Psalms 85 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The restoration of Israel from exile is a proof that God has forgiven His people and taken them back into favour as He promised (Jer 33:8 ff.). Yet the present condition of Israel seems to shew that God’s anger still rests upon it. Only a feeble remnant has returned. Disappointment and disaster are crushing them. The national life has not revived. The great hopes held out by the prophets, especially in Isaiah 40-66, in connexion with the Return, have not been realised. And therefore the nation prays for a fresh manifestation of God’s saving power to gladden His people (Psa 85:1-7).
Listening for an answer the Psalmist receives the assurance that God’s purposes of good toward His faithful people will surely be fulfilled. He will dwell among them and bless them, fulfilling the prophetic promises of the establishment of His kingdom among men (Psa 85:8-13).
Such is the argument of the Psalm; and we can hardly be wrong in referring it to the early days of the Return from Babylon. The best illustration of it is to be found in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, especially in Zec 1:12 ff., and with this period (c. b.c. 520) it should be connected, rather than with the time of Nehemiah. It was written to meet the depression and despondency which were rapidly crushing the life out of the feeble church of the restoration, with the assurance that the prophetic promises of a glorious Messianic future were not a delusion, but that God would establish His kingdom in His land. Thought and language shew familiarity with Isaiah 40-66.
The Psalm falls into two divisions, (1) the pleading of mercies already received (Psa 85:1-3) as the ground of prayer (Psa 85:4-7), and (2) the answer of hope (Psa 85:8-13): and it has been suggested that the first part was to be sung by the people, the second by the priest. At any rate Psa 85:1-7 may express the thoughts of the people; Psa 85:8-13 the inspired conviction of some ‘soul of nobler tone,’ prophet or priest, who wrote the Psalm.
The appropriateness of this Psalm as one of the Proper Psalms for Christmas Day is obvious. It is full of Messianic hopes. The Incarnation is the true answer to the prayer of Israel: and in Christ almost every word of the second part finds its fulfilment. The message of peace (Luk 2:14), the nearness of salvation (Mat 1:21; Luk 2:30 ff.), the divine glory dwelling in the earth (Luk 2:32; Joh 1:14), the union of lovingkindness and truth, of righteousness and peace (Joh 1:17; Rom 5:1), the advent of God preceded by righteousness making a way for His people to walk in: these blessings were imparted in Christ in a fulness and a reality far transcending anything that the Psalmist could have anticipated.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".