I will hear what God the Lord will speak…peace unto his people.

Psalm 85:8

The living God has spoken to lost mankind in a variety of ways. The general response among us has been, “We did not hear His voice. We did not hear anything.”

John recorded in his gospel the reactions of an audience of people who heard God speak audibly. When Jesus talked of His coming death, asking God to glorify His name through it, “a voice [came] from heaven saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:28).

And what were the reactions of the bystanders? “The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him” (John 12:29).

People prefer their own logic, their own powers of reason. Even when God speaks, they refuse to recognize His voice. They will not confess that God has spoken through Jesus Christ, the eternal Son. When He confronts them with their sin, they consult a psychiatrist and hope they can get their personalities “properly adjusted.”

But in a coming day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!

Almighty God, I am so grateful that You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us and to show us the way of eternal life. I pray that many seekers will bow before You today.[1]

8 In submission to the Lord, the people await his response. The “I” of this verse may be the voice of the psalmist or of a prophet awaiting the Lord’s response. He receives assurance that the Lord will “speak” (NIV, “promises”) “peace” (šālôm) and thus grant to his people relief from their grief. After all, they are “his people,” i.e., his “loyal people” (“saints,” asîdāyw; see 4:3). The saints are those who do not “return to folly.”[2]

85:8 peace. Ultimately this comes in the Messiah’s kingdom (cf. Mt 10:34; Lk 2:14).[3]

85:8–9 I Will Listen to Hear His Word of Peace. Now the members of the congregation declare their patience in watching for God to act on their prayer. The song has shifted from the plural “we” to the singular “I”: let me hear. Each member is thus making this pledge. There is confidence that God will speak peace to his people, i.e., he will agree to the reconciliation they have asked for in vv. 4–7. At the same time, the psalmist prays, let them not turn back to folly; i.e., the people who are appealing to God’s benevolence should make sure that their repentance is genuine, and that they really do aim for faithfulness and really intend not to repeat the folly (moral stupidity) that provoked God’s anger. The word saints (Hb. khasid) reinforces this, since it refers to members of the covenant people who take the covenant to heart and walk in obedience before God. Therefore the force of this is, “to his people, especially to his saints.” Likewise God’s salvation (which they had requested in v. 7) is near to those who fear him, i.e., again, to those who lay hold of the promises of God’s covenant by genuine faith and obedience. The people should never presume upon God’s gracious response to their prayers, as if it comes “automatically.” Thus, as the Israelites wait for God to speak, they can evaluate their own sincerity.[4]

85:8–9 The identity of the voice in vv. 8–9 is unclear; it may be the individual psalmist or the nation as a group. This unit may portray a liturgical statement that the people of Israel would speak during the performance of the psalm. The psalmist asks to hear what God will say in the future when He rescues His people (v. 8) and expresses hope in God’s loyalty to His faithful people (v. 9). Compare note on vv. title–13.

85:8 peace The Hebrew word shalom can refer to overall well-being and wholeness. See note on 120:6.

let them not return to folly By Yahweh being faithful to Israel, He will enable His people to be faithful to Him in return (see Jer 31:31–34; compare Jer 32:36–41).

85:9 those who fear him Refers to those who honor God by worshiping Him and following His commandments.

in our land Although the psalmist does not specifically mention the captivity or exile of God’s people, he seems to imply it by stating that glory does not presently dwell in the land of Israel.[5]

85:8–9 These verses recount the promise of restoration and a word of exhortation.

85:8 me. The community has been speaking as a unit up to this point (“us”), but now an individual steps forward. Whoever he is (priest or prophet), he speaks on behalf of God.

he will speak peace. The word for “peace” (Heb. shalom) indicates health and wholeness, and, like “steadfast love” (v. 7), it is a word intimately associated with the covenant. God promises the restoration of intimate relationship with His people.

saints. Formed from the same root as “steadfast love” (v. 7) and denotes those who are the objects of God’s covenant love.[6]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 641). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 85:8). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1045). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 85:8–9). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 931). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


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