Theme: Waiting for God’s Answer
In this week’s lessons we find encouragement from the knowledge of God’s past faithfulness, and the hope of future blessings because of who he is.
Scripture: Psalm 85:1-13
Having reminded himself of God’s past mercies and having prayed for a renewal of those mercies in his own day, what does the psalmist do next? He does what Habakkuk did in a nearly identical situation. He waits for God to answer (vv. 8, 9). The text says, “I will listen to what God the LORD will say.”
Habakkuk was a minor prophet who lived in a time when Israel was far from the Lord, and he asked God to send a revival, which is exactly what the author of Psalm 85 is doing. Unfortunately, God told Habakkuk that he was going to send judgment by allowing the Babylonians to invade Judah and carry the people into captivity instead. This raised tremendous anxiety and fear in Habakkuk, and he asked God a number of questions about it. He could not understand how God could use an ungodly nation to punish people who, though they were not very godly at this time, were nevertheless at least more godly than the Babylonians. Habakkuk asked his questions, then said, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint (Hab. 2:1).
When God answered, it was to say that in time the Babylonian nation would itself be judged and that, in the meantime, the righteous were to live by faith (Hab. 2:4). This is the great verse which, carried over into the book of Romans, was used by God in the conversion of Martin Luther and which thus became the theme verse of the Protestant Reformation.
It is never foolish to wait upon God, for God is not slow to answer. Our problem is that we are impatient and do not wait for him at all. In fact, it is often the case that we do not even lay our requests before him. We do not pray. While he had been waiting for God to answer, the psalmist found his mind turning expectantly to what God would do. He remembered that God had promised “peace” to his people. He reminded himself that the Lord’s “salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” This leads him to look ahead in the last stanza (vv. 10-13) to that brighter promised day, and thus to encourage his spirit by what was surely coming, though it might be delayed. Looking ahead to this bright future is the fourth and last step by which the writer shows us how to rise out of our discouragements into a more faithful frame of mind.
Verse 10 is one of the great poetic sections of the psalms, and it has very naturally appealed to many persons. It is best known in the King James Version: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
This is generally understood as pointing to the work of Jesus Christin making atonement for our sins by which alone God is able both to satisfy the demands of his righteousness or justice and at the same time to show mercy to those who have fallen short of his just standards. This may be part of what is involved. But the picture painted by these verses is larger and more comprehensive than that. These verses are actually looking forward to an ideal state and time when the harmony that is in God will also pervade and dominate God’s creation. Derek Kidner says of this stanza, “The climax is one of the most satisfying descriptions of concord—spiritual, moral and material—to be found anywhere in Scripture.”1
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 308.
What does it mean to wait for God?
What did Habakkuk ask for? What did God deliver? What lesson did this provide for the people? How does this lesson apply to your life?
To what did the psalmist look? How did that provide encouragement?
Reflection: Do you give God a chance to answer your prayers? What might be reasons why your prayers seem delayed?
Key Point: It is never foolish to wait upon God, for God is not slow to answer. Our problem is that we are impatient and do not wait for him at all.
For Further Study: We do not always understand the ways of the Lord. But we certainly know that we can trust him in all circumstances that concern us. Download and listen for free to two messages from James Boice, both from Romans 11: “The Amazing Ways of God” and “The Inscrutable God.” (Discounts will be applied at checkout.)