June 12, 2017

Tom Lowe



(For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.)

The eighth of eleven so ascribed.



Title:A Psalm.

 Theme: Justice will march before him, and make a way for his footsteps.


Psalm 85 (KJV)

1 Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.

2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.

3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.

5 Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?

6 Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?

7 Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.

8 I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

9 Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

Introduction to Psalm 85

This is another of the Gospel Psalms, and it is truly precious when opened to the believing soul by God the Holy Ghost. It appears to refer to some earthly deliverance of the church; but if the reader looks deep enough into it, he will find some points which have a higher note, and sing of spiritual mercies by Jesus Christ.

This Psalm is thought to have been made after the people’s return from the Babylonian captivity, and in it he partly gives God thanks for that glorious deliverance, and partly pleads for God’s mercy in completing that work, and rescuing his people from the vestiges of their bondage, and from the vexation which they had received from their neighbors after they returned to Canaan.

The psalmist, who has personally experience God’s mercies, prays for them to continue (Psalms 85:1-7); decides to wait on the Lord and to hear what He says (Psalms 85:8); and expresses confidence in His goodness, mercy, and truth (Psalms 85:9-13).



1 Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.


“Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land”; the land of Canaan, which the Lord (Hebrew; Jehovah) chose for the people of Israel, and brought about their possession of it; and where He chose to reside, and had a sanctuary built for Him. And though the whole earth is His, yet this was His peculiar land and inheritance, as it is called in Jeremiah 16:18{1]. Here, the term “land” is used for the “inhabitants of the land” to whom the Lord was “favorable,” and whom He graciously accepted, and was well pleased with and delighted in; which is readily apparent from His choosing them over all the other people on earth, to be His people, by bringing them out of Egyptian bondage, by leading them through the Red Sea and the wilderness, by feeding and protecting them there; and by bringing them into the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, and settling them in it; and by many earthly blessings, and also spiritual ones, such as His word and ordinances; but especially by sending His own Son, the Messiah and Savior, unto them; and which perhaps is what is principally intended here.


“Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob”; or, the “captives” of “Jacob”; in a secular sense, both out of Egypt, and out of Babylon; and in a spiritual sense from sin, Satan, and the law. The special people of God often go by the name of Jacob, and these are captives to the above mentioned; and redemption by Christ is a deliverance of them from their captivity, or a bringing of it back, for He has led captivity captive; and in consequence of this they are put into a state of freedom, liberty is proclaimed to these captives, and they are delivered, and all as the fruit and effect of divine favor.

Some hold that this psalm was composed at the end of the Babylonian captivity; others envision it may be a prayer for the conversion of the Gentiles.


Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.


“Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people”;took it from them, and laid it on Christ, who has carried it, and took it away,⸺an allusion to the ceremony of the scapegoat⸺so that it will never return and cause their destruction. By the application of Christ’s blood it is even taken away from their own consciences, and this denotes the appearance and discovery of their forgiveness of themselves. It is a branch of redemption, and is a consequence of it; and it is a fruit of the free favor and good will of God through Christ; and it only belongs to the Lord's special people, the people He has taken into covenant with Him, and for whose iniquity Christ was stricken.

The calamities that came upon them were a consequence of their sins, and thou, Lord, have dealt with them as if those sins were forgiven. The fact that the tokens of His anger bad passed away, and that his judgments were withdrawn, seemed to prove that their sins had been forgiven.

The same form of expression used here, with the same words in Hebrew, occurs in Psalm 32:5⸺“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD. And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The language suggests the idea of atonement.


“Thou hast covered all their sin”; so that it is hidden; and therefore they are treated as if they were righteous, or as if there were no sin. The idea of covering is that expressed in the Hebrew word, which is commonly rendered “atonement”⸺to cover; to cover over; then, to cover over sin; to forgive. The idea suggested in this verse is that when God withdraws the tokens of His displeasure, we may hope that He has pardoned the sin which was the cause of His anger.

This is just another phrase for forgiveness (Psalm 32:1{2]), and this is done by the blood and righteousness, and substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, the unusual mercy seat, the covering of the law and its transgressions, and the people of God from its curse and condemnation; whose sins are so covered by Christ that they cannot be seen by the eye of avenging justice; all of them, not one remains uncovered.

“Selah”; this is true. Israel’s return to their own land is the full proof of their forgiveness.


Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.


“Thou hast taken away all thy wrath{3].” Sin will give rise to wrath{3], and the people of God are just as deserving of it as anyone else; but the LORD has gathered it all up, and poured it upon His Son, and their Messiah. Hence nothing of this kind shall ever fall upon them, either here or hereafter; and it is taken away from them, so as to have no sense, apprehension, or consciousness of it⸺which before, the law had created in them⸺when pardon is applied unto them, which is what is here meant. When the psalmist wrote this, he might have recently read Isaiah 12:1, where the prophet wrote “In that day you will say: "I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.”The Lord seems to be angry when He hides his face from His people, when He refuses to hear their cries, when He afflicts them, and continues to afflict them, and when He puts into their consciences, a sense of wrath.

God will never put more on us than we can bear, andwhen His anger is turned away, He will grant us His gracious presence; take off his afflicting hand, display His love, particularly His pardoning grace and mercy; peace and reconciliation having been made by the blood of Christ, and justice satisfied, the effects of resentment and displeasure cease.


“Thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.” The anger of God is very fierce against sin and sinners; it is poured forth like fire, and there is no one who can endure it; but, with respect to the Lord’s people, it is pacified by the death of His Son; or He is merciful towards them regardless of all they have done, for the sake of His (Christ’s) righteousness and sacrifice; and which appears to them when He manifests His love and pardoning grace to their souls⸺ "That you may remember, and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more because of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you have done, said the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 16:63).


Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.


 “Turn us, O God of our salvation.”The tone of these verses is radically different from that in the first three; and they can be explained only by understanding them to refer to a period following the glorious return of the Chosen People from Babylon. Such a clarification is provided by the prophets Haggai and Malachi. What had gone wrong? Allow me to explain….

  1. The vast majority of Israel, had accepted, or, at least, were used to their situation in Babylon; many of them had amassed wealth and simply refused to return to Jerusalem.
  2. Those who did return had no interest at all in rebuilding the temple; their chief concern was the building of their own houses.
  3. They grossly neglected the worship of God.
  4. Even after the second temple had finally been built, Malachi flatly declared that the people were "robbing God"! Things in Israel had gone from bad to worse during that first generation of returnees. As the situation deteriorated, it is no wonder that the psalmist included this earnest, even urgent, plea for God to save them.


Note: The Israelites were not restored from their captivity all at once. A few returned with Zerubbabel; some more with Ezra and Nehemiah; but a great number still remained in Babylonia, Media, Assyria, Egypt, and other parts. The request of the psalmist is, to have a complete restoration of all the Israelites from all places of their dispersion.


“Turn us, O God of our salvation” means, “Turn us from our sins.” God could not bless Israel as long as they preferred sin to the righteousness God required of them. This is always the proper spirit in prayer. The first thing is not that God take away His wrath, but that He would persuade us to forsake our sins.

This paragraph (Psalms 85:4-7) contains three petitions. The first of these is “Turn us. Thou hast turned our captivity; now convert our souls.” They found a reason for their prayer in an attribute of their God; “the God of their salvation”⸺the God from whom salvation must come, and on whom we are dependent for it. Since His work was to save, they beg that His anger towards them might cease. However, we have no authority for asking God to turn away His judgments unless we are willing to forsake our sins; and in all cases we can hope for divine intervention and mercy, when the judgments of God are upon us, only as we are willing to turn from our iniquities.


“And cause thine anger toward us to cease”The word used here, and rendered “cause to cease” means properly to break; then, to violate; and then, to annul, or to bring to an end. The idea here is that if they were turned from sin, the cause of His anger would be removed, and would cease of course.


Compare Psalm 85:4 with Psalm 80:3. “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”


“Turn us again, O God”

This phrase would seem to mean, “Turn us again from our sins,” or, “Bring us back to our duty, and to thy love;” or, “Turn us again, O God, from our captivity and bring us once more into our own land,” or, “Return us backsliding sinners to thyself by repentance.” Any of these requests could have been made by those who were in captivity or exile; and this idea is commonly attached to the phrase by the readers of the Bible. Though in itself, this is an appropriate prayer, it is not the idea expressed here, which is simply, Bring us back; cause us to return; restore us. The prayer shows that it was not in their power to turn themselves, and they understood that such major changes as these can only be produced by the grace of God.


“And cause thy face to shine”

The psalmist asked only for the favor of God; the light of the divine countenance. The phrase, “cause thy face to shine” occurs frequently in the Scriptures, and is an expression of favor and friendship. When we are angry or displeased, the face seems covered with a dark cloud; when pleased, it brightens up and expresses affection. There is undoubtedly an allusion in this expression to the sun as it rises free from clouds and storms, and seeming to smile upon the world. The language here was not improbably derived from the benediction which the high priest was commanded to pronounce when he blessed the people of Israel―“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).  While the world is busy seeking happiness in other things―in wealth, pleasure, gaiety, ambition, sensual delights―the child of God feels that true happiness is to be found only in religion, and in the service and friendship of the Creator.


Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?


“Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?” God gets angry with the wicked every day, for their life is a continuous series of sin, without repentance for it, or confession of it. He will be angry forever, of which they will have a constant awareness. His anger is the worm that never dies, and the fire that is inextinguishable; but he does not retain His anger forever with His own people. Though He is displeased with them, and chastises them for their sins, His anger endures but for a moment; He is pacified towards them and turns away His anger from them, by discovering His pardoning love, and withdrawing his afflicting hand.

Such mournful questions frequently accompany prayers for forgiveness and restoration. They do not reveal impatience or mistrust but speak, rather, of the earnestness of the petitioner.


“Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations”; out of His heart, where it is supposed to be conceived; and out of His treasury, where it is thought to be laid up. His anger has been drawn out for a great length of time upon the Jewish nation; it has been upon them for almost twenty centuries, or ages, and still remains, and will until the fullness of the Gentiles arrives. But it will not be drawn out to “all” ages or generations; for they shall return to the Lord, and seek Him; and He will come to them, and turn away iniquity from them, and so all Israel shall be saved.

We have already suffered much and long; our fathers have suffered, and we have succumbed to their distresses. Do not “draw out” thy anger against us from generation to generation. The obstacles to the return of the exiled Israelites appeared insurmountable. It was over twenty years after the edict of liberation by Cyrus before the temple was built and nearly one hundred years before Jerusalem grew to its former population and the city walls restored. As in times past they had felt God's mercies, so now being oppressed by the long continuance of evil, they pray to God that according to His nature He would be merciful to them.

“To all generations”⸺literally, “from generation to generation,” so that not merely the generation which has sinned, and which has brought down these tokens of His displeasure, shall suffer, but the next, and the next, and the next, forever. The plea is that the judgment might terminate, and not reach coming generations.


Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?


“Wilt thou not revive us again.” Their return from Babylonian captivity revived them from the years of bondage (Ezra 9:8{4]), and the conversion of them in the latter day will revive them again, like life from the dead. They are like the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision, or like the dead in the graves; and their being “turned to the Lord” will be a resurrection, or quickening of them, as is every instance of conversion (Romans 11:15{5]). Men are dead in trespasses and sins, and they are quickened by the Spirit and grace of God, so that they revive, and live a life of sanctification; they are dead in law, which they discover when spiritually enlightened; when the Spirit of God brings about faith in them, to look to and live upon the righteousness of Christ for justification; and who, after spiritual decay, falling away from worshiping Him, and deadness, are revived again, and are made cheerful and comfortable by the same Spirit; this may be what is intended here.

The prophet Habakkuk offered the same prayer when he foresaw this sad condition of Israel⸺“O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).Thou hast once revived us in bringing us out of captivity; give us a second reviving, in bringing home the rest of our brethren, and in rebuking and restraining the remainder of our enemies’ wrath. Revive us with encouraging and comfortable words spoken to us, revive us with gracious and desired deliverances wrought for us. 


“That thy people may rejoice in thee”; it was a time of rejoicing in the Lord, when the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon; but their future conversion will be a matter of greater joy, both for themselves and the Gentiles. Everlasting joy will be upon their heads, and in their hearts, when they shall return to Zion (Psalm 14:7{6]), and so is the conversion of every sinner joyful for himself and for others. These saints rejoice in Christ, in His person, blood, and righteousness; and afterwards, every notice or thought of Him brings a reviving time, it fills them with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.

Joy in the Lord is one of the first fruits of life in the Lord (Acts 2:46{9]; Acts 8:39; Acts 16:34; Galatians 5:22; Romans 5:11). Holy joy is a source of "strength"⸺ “Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10). This is particularly joy in God. It is because He comes near; because He manifests His mercy; because He shows His power and His grace. “If God,” says Henry, “be the fountain of all our mercies, he must be the centre of all our joys.”


Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.


“Show us thy mercy (lovingkindness, or grace), O Lord (Jehovah); Or, “thy grace” and goodness, the riches of which are available only to those who are in Christ; “mercy” promised to Abraham and others, long expected, wished, and prayed for; His pardoning mercy, justification, salvation, and eternal life, by His free grace. His mercy is evident in His returning to us; in forgiving our sins; in taking from us the tokens of His displeasure.

In these words, Shew us thy mercy, O Lord,” there is the same contrast as in the preceding sentence. In praying that mercy may be extended to them, and deliverance granted them, they confess that they are deprived of all sense of both these blessings. This was the state of the saints in ancient times. Let us learn, even when we are oppressed with calamities, pushed to the limit, and on the brink of despair, to take ourselves to God, instead. Mercy is appropriately put in the first place; and then there is added salvation, which is the work and fruit of mercy; for no other reason can be assigned for why God would ever want to become our Savior, except that He is merciful. It follows then that all who speak of their own merits before Him as a plea for obtaining his favor, are shutting up the way of salvation.


“And grant us thy salvation”; salvation or deliverance from our present trouble and calamities. Give us a complete deliverance, such as that which is worthy of thy majesty and mercy to bestow! Jesus, the Savior, is the source of salvation, and the joys of it; and it is all a free gift, a grant of divine favor, and not according to the merits and works of men.


I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.


“I will hear what God the LORD will speak.” The Church here declares the joy with which she prepares to hear the answer to her prayer in Psalms 85:4. “God the Lord” means literally, “the God-Yahweh.” He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death. [Compare Psalms 68:20, where it says: “He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.” He that is OUR God (literally, the God to us) is the God of salvation”].

I will hear”;diligently examine and abide by “what God the Lord will speak,” either through His prophets and other messengers, or by His providence, for that also has a voice: I will hear what answer God will give to my prayers. And the psalmist, by declaring what he would do, teaches all the Israelites what they ought to do; namely, attentively listen and pay heed to the voice of God, in whatever way He should be pleased to speak to them, and to receive His gracious declarations and promises in faith and expectation, and His holy precepts and dispensations in obedience and submission: and especially that they should wait to know what answer God would give to their prayers. 


“For he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints.” I am assured, from God’s gracious nature, and declared will and promises, that He will give an answer of “peace to his people.” The Church in faith already anticipates the answer of “peace” from God. “Peace,” spiritually speaking has come “on earth” at Christ's first advent⸺“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Christ’s death was sufficient for all and efficient for the elect, “His saints.” Peace temporally and literally, as well as spiritually, is to come on earth at His second advent, to Israel in their own land, and to all nations (see Zechariah 9:10{7]).

The clause, “and to his saints” seems to be added by way of clarification, to show that this glorious privilege did not belong to all that were called God’s people, but only to those that were truly and really such; that is, His saints or holy ones, or, it could mean, His kind, benevolent, and merciful ones, who to piety and holiness toward God, join justice and benevolence toward man, and while they truly love and serve God, love and serve their brother also. To these God will speak “peace,” for blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy.


“But let them not turn again to folly.” The redemption of Jesus is designed to “save men from their sins,” not so that they may continue in their sins⸺“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). They who “turn again to folly,” which all sin is, shall perish in their sinful folly, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22). In the case of the spiritual Israel, as well as the literal Israel of the last days, the “everlasting covenant” of God is sufficient to ensure the complete covering of "all their sin" (Psalms 85:2); and also “that they shall not depart from their God” anymore (see Jeremiah 32:38-40; also 31:31-37).

This final clause is added as a necessary caution; for it is on these terms, and no other, that peace is to be expected. To those, and those only, who turn from sin, peace is spoken; but if they return to it again, if they become wanton and secure, and relapse into their former wicked ways, they will provoke God to repent of His kindness to them, to inflict further judgments made more awful than ever before. If they still persist in disobedience and rebellion, He will punish them more severely in the future. Note: It is important for us to remember that all sin is “folly,” but especially backsliding; it is flagrant folly to turn to sin, after we had turned from it; to turn to it, after God had forgiven it, delivered us from the power of it, and spoken peace to our consciences.


Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.


“Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him,” or “To him who fears God, and trembles at His word, His salvation is nigh at hand.”

Those that have a true sense of their sin and folly:

  • are humbled by it, hate it, and depart from it, and do not return to it.
  • have a reverential affection for God, a sense of His goodness, particularly His pardoning grace and mercy, and fear Him on account of it and fear to offend Him in any way.
  • serve Him with reverence and godly fear.

 To these His salvation is nigh (will occur soon); temporal salvation, for that is His, is of Him, and from Him; and He is a present help in time of trouble. Spiritual and eternal salvation is His; it is of His design, appointing, and giving; and now the time for Christ to accomplish it was close at hand. He is called God's salvation, since He is the Savior God provided, chose, and sent, who, in a short time, would appear, and suddenly come to His temple, as Haggai and Malachi foretold, and therefore the psalmist speaks of it with the utmost certainty; “surely” (admittedly, truly) it is so. There can be no doubt about it; for this psalm, as is generally thought, was written after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity; therefore, the coming of the Savior was just around the corner, and the arrival of salvation was not far behind. The revelation of it in the Gospel was soon to be made (Isaiah 56:1). Therefore, the salvation of sensible sinners, when it is brought to them by the Gospel, and applied to their hearts by the Spirit of God is still nearer than when they first believed; but then, it is only true for them that fear the Lord; not the wicked, from whom it is far off.


“That glory may dwell in our land”; meaning Christ, who is the brightness of His Father's glory, having the same nature, names, worship, and honor; whose glory is the glory of the only begotten of the Father, and who also is the glory of His people Israel; who, when He was in the flesh, dwelt among men, particularly in the land of Judea, where the writer of this psalm dwelt, and therefore calls it “our land”; and though His appearance was poor and lowly, as He took on the form of a servant. Yet He had a glory, which was evident in His doctrine and miracles; and He was the Lord of glory, even when He was crucified; see Hebrews 1:3, Luke 2:32. Or else the Gospel may be meant, which has a glory in it excelling that of the law; for it contains glorious truths, and glorious promises; and which is the glory of a land where it is, and, when it departs, “Ichabod{8]” may be written upon it. This came as a consequence of Christ, the Savior, and salvation by Him, of which it is a revelation. It dwelt and abode in the land of Judea, till it was utterly despised and rejected: the whole of Gospel worship and ordinances may be intended also, together with a holy life and conversation befitting it.

This clause has another interpretation which I believe is equally fitting. The idea is ‘that thy worship may be restored, the temple rebuilt, and the Divine shechinah, or symbol of the presence of God, resume its place.’ The pure and undefiled religion of God preached, professed, and experienced in a nation, is the glory of that land. The Prophet Haggai had said that the glory of the latter house⸺the temple built after their return from Babylon, should be greater than the glory of the former, that is, of that built by Solomon. But, as a building, it was far inferior to the former; yet it had a superior glory because it was visited by Jesus Christ. This was the glory that excelled.


10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.


This is a remarkable text, and much has been said about it: but there is a beauty in it which, I think, has not been noticed.


“Mercy and truth are met together.” “Mercy” from God for the pardon of our sin is shown in the redemption performed by Messiah for Israel literal and Israel spiritual, to harmonize with the “truth” of God; that is, with His faithfulness to His threatening against sin and to His promise of salvation extended to lost man. For Christ has suffered the threatened penalty; therefore Christ’s people receive the promised mercy.

Mercy and peace are on one side; truth and righteousness on the other. Truth requires righteousness; mercy calls for peace. They meet together on the way; one going to make payment for sin, the other to plead for reconciliation. Having met, their differences on certain matters⸺not specifically mentioned here⸺are adjusted; and their mutual requests are blended together in one common interest; on which peace and righteousness immediately embrace. Thus, righteousness is given to truth, and peace is given to mercy. The “mercy” of God can never operate apart from His “truth”—they are inseparable. See Psalms 25:10; Psalms 40:11; Psalms 61:7.

Now, where did these meet? In Christ Jesus.

When were they reconciled? When He poured out His life on Calvary.

When that blessed time shall come, when “mercy and truth are met together,” those virtues which now seem to be missing from human society shall be restored, and there shall be a happy union of mercy, or kindheartedness, with truth, or sincerity, and loyalty; or a union of righteousness, or justice and impartiality, with peace, or peaceableness and harmony. But the passage is to be understood as concerned with the blessings from God, rather than the graces or virtues in man. The sense of it is that the great work of redemption and salvation by Christ shall clearly show and demonstrate God’s mercy in redeeming His people Israel, and in the calling and conversion of the Gentiles, His truth in fulfilling His promises, especially the great promise of the Messiah to come in the flesh, which was the foundation of all the other promises; His righteousness in punishing sin, of making His son a sin-offering for us, and in conferring righteousness upon guilty and lost creatures; and His peace, or reconciliation, to penitent, believing sinners, and that peace of conscience which comes with it. Mercy has always been inclined to serve man, and peace could not be his enemy; but truth demanded the performance of God’s threat, “the soul that sinneth it shall die”; and righteousness could do nothing other than give to everyone his due. Jehovah must be true in all His ways, and righteous in all His works. Now, there is no religion upon earth, except the Christian religion, which can satisfy the demands of all these claimants, and restore harmony between them; which can show how God’s word can be true, and His work just, and the sinner find mercy and obtain peace. But a God incarnate reconciled all things in heaven and earth.


“Righteousness and peace have kissed each other,”as friends used to do when they meet (See Exodus 4:27; 18:7). So this is another expression of the same thing.

The whole context speaks of the blessings of God. And the sense is that the great work of redemption by Christ shall clearly manifest and demonstrate God’s mercy in redeeming His people of Israel, and in the calling and conversion of the Gentiles. The demands of God’s righteousness against man were met by the Savior’s meritorious death as man for man; so "peace" to man is reconciled with the unimpaired glory of God's righteousness. The meeting and the kissing of each other (Psalms 85:10-11) imply that there had been in appearance, a separation of these attributes respectively, which now are showed to harmonize (Isaiah 42:21); so that every true Israelite can say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength ... in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory" (Isaiah 45:24-25).  “Mercy” and “peace” can never be granted but upon the grounds of “truth” and “righteousness.” Men must renounce all sin, and aim to fulfill all righteousness by living a holy life and obediently walking with God, if they desire to be approved of by Him.


11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.


“Truth shall spring out of the earth,” concerns one or more of the following:…

  1. the Gospel, the word of truth, which sprung up quickly and spread throughout the land of Judea, as if it came out of the earth; and from Zion and Jerusalem, it went out into the Gentile world. The “truth” of God shall take root in the hearts of men, and come forth to perfection (Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:26-28).
  2. the truth of grace God desires in the internal parts, and which springs up in men who are like cultivated earth, or good ground, which was made so by the Spirit and grace of God, particularly the grace of “faith,” which is how some render the word here; “faith” springs up in the heart, and, with it, man believes unto righteousness.
  3. Christ himself, “who is the way, the truth, and the life”; who, though He is the Lord from heaven, yet it may be said, with respect to His incarnation, that He spring out of the earth, Christ taking on Himself the flesh of a virgin. Therefore, His human nature is said to be “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth”; and “that new thing created in the earth.” The psalmist wrote, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15).
  4. Truth among men, which, under Christ’s rule shall be as common among all men as if it sprung out of the earth.
  5. The truth or faithfulness of God, which may be truly said to spring out of the earth, partly because it had long been as if it were hid, and buried like a root in a dry ground, without any hopes of reviving. But yet, God made it to grow, as is signified in Isaiah 53:2; and partly, because Christ, who is the truth (John 14:6), and a minister of the circumcision, (that is, of the circumcised, or of the Jews,) for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, was born on the earth of a virgin. 


“And righteousness shall look down from heaven”; that is to say, the justice of God, or the righteous God, shall look down from heaven on Christ, the truth, in our nature on earth, with pleasure beholding His obedience, sufferings and death, sacrifice and righteousness. God is well pleased with Him, and with all He did and suffered, and with all His people, considered to be, in Him. His countenance beholds these upright and righteous ones with delight, for they are clothed with Christ's righteousness, washed in His blood, and their sins covered by His sacrifice, and forgiven, because they are hoping in His mercy, and trusting in His Son. Then all four parties met again in perfect harmony; Truth ran to Mercy, and embraced her; Righteousness to Peace, and kissed her. And this could only happen at the birth of Jesus, in whom the tender mercy of our God visited us, and who is the Truth; who is made unto us Righteousness, and who is our Peace. 

The parallelism running throughout this beautiful picture, supposes the earthand the hearts of menare responsive to the divine gifts. “Mercy,” “truth,” “righteousness,” and “peace” must all descend, primarily, from heaven, as the free gift of God, but they must reproduce themselves in the hearts of men, through repentance and faith, like good seed sprouting in the earth.


12 Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.


“Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good”; meaning not merely earthly good, such as the good that rain can do in a dry and thirsty land, as some think, because of the following clause. But here, the psalmist has in mind that which is spiritually good; His good Spirit and His grace, grace and glory⸺nor will He withhold any good thing from His people; every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Those who are reconciled to Him through the Son of His love shall enjoy the favor of their God; to have this brings supreme happiness to man.


“And our land shall yield her increase.” Some people are like the earth, which receives blessings from God, and often drinks in the rain that falls upon it, and produces wheat for the harvest (Hebrews 6:2). These increase along with the increase of God’s blessings. Man, on the other hand, produces fruits of righteousness, and he grows in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. One of the greatest blessings to an over-burdened and poor population is that they are always accepted as God’s special token of care (Psalms 67:6; Leviticus 26:4).

It is by the gift of the Lord’s grace that the Holy Land, long desolate, shall once more “yield her increase” (Psalms 67:6.). “The earth” generally shall in a great measure be delivered from the effects of her fall; and this, in connection with His ‘causing His face to shine upon’ Israel first, and through her “upon all nations.”

There shall be neither famine nor barrenness; for truth that springs out of the earth, shall yield an abundant harvest, in the conversion of all nations to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.


13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.


“Righteousness shall go before him”; that is, the incarnate Savior, the Son of God, and fruit of the virgin’s womb.  Righteousness may be put for a righteous person, as some have interpreted it; and it may denote John the Baptist, a holy and just man [“Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man….” (Mark 6:20)], who as the forerunner and harbinger of Christ, went before Him, and prepared the way for Him (Luke 1:76).

The message to Christians today is that we should follow John’s example; that we ought to anticipate His coming, and prepare His way. The idea seems to be that in order to facilitate His appearing there would be a proclamation of “righteousness,” and a preparation for His arrival by the diffusion of “righteousness” among the people. In other words, the nation, at the prospect of His coming, would turn from sin, and would seek to be prepared for His appearing. Thus John proclaimed publically the coming of the Redeemer, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He also said that he was “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” and then he proclaimed, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3).

Men shall walk before God in holiness and “righteousness” all the days of their lives (Luke 1:75); they shall not rest in outward blessings (Psalms 85:12), or be satisfied with such unimportant things, but instead, to be led by them to care for things that are higher and more important.


“And shall set us in the way of his steps”; the mission of John the Baptist was not only to prepare the way for Christ by means of his doctrine and baptism, but to guide the feet of His people into the way of peace; or to lead them to believe in Christ, and to be followers of Him, the Lamb of God, wherever he went. John has left an example of grace and duty that we should follow and tread in his steps⸺To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79);and John taught men to walk in such a way.

This clause might be rendered, “and set its steps for a way;” that is, the steps which would be taken by Him would indicate the way in which His people should walk. Perhaps, however, the common interpretation best expresses the sense of the passage. According to that, the idea is that the effect of His coming would be to motivate people to walk in the steps which He took; to be His imitators and followers. The general thought is that His coming would have the effect of turning the people to the paths of righteousness and truth. This is the intended effect of all the visitations of God to our world.




Scripture and Special Notes


[1} “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abominable things.” (Jeremiah 16:18)

[2} “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Psalm 32:1)

[3} “All thy wrath”is those calamities which were the effects of His just wrath envisioned to be against us.

[4} “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.” (Ezra 9:8)

[5} “For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)

[6} “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!" When the LORD restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (Psalm 14:7)

[7} “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:10)

[8}Ichabod (Hebrew: ikhavod)no gloryinglorious or where is the glory?) is mentioned in the first Book of Samuel as the son of Phinehas, a malicious priest at the biblical shrine of Shiloh, who was born on the day that the Israelites’ Ark of God was taken into Philistine captivity. His mother went into labor due to the shock of hearing that her husband and Eli, her father-in-law, had died and that the Ark had been captured.

[9} “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).