I will hear what God says, for the Lord will speak peace to His people–even to His faithful ones, and they will not turn back to stupidity.
Psalm 85 is a plea for restoration. God’s people have wandered, and they are feeling the wrath of God. There’s dispute as to whether this psalm reflects a situation after the Exodus, or after the Babylonian exile–either way, it makes no difference to the message. On both occasions, and ever since, God’s people have found themselves in sin and wandering away from the Lord. And despite this, God remains faithful. The psalmist recalls the various ways God has shown His redeeming love toward His people, forgiving them their sins, and not punishing them according to His just and righteous wrath. Will the Lord be pleased to withhold His anger, and show mercy again?
I daresay this question, and the cry of the psalmist’s heart, is very familiar to many of us. Being free from the bondage and penalty of sin doesn’t mean we stop sinning. As Christians, our lives are no longer characterized by sin, but we still fall and find ourselves saying, thinking, and doing things we know we shouldn’t. But we know, as did the psalmist, that God is merciful to His people. He is not beyond chastising us for our disobedience, but His staff of grace that pulls us away from the path of evil is never far away from His chastening rod. We know that God has spoken peace to us: peace with Him that we have through Christ. And in His Word, the Lord continues to speak peace to our souls, reminding us of the gospel, and the love He has shown to us.
As the Spirit makes the gospel alive in our hearts again, we turn from the stupidity that is our sin, and return to the Lord. Some translations render the Hebrew, “But let them not turn back to folly.” This is a perfectly legitimate translation that reminds us who is ultimately in control. Proverbs 21:1 says that the king’s heart is like a water stream in God’s hand; the Lord alters its flow according to His wishes. So our hearts also belong to the Lord, and it’s by His loving grace that He keeps us from the stupidity of our sin. Our faithless hearts want to return to the chains of our old life, and it’s only by God’s loving hand that we are kept under Christ’s lordship. We are, after all, His sheep, and no-one will snatch us from His hand (John 10:28).
Have a great week!