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Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Like many of the Psalms, Psalm 85 is a prayer to God for renewal of life among His people. There’s a deep understanding that all things come from the hand of the Lord. It starts with a simple recognition that God is the author of our salvation. God is the One who has the ultimate authority to forgive. As verse 2 says, God has “forgiven your people’s wrongdoing; you’ve covered all their sins.”

Reflecting upon this, Saint Jerome (d. 420) insisted that until the Lord restores us to life, we all are dead. God becoming incarnate in Jesus is a work of His mercy, then. In beautiful prose, Jerome writes that “because so many were sick, He came as Physician. Because we were in need of compassion, He came as Savior.”

Jerome’s contemporary, Saint Augustine (d. 430) continued this thought. “Let us claim no credit for anything we are, provided it is by faith in Him we are whatever we are…. For whatever we have received let us give Him the glory, Him the honor, and may He water the seeds He has sown.” And then, quoting from Psalm 85, he asks, “What would our land have if He had not sown anything? He too sends the rain. ‘The Lord will give His sweetness, and our land will yield its fruit.’”

Though it is not a proscribed verse in the passage for this week, verse 7 may be read as the key verse in the chapter, certainly echoing the words of Augustine: “Show us your faithful love, Lord! Give us your salvation!” It, like the rest of the chapter, both looks back to all that God had done in redeeming and restoring life in the past and looks forward to the promised shalom that God had promised. The description of this promised life is found in verses 9-13:

“…His glory can live in our land.

Faithful love and truth have met;

righteousness and peace have kissed.