Psalm 85:8

 

EXPOSITION

Having offered earnest intercession for the afflicted but penitent nation, the sacred poet in the true spirit of faith awaits a response from the sacred oracle. He pauses in joyful confidence, and then in ecstatic triumph he give utterance to his hopes in the richest form of song.

Verse 8. I will hear what God the LORD will speak. When we believe that God hears us, it is but natural that we should be eager to hear him. Only from him can come the word which can speak peace to troubled spirits; the voices of men are feeble in such a case, a plaister far too narrow for the sore; but God's voice is power, he speaks and it is done, and hence when we hear him our distress is ended. Happy is the suppliant who has grace to lie patiently at the Lord's door, and wait until his love shall act according to its old wont and chase all sorrow far away.

For he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints. Even though for a while his voice is stern with merited rebuke, he will not always chide, the Great Father will reassume his natural tone of gentleness and pity. The speaking of peace is the peculiar prerogative of the Lord Jehovah, and deep, lasting, ay, eternal, is the peace he thus creates. Yet not to all does the divine word bring peace, but only to his own people, whom he means to make saints, and those whom he has already made so.

But let them not turn again to folly. For if they do so, his rod will fall upon them again, and their peace will be invaded. Those who would enjoy communion with God must be jealous of themselves, and avoid all that would grieve the Holy Spirit; not only the grosser sins, but even the follies of life must be guarded against by those who are favoured with the delights of conscious fellowship. We serve a jealous God, and must needs therefore be incessantly vigilant against evil. Backsliders should study this verse with the utmost care, it will console them and yet warn them, draw the back to their allegiance, and at the same time inspire them with a wholesome fear of going further astray. To turn again to folly is worse than being foolish for once; it argues wilfulness and obstinacy, and it involves the soul in sevenfold sin. There is no fool like the man who will be a fool cost him what it may.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. I will hear, etc. The true attitude for a sinner to take in the presence of divine revelation, is that of a listener. To enter the place of a doer before you have occupied that of a listener, is to reverse God's order, and throw everything into confusion. Adam tried this plan, and found it a failure. He tried "works." He "sewed fig leaves together," but it was no use. He could not even satisfy his own conscience, or remove his guilty fear. He had to listen to the voice of God -- to hearken to divine revelation. "Things New and Old." 1859.

Verse 8. I will hear, etc. The eye as a mere organ of sense must give place to the ear. Therefore it is wittily observed, that our Saviour commanding the abscession of the offending hand, foot, and eye, ( Mark 9:43-47 ), yet never spake of the ear. If thy hand, thy foot, or thine eye, cause thee to offend, deprive thyself of them; but part not with thine ear, for that is an organ to derive unto thy soul's salvation. As Christ says there, a man may enter into heaven, lamed in his feet, as Mephibosheth, blind in his sight, as Barzillai, maimed in his hand, as the dry handed man in the gospel; but if there be not an ear to hear of the way, there will be no foot to enter into heaven. If God be not first in the ear, he is neither sanctifiedly in the mouth, nor comfortably in the heart. The Jews had eyes to see Christ's miracles, but because they had no ears to hear his wisdom, therefore they had no feet to enter into his kingdom. The way into the house is by the door, not by the window: the eye is but the window of the heart, the ear is the door. Now Christ stands knocking at the door, not at the window. Revelation 3:20 . And he will not come in at the window, but at the door. "He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." John 10:2 . He comes now in by his oracles, now by his miracles. "To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice," John 10:3 . The way to open and let him in is by the door; to hear his voice. There was a man in the gospel blind and deaf; blind eyes is ill; but deaf ears, worse. It is bad to have the eyes seeled (Seel, to close up: a term in falconry), but worse to have the ears sealed up. Open your ears therefore to this heavenly voice. Bernard hath this description of a good ear: Which willingly hears what is taught, wisely understands what it heareth, and obediently practises what it understandeth. O give me such an ear, and I will hang on it jewels of gold, ornaments of praise. Thomas Adams.

Verse 8. I will hear, etc. My text carries in it a poetical allusion to the consulting of the cloud of glory, which was between the cherubims, and to the receiving answer from it, upon all critical occasions. David turned his thoughts from all the other views he might have, to this, I will hear what God the Lord will speak and that so he might depend wholly on the assurances that he should receive of God's favour, upon the repentance and prayers of the people; and in consideration of God's covenant with them, he knew the answer would be peace; which being the form of salutation in those ages, among friends, imported as entire reconciliation. So that by speaking peace is to be understood as assurance of God's love and favour to his people, and to his saints: that is, to the people that was sanctified, and dedicated to the service of God by so many federal rites. Gilbert Burnet, 1643-1714-5.

Verse 8. I will hear what God the Lord will speak. Carnal men speak peace to themselves on account of some supposed goodness in themselves. And unsound professors steal peace from God's promises, such as Isaiah 55:7 Hosea 14:4 . But an upright heart will not be satisfied without hearing God speak peace to his heart by his Spirit. And for this he will pray, and wait, and hearken, and when God speaks peace, there comes such sweetness with it, and such discovery of his love, as lays a powerful influence on the soul not to turn again to folly. This peace is an humbling, melting peace, which brings humiliation to the soul as well as joy; but this never happens when men speak peace to themselves. John Berridge, 1716-1793.

Verse 8. I will hear what God the LORD will speak, etc. His prayer being finished, and he having spoke, he now stands and listens, as you used to do when you expect an echo, what echo he should have, what answer would be returned from heaven, whether his prayer had already come: I will hear what the Lord will speak; or, as some read it, I will hear what the Lord doth speak: for sometimes there is a present echo, a speedy answer returned to a man's heart, even ere the prayer is half finished. He will speak peace. When the child of God wants peace, he can have no peace till God speaks it... Let God's people be in never so great distress, yet it is an easy thing for God to give peace to them. Mark the expression here used: it is but speaking peace, that is, it is as easy for him to give peace as it is for you to speak a word; it is no more to him. Then our comfort is, that as he only must do it, so he easily can do it, even with a word. Thomas Goodwin.

Verse 8. He will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, etc. The voice of the Lord is comfortable, and his words are sweet to those that fear him. It is a plain sign that all is not well with us, when the voice of God doth cast us into fear, when we are afraid to hear the word preached, when just reproofs of our sins are unwelcome to us, and anger us, and make us think the less of our minister that chideth and threateneth us. A good life and a well governed conversation doth not fear the voice of God; the word of God is the light which God hath set up in his church, to guide her feet in the ways of peace. They that do evil hate the light, and will not come near it, lest their works should be reproved; the children of the light resort to it, and call upon God: "Search my veins and my heart, and see if there be any way of wickedness in me." Edward Marbury.

Verse 8. To his people and to his saints. He will give prosperity to the people in general; and to his saints -- his followers, in particular. Adam Clarke.

Verse 8. To his saints. It is remarkable that we have the suffrage of a celebrated Jewish writer, Kimchi, to understand the word rendered saints in this place, of the godly among the Gentiles, as distinguished from the Lord's people, the Jews. John Fry.

Verse 8. He will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not return again to folly. This imports that if his saints turn again to folly, which by woeful experience we find too frequently done, God may change his voice, and turn his peace, formerly spoken, into a warlike defiance to their conscience. Thomas Fuller.

Verse 8. But let them not turn again to folly. If God did not in the end speak peace, they would indeed return to folly. For his end of speaking peace is, that they might not return to folly: Psalms 125:3 , "The rod of the wicked shall not always be upon the righteous, lest they put forth their hand to iniquity;" therefore, at the last verse, "peace shall be upon Israel"

As it is a rule in physic still to maintain nature, and therefore when that shall be in hazard to be destroyed, they leave giving purging physic, and give cordials; so doth God with his people: though with purging physic he often brings their spirits very weak and low, yet he will uphold and maintain their spirits, so as they shall not fail and be extinguished, but then he will give cordials to raise them up again. Thomas Goodwin.

Verse 8. It is hard to know, in spiritual exercises, whether is be more difficult to attain some good frame, or to keep and maintain it when it is attained; whether more seriousness is required for making peace with God, or for keeping of it when made; whether more diligence should be in preparing for a communion, or more watchfulness after it: sure both are required; and it was our blessed Lord's word, Matthew 26:41 , after the first celebration of his supper, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Here that saying holds eminently: "Non minor est virtus, quam quaerere, parta tueri:" no less virtue and valour is requisite to maintain, than to make a purchase or conquest. In the words there are,

  1. A great mercy promised from the Lord to his people, viz., He will speak peace to them.
  2. A special caveat and advertisement given them, pointing at their hazard: But let them not turn again to folly: that is, let not his people and saints to whom he hath spoken peace, return to sin; let them beware of bourding (Bourding -- jesting), and dallying with God's mercy, and of turning his grace into wantonness, of cooling in their affections to him, of slipping back to their old way, and of embracing their old lovers and idols: for that is folly, even in folio, to speak so. James Durham, in "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ."

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8.

  1. We should look for an answer to prayer. Having
    spoken to God, we should hear what he has to say to
    us in reply.
    1. In his word.
    2. In his providence.
    3. By his Spirit in our own souls.
    4. We should look for an answer of peace: He will
      speak peace.
    5. We should avoid whatever might deprive us of that
      peace: But let them not turn, etc. G. R.

Verse 8. Thomas Goodwin has three sermons upon this verse, (First clause), entitled The Return of Prayers. (Second clause). -- Tidings of Peace. (Last clause) -- The Folly of Relapsing after Peace spoken.

Verse 8. (last clause). They should not turn again to folly,

  1. Because it will be a greater aggravation in sinning. It is made the aggravation of Solomon's sin ( 1 Kings 11:9 ), that "God had appeared to him twice."
  2. The second reason is intimated in the word folly: as if the Lord should have said, Set aside the unkindness and wrong you do to me, yet therein you befool yourselves; you will have the worst of it. T. Goodwin.