For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 85.
think that Psalm 85 was composed after Israelites had returned to the
land of Israel from exile. Their captivity was turned, which may mean
that it was reversed. They believed that their sins were forgiven by
God. And yet, they did not feel fully restored. They wanted to be
turned even more (vv 4, 6), perhaps implying that their turning thus far
was incomplete. And they hoped that God would stop being angry at
them. They wanted to hear a message of peace from God----whether that
was through a cultic prophet, the Torah, prophetic messengers, or
whomever (it's debated).
There would be restoration, and the
restoration somehow coincides with certain attributes or principles:
mercy, truth, righteousness, and peace. What results is the prosperity
of the land.
It's unclear to me if the message of Psalm 85 is that
Israel's restoration follows her practice of righteousness, or if
righteousness is the result of God favoring Israel (grace, if you
will). In favor of the former view, v 13 says that righteousness
prepares the way for him, presumably God, which may imply that Israel's
righteousness is prior to God's activity on Israel's behalf and presence
in Israel. V 8 affirms that God will speak peace and yet exhorts
people not to turn (there's that word again) to folly. Does that mean
that God desires to bless God's people, and yet that will be contingent
on Israel's practice of righteousness? V 9 says that God's salvation is
close to people who fear God. Does that indicate that the path to
salvation is fearing God and practicing righteousness?
Or does the
practice of righteousness flow from God's grace? Do vv 10-12 describe
what happens when God is near: righteousness, truth, and peace are the
fruit? Peter Craigie and Erhard Gerstenberger present a picture in
which agents from God work together for the community's well-being,
which (in my opinion) regards the righteousness, truth, and peace as a
divine work, not so much as something that humans conjure up. Moreover,
vv 10-12 appear to describe a paradise in which the people hold to
truth and righteousness looks down from heaven with approval. Could
human beings attain this sort of paradise by pulling themselves up by
their own bootstraps, or does God bring it about?
Hebrew Bible, we see both sorts of concepts, often in the same books.
In Deuteronomy 30, Israel takes the initiative of turning to God, and
God then restores her to her land and circumcises her heart. In
Jeremiah 4:4, Judah is told to circumcise her hearts, yet Jeremiah 31:33
foresees God writing God's law on the hearts of Israel and Judah.
Ezekiel 18:31 exhorts Israel to get a new heart and a new spirit, but
Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26 show God promising to give Israel a new heart
that is yielded to God's commandments.
means God's forgiveness and transformation----coincides with some
willingness on our part. But God is eager to speak peace to us.
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