We have here an answer to the prayers and expostulations in the Ps. 85:1-7.
I. In general, it is an answer of peace. This the psalmist is soon aware of (Ps. 85:8), for he stands upon his watch-tower to hear what God will say unto him, as the prophet, Hab. 2:1, 2. I will hear what God the Lord will speak. This intimates, 1. The stilling of his passions—his grief, his fear—and the tumult of his spirit which they occasioned: “Compose thyself, O my soul! in a humble silence to attend upon God and wait his motions. I have spoken enough, or too much; now I will hear what God will speak, and welcome his holy will. What saith my Lord unto his servant?” If we would have God to hear what we say to him by prayer, we must be ready to hear what he says to us by his word. 2. The raising of his expectation; now that he has been at prayer he looks for something very great, and very kind, from the God that hears prayer. When we have prayed we should look after our prayers, and stay for an answer. Now observe here, (1.) What it is that he promises himself from God, in answer to his prayers: He will speak peace to his people, and to his saints. There are a people in the world who are God’s people, set apart for him, subject to him, and who shall be saved by him. All his people are his saints, sanctified by his grace and devoted to his glory; these may sometimes want peace, when without are fightings and within are fears; but, sooner or later, God will speak peace to them; if he do not command outward peace, yet he will suggest inward peace, speaking that to their hearts by his Spirit which he has spoken to their ears by his word and ministers and making them to hear joy and gladness. (2.) What use he makes of this expectation. [1.] He takes the comfort of it; and so must we: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak, hear the assurances he gives of peace, in answer to prayer.” When God speaks peace we must not be deaf to it, but with all humility and thankfulness receive it. [2.] He cautions the saints to do the duty which this calls for: But let them not turn again to folly; for it is on these terms, and no other, that peace is to be expected. To those, and those only, peace is spoken, who turn from sin; but, if they return to it again, it is at their peril. All sin is folly, but especially backsliding; it is egregious folly to turn to sin after we have seemed to turn from it, to turn to it after God has spoken peace. God is for peace, but, when he speaks, such are for war.
II. Here are the particulars of this answer of peace. He doubts not but all will be well in a little time, and therefore gives us the pleasing prospect of the flourishing estate of the church in the Ps. 85:9-13 of the psalm, which describe the peace and prosperity that God, at length, blessed the children of the captivity with, when, after a great deal of toil and agitation, at length they gained a settlement in their own land. But it may be taken both as a promise also to all who fear God and work righteousness, that they shall be easy and happy, and as a prophecy of the kingdom of the Messiah and the blessings with which that kingdom should be enriched. Here is,
1. Help at hand (Ps. 85:9): “Surely his salvation is nigh, nigh to us, nigher than we think it is: it will soon be effected, how great soever our difficulties and distresses are, when God’s time shall come, and that time is not far off.” When the tale of bricks is doubled, then Moses comes. It is nigh to all who fear him; when trouble is nigh salvation is nigh, for God is a very present help in time of trouble to all who are his; whereas salvation is far from the wicked, Ps. 119:155. This may fitly be applied to Christ the author of eternal salvation: it was the comfort of the Old-Testament saints that, though they lived not to see that redemption in Jerusalem which they waited for, yet they were sure it was nigh, and would be welcome, to all that fear God.
2. Honour secured: “That glory may dwell in our land, that we may have the worship of God settled and established among us; for that is the glory of a land. When that goes, Ichabod—the glory has departed; when that stays glory dwells.” This may refer to the Messiah, who was to be the glory of his people Israel, and who came and dwelt among them (John 1:4), for which reason their land is called Immanuel’s land, Isa. 8:8.
3. Graces meeting, and happily embracing (Ps. 85:10, 11): Mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, kiss each other. This may be understood, (1.) Of the reformation of the people and of the government, in the administration of which all those graces should be conspicuous and commanding. The rulers and ruled shall all be merciful and true, righteous and peaceable. When there is no truth nor mercy all goes to ruin (Hos. 4:1; Isa. 59:14, 15); but when these meet in the management of all affairs, when these give aim, when these give law, when there is such plenty of truth that it sprouts up like the grass of the earth, and of righteousness that it is showered down like rain from heaven, then things go well. When in every congress mercy and truth meet, in every embrace righteousness and peace kiss, and common honesty is indeed common, then glory dwells in a land, as the sin of reigning dishonesty is a reproach to any people. (2.) Of the return of God’s favour, and the continuance of it, thereupon. When a people return to God and adhere to him in a way of duty he will return to them and abide with them in a way of mercy. So some understand this, man’s truth and God’s mercy, man’s righteousness and God’s peace, meet together. If God find us true to him, to one another, to ourselves, we shall find him merciful. If we make conscience of righteousness, we shall have the comfort of peace. If truth spring out of the earth, that is (as Dr. Hammond expounds it), out of the hearts of men, the proper soil for it to grow in, righteousness (that is, God’s mercy) shall look down from heaven, as the sun does upon the world when it sheds its influences on the productions of the earth and cherishes them. (3.) Of the harmony of the divine attributes in the Messiah’s undertaking. In him who is both our salvation and our glory mercy and truth have met together; God’s mercy and truth, and his righteousness and peace, have kissed each other; that is, the great affair of our salvation is so well contrived, so well concerted, that God may have mercy upon poor sinners, and be at peace with them, without any wrong to his truth and righteousness. He is true to the threatening, and just in his government, and yet pardons sinners and takes them into covenant with himself. Christ, as Mediator, brings heaven and earth together again, which sin had set at variance; through him truth springs out of the earth, that truth which God desires in the inward part, and then righteousness looks down from heaven; for God is just, and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus. Or it may denote that in the kingdom of the Messiah these graces shall flourish and prevail and have a universal command.
4. Great plenty of every thing desirable (Ps. 85:12): The Lord shall give that which is good, every thing that he sees to be good for us. All good comes from God’s goodness; and when mercy, truth, and righteousness, have a sovereign influence on men’s hearts and lives, all good may be expected. If we thus seek the righteousness of God’s kingdom, other things shall be added; Matt. 6:33. When the glory of the gospel dwells in our land, then it shall yield its increase, for soul-prosperity will either bring outward prosperity along with it or sweeten the want of it. See Ps. 67:6.
5. A sure guidance in the good way (Ps. 85:13): The righteousness of his promise which he has made to us, assuring us of happiness, and the righteousness of sanctification, that good work which he has wrought in us, these shall go before him to prepare his way, both to raise our expectations of his favour and to qualify us for it; and these shall go before us also, and be our guide to set us in the way of his steps, that is, to encourage our hopes and guide our practice, that we may go forth to meet him when he is coming towards us in ways of mercy. Christ, the sun of righteousness, shall bring us to God, and put us into the way that leads to him. John Baptist, a preacher of righteousness, shall go before Christ to prepare his way. Righteousness is a sure guide both in meeting God and in following him.