Summary: Mercy and truth meet together, & righteousness and peace embrace - in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
A VISION OF SALVATION
First, the Psalmist remembers the favour and forgiveness of the LORD (Psalm 85:1-3). This is a good place to begin in our petitions to God, rather than diving into our shopping list of requests. We base our belief that God will give us a favourable answer in His past mercy.
Secondly, he pleads with the God of our salvation to repeat what He has done in the past (Psalm 85:4-7): turn us (Psalm 85:4); cease to be angry with us (Psalm 85:5); revive us so that we might rejoice in Thee (Psalm 85:6); be merciful to us (Psalm 85:7). The need for these tokens of salvation is ongoing in the believer’s - and the church’s - life.
Thirdly, the Psalmist - the believer, standing for the church - stops in his tracks and listens to what God has to say (Psalm 85:8-9). It is as we systematically and habitually study the Bible that we will be in a position to hear the still small voice which applies God’s Word to our own perplexities. This is a good place to receive an answer to our prayers.
The LORD promises peace, providing we do not return to folly (Psalm 85:8). When we have a true evangelical fear (reverence) of God, the fullness of His salvation draws near (Psalm 85:9). God’s glory returned to the Temple in Jerusalem (Haggai 2:9), and from there the peace of the Gospel emanated throughout the world (Acts 1:8).
Fourthly, the vision of this salvation is seen in the pencil sketches of the closing verses (Psalm 85:10-13). Four characteristics meet and embrace (Psalm 85:10), and heaven and earth work together to secure our salvation (Psalm 85:11-12). The LORD Himself is seen walking in our midst (Psalm 85:13), just as He did in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8).
The four characteristics are:
1. Mercy, arising out of a steadfast covenant love;
2. Truth, and faithfulness to the truth;
3. Righteousness, or justice, arising out of a right relationship with God;
4. Peace, indicating completion, perfection, fullness, health, success, well-being, rest, harmony, and prosperity.
Where do mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace embrace? In the Cross of Jesus Christ, where God is both just and the Justifier (Romans 3:26): meting out just judgment upon sin whilst at the same time being merciful to the sinners (Isaiah 53:4-6). There God’s justice is not violated, but rather His righteousness fulfilled; and there we are “justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
God’s truth is personified in our great High Priest, who in the incarnation effectively “sprang out of the earth” (Psalm 85:11). God’s righteousness looks upon those whom He has justified as being made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Thus we see the joining of the interests of heaven and earth in the mission of our redemption (Luke 2:14).
Subsequently, we see the earth yielding her increase (Psalm 85:12). This is clearly a gift of God, but also a consequence of right priorities (Matthew 6:33). Only when we put God first will righteousness flourish, and have free course in the world of men (Psalm 85:13).