The Story of Psalm 85
Many Bible students think that Psalm 85 comes from about 520 BC. BC means "years Before Christ came to the earth". This was just after the *Jews came back from their *exile in Babylon.
God was angry with his people. They had not obeyed him. So he let the King of Babylon beat them and take them to Babylon. He destroyed Jerusalem. After 70 years, the king of Persia beat the king of Babylon. Cyrus, the King of Persia, sent the *Jews back to Jerusalem and the places near it. This is what verses 1-3 are about. But, a few years after they returned to Jerusalem, things were bad. They had not built God’s house (the *temple) again. There was not much rain so there was not much fruit in the fields. This meant that there was not much food. Also, some enemies attacked them. So they thought that God was still angry with them! They asked for his help to make things better, verses 4-7. Someone gave them God’s answer, verses 8-13.
What Psalm 85 means
"The sons of *Korah" was the name of a music group. In Psalm 85, there is one word that comes 5 times. It is "turn" or "turned". Each time it means something a bit different:
· "turned the fortunes", verse 1, is a *Hebrew way to say "changed things from bad to good, or good to bad". In English, we would say "their luck changed". Christians do not believe in luck. Luck means "things just happen". Christians believe that God decides what happens, as in this verse: "You (God) *turned the fortunes of *Jacob". *Jacob is a name for God’s people.
· "you turned away from your *fury", verse 3. This means that God was not *furious (or very, very angry) with his people any more.
· "turn us, God" in verse 4 is where the psalm makes its first change. They thought that God was angry again, so they ask God to turn them. Sometimes when people become Christians, we say that they become "converted". This is a word that means "turned". They turn from doing what they want to do and do what God wants them to do. That is what this verse means.
· "turn to us again" in verse 6 is about God turning. God’s people pray that God will stop looking away, and turn to look at them. This is another way to say "send us help".
· "they must not turn back", in verse 8, means they must not go back and do bad things all the time. This is the second place where the psalm changes. Now it is about the good things that will happen if God’s people will obey him.
There are several important words in this psalm:
· "*forgave" and "*pardoned" in verse 2. Maybe both words meant "excused" in 520 BC, but to Christians "*forgave" is a very special word that means more than "excused". When God *forgives us he gives our *sin (all the bad things that we do) to Jesus. When he died, Jesus took our *sin away. So we are not only excused; it is just as if we had never done those bad things! God *punished Jesus for our *sin!
· "kind love" in verse 10 is a special love that God has for people. It is a love that does not stop. People that accept this kind love become God’s people. We could call them "kind-loved" but this is not a word English people use. It is in the *Hebrew of verse 8, where I have translated it "*saints".
· "*loyalty" in verse 10 is very like the "kind love" in the same verse. It is being a friend, or a servant and not stopping whatever happens. In this verse, God gives the kind love, and his people give him their *loyalty. He does not stop loving them and they do not stop being his friends and servants whatever happens.
· A better way to translate "*goodness" in verse 10 is by the word "*righteousness". "*Goodness" means "being good"; but "*righteousness" means "being *righteous". Now only God is really *righteous, always doing what is right. God wants his people to be like him, *righteous.
· "*Peace" in verse 10 means more than "not fighting" or "no war". It translates the *Hebrew word "shalom". It is a *peace that only God can give. With this *peace, you know that you are friends with God and it makes you very, very happy. Bible students think that when *goodness kisses *peace it means this: people that accept the *peace of God become good (or *righteous). They become *like God.
In verse 12, "much fruit" means more than apples and things *like that. It means all the plants that we grow for food. There had not been much of them, because there was not much rain. But now things would change! The last verse, verse 13, is very interesting. It tells us that God would walk on the earth! This happened when Jesus came, 520 years later. Many Bible students think that all the last part of the psalm is about Jesus. Because Jesus was the *Messiah, they call verses 9-13 the messianic part of the psalm.
Something to do
Here are some verses from the *New Testament of the Bible. Which verse or verses of Psalm 85 does each one make you think about?
1. Luke 2:14. *Glory to God in the *heavens, and *peace to his *saints on earth.
2. John 1:14. The Word became a man and lived with us and we saw his *glory. (The Word is one of Jesus’ Bible names.)
3. Romans 5:1. Because we have been made *righteous through faith, we have *peace with God through our *Lord Jesus Christ. (Faith means that we accept the kind love of God.)
4. Matthew 1:21. Jesus will save his people from their *sins.
Bits and Pieces
They said to Jesus, "Teach us to pray". He said, "Ask and you will receive. Look and you will find. Knock and it will open to you". (From Luke 11: 1 and 9)
Words that David prayed.
v1 *LORD,turn your ear (to me), answer me!
Because I am weak and need (help).
v2 Save me from death because I am one of your people.
Keep (me) your servant safe. You are my God.
(I am) someone that is *trusting in you.
v3 My *Lord, give me *mercy!
All through the day, I am praying (this) to you.
v4 Make (me) your servant happy!
Because I lift up myself to you, my *Lord.
v5 My *Lord, you are good. Also, you *forgive (people).
You give your kind love to everyone that prays to you.
v6 *Turn your ear to what I am praying, *LORD.
And listen to my voice when I cry for *mercy.
v7 On the day that I have trouble I will pray to you,
because you can answer me.
v8 None among the gods is like you, my *Lord.
And nobody can do what you can do.
v9 All the countries that you have made will come
and *worship before you, my *Lord.
They will say how great your name is.
v10 For you are great. You do great things.
You alone are God.
v11 *LORD, teach me your way. I will walk in your *truth.
Make my heart united when I think of your name.
v12 I will *praise you, my *Lord and my God, with my united heart.
I will always tell people that you are really great!
v13 (I will do this) because there is so much of your kind love to me.
You will save me from going to the lowest part of *Sheol.
v14 God, *proud people are attacking me.
A group of cruel men is trying to kill me.
They do not think about you.
v15 But you, my *Lord, are a God that loves (people) and gives (them) *mercy.
You are slow to become angry and (you are) full of kind love.
You do not leave (your people when they have trouble).
v16 Turn to me and give me *mercy. Make (me) your servant strong
and make the son of your woman servant safe.
v17 Show me something that tells me that you are good.
Let my enemies see it and be ashamed.
Because you, *LORD, have given me help and been kind to me.