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Psalm 85 – Br. David Allen

Intimacy with God: A Meditation on Psalm 85

You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people
and blotted out all their sins.
You have withdrawn all your fury
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.
Restore us then, O God our Savior;
let your anger depart from us.
Will you be displeased with us for ever?
will you prolong your anger from age to age?
Will you not give us life again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your mercy, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him,
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

The first six verses of Psalm 85 are a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his continued care and love. The ill fortunes of Israel had been blamed on the failure of the people to keep God’s commandments. A feeling of hope that a turning back to God was taking place has been perceived. Verse seven, “Show us your mercy, O Lord,” is a prayer that this hope may be realized. The last six verses are an expression of the fulfilling of this hope for realizing greater intimacy with God.There are two verses in the last part of Psalm 85 which always touch me deeply: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.”These verses speak to me of intimacy with God through the godly virtues of mercy, truth, and righteousness. I think love should also be included. I consulted some commentaries to see what I could find about the background of this psalm. However, I came to the conclusion that I should continue to live with the psalm and let my own interpretation come out of my prayer. One thought has come to me about this psalm, that it can be considered as a spiritual cosmology of Godly virtues. It stirs up within me feelings which I can only describe as a desire for intimacy with God to the extent that we can have such intimacy, no matter how unworthy we may feel.The words, “Mercy and truth have met together” and those following them stir up a shadowy memory deep within me of a quotation, I think it is from one of the Cappadocian Fathers, about God reaching out his hand in love, and a drop of water springing up to meet the tip of that finger as answering love. God reaches out to us with love, and we respond with love.

As I read over the whole psalm I see a relationship of the words in the two verses that I have quoted to key words in other verses. Mercy, truth, and righteousness are in some way related to forgiveness, salvation, and the peace which shall be a pathway for God’s feet.

Hear again what the last part of the psalm says; “Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.”

Whenever I read these words, and hear them said or sung, I can feel that I am being drawn onward towards greater intimacy with God, into that intimacy which God desires all of us to share with him.

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