Psalm 85: a question of repentance
February 9, 2008 § 6 Comments
The Israelites have returned to their lands after a period of captivity, and they are asking for God’s help in this psalm. They feel that they are still not right with Him, and are begging for His forgiveness. What makes this psalm interesting is the supposed dialog between God and the people of Israel.
God replies in verses 8 through 13. Verse 8 says:
“I am listening. What is God’s message? Yahweh’s message is peace for His people, for His faithful, if only they renounce their folly.”
It sort of leaves you wondering what these people’s “folly” is, doesn’t? Remember what Solomon wrote once? “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” he said. I imagine this “folly” of theirs must be the opposite of wisdom. They must give it up and move toward the opposite side of the spectrum, toward wisdom. To do that, they must begin to fear God. Verse 9 confirms this. The pieces are starting to fall into place, aren’t they?
“His saving help is near for those who fear Him, His glory will dwell in our land.”
God is waiting for these people to start fearing Him, and He will right then offer His help, which is described quite beautifully in verses 10 through 13. You might think this “fear” that keeps getting mentioned here is some sort of unnatural fright that God inspires in believers. Not at all. This psalm is a great example of true repentance, because it shows its two important stages, which show whether it (the repentance) is genuine or not.
Stage 1 is asking for forgiveness and for help. That’s done in verses 4 through 7. Forgiveness is implied here, and that’s the way it is. God is ready to forgive us as soon as we ask for it. His love is boundless. But our repentance isn’t complete unless Stage 2 occurs, and that’s where “fear” comes into play. What the Bible means by “fear” is that we should be concerned about God when we are next faced with a choice to sin. We should be afraid of causing Him pain and suffering. Because He suffers every time we sin, and He suffers even more after He’s forgiven us and we commit the same sin, again and again.
That’s what “fear” means. It means having enough respect for God to think about Him when we are faced with choosing to sin and fulfilling our trite, flesh-driven desires. Do we have enough respect for Him? Do we fear Him enough? Do we realize that we’re hurting our all-powerful Creator, who gave us life and who could take it away in an instant? Do we realize we’re hurting the One being that is always ready to help and bless us, no matter what, if only we’d turn to Him?
That’s the question this psalm poses. It’s a powerful question, and one that we all need to ask ourselves.