.  He asks some hard questions in verses 5-6.  He knows the answers to these questions, but his circumstances donít seem to line up with those answers.  You ever feel that way?  Do you ever think: ĎGod where are you?  Are you mad at me?  How long until you restore me?í  We can struggle with these questions corporately as well.  Again, the psalmist is crying out on behalf of Israel.  It is a corporate prayer for restoration and the questions impact all of Godís people.  Likewise, we can long for corporate restoration and often struggle with Godís seeming silence.

The psalmist is honest with his struggle, but he does not stay there.  Once again he remembers Godís covenant love and cries out for it: Show us your steadfast love, O Lord.  He knows that the Lord loves them and that the Lord will not stay angry forever.  He is just struggling to see it in his current circumstances.  So he asks the Lord to make it plain.  ĎShow us your love, let us see it, make it plain.í  Now, to be sure, the Lord does not always answer this prayer in the way that we want.  Yet, it is right for us to pray such a prayer.  We need to be honest with our questions and struggles and long to see the love of God more clearly.  Paul prays such a prayer for the Ephesians: I bow my kneesÖthat you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (3:14-21).  O God, give us eyes to always see the love of Christ, even in the midst of our questions and struggles.

Third, he rests in Godís character (v. 8-13)

After he makes his requests known in verses 4-7, the tone seems to shift a bit in verse 8.  Look at that verse with me.  The psalmist recognizes that he needs to listen to the Lord.  He has asked his questions and made his requests, now he needs to hear from the Lord.  And what does he believe the Lord will speak to His people?  He will speak peace to his people, to his saints.  Restoration rests in the hands of God.  Only He can bring peace and only He can keep His people from returning to folly.  ĎLet Him speak,í the psalmist cries, Ďfor he will speak peace.í 

But this does not mean that we are without responsibility.  Look at verse 9.  The salvation of the Lord is near to those who fear him.  We must fear Him.  If He is going to keep us from folly, then it must begin with a holy fear of our God, for that is where all wisdom begins.  God will save those who fear Him.

Yet, how can we be sure?  How can we know that God will speak peace and keep us from folly and save those who fear Him?  Our confidence rests in His character.  Notice how the psalmist connects our salvation with Godís glory in verse 9b.  God is committed to His glory for the good of His people.  They can trust in Him because of His character.  What attributes does the psalmist note in this psalm?  Look at verses 10-13.  The Lord is faithful and the Lord is righteous.  These attributes come together perfectly in the Lord.  His love and His faithfulness come together and His righteousness and peace kiss each other.  His faithfulness springs up from the ground and His righteousness looks down from the sky.  This means that we cannot find a place where they are not present.  Godís faithfulness and righteousness are with us wherever we go in this life.  Thus, the psalmist ends with confidence in the Lord: Yes, the Lord will give what is good.  The psalmist is not confident in his own faithfulness or righteousness or worthiness.  He is confident in Godís character, Godís faithfulness, Godís righteousness.  He believes that God will ultimately restore His people because He believes in Godís good character.  His righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way. 

These attributes of God, His faithfulness and righteousness, along with all of His other attributes, meet gloriously at the cross.  God is faithful to provide forgiveness for His people.  And such forgiveness does not compromise His righteousness because Christ takes our place and justly justifies us.  It is at the cross where steadfast love and faithfulness meet.  It is at Calvary where righteousness and peace kiss each other. 

So then, in light of all that God has done for us in Christ, in light of His past mercies shown to us at the cross, should we not come before Him with confidence in our prayers for restoration, resting in His faithfulness and righteousness toward us?  I believe that we can.  If you are here and you have never trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then I encourage you to turn from your sins and believe in Him today.  He is the only way that you can be restored to God.  If you are here and you need restoration, then I challenge you to follow the psalmists example in your prayers for restoration.  Remember what God has done for you in Christ.  Remember the love and mercy that He has shown you at Calvary.  Be confident of His present love because of all that He has done for you in the past.  Rest in the fact that He is a faithful and righteous God.  His restoration is just because it has been paid for at the cross.  Say to yourself: Yes, the Lord will give what is good.  And with these glorious truths in mind, make your request for restoration known.  Amen.

1 John Calvin, Calvinís Commentaries, vol. V (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), p. 370 (volume third).

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 17 August 2012 )

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