I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. ( Psalm 85:8-10)
Psalm 85 is a prayer for revival. The psalmist is speaking for all of the godly, pleading in view of previous mercies from God, that wrath would be turned away, and that God’s people would be brought back to life again.
In response, We are told that God will speak peace to his people, but then cautioned, “let them not turn again to folly”.
The New Testament version of this would be something like, “Be healed, now go and sin no more”.
What we are hearing in this Psalm is the combination of two of the attributes of God; Mercy and Truth.
God is Love. He is merciful and slow to anger, abounding in forgiveness, and compassion. He loves man, and hates to see us suffer. “As a Father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him, as far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our Transgressions from us… If you should mark iniquities, Oh Lord , who could stand? But with you there is forgivenes hat you may be feared …” (Psalm 103 and Psalm 130).
But at the same time, God is Holy. He hates all that is false, evil, sinful and perverted. He ceaselessly opposes everything that is wrong. He hates unrighteousness, sin, iniquity, rebellion and transgression. He must exercise Divine vengeance upon all of it, and can never make peace with anything sinful.
How can the two be reconciled? How can God be merciful, and yet consistent with his absolute holiness and righteousness? Will the most High compromise the one for the other? Will he put aside for even a second, His holiness, in the name of mercy and forgiveness? Will he suppress his great compassion and tendency to forgive, so that he can express his Righteous wrath?
God cannot contradict himself. His attributes are all absolute, and cannot be divided or partitioned. He is not ‘half righteous and half mercy’, He is all Righteous and all Merciful at one and the same time.
God can never at anytime be less than Love, nor can he ever come short of pure holiness. Love calls for mercy for sinners, Holiness calls for the punishment of sinners.
Moses heard the LORD put it this way, in God’s stunning self description in Exodus 34:
“And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-8)
Do you see the two highlighted phrases? “Keeping mercy for thousands …” ? That would be Mercy. “By no means clearing the guilty?” That would be His Truth. How can the two attributes be reconciled? How can God be both Love and Mercy, yet at the same time Righteous and Holy?
The answer, which is anticipated in Psalm 85, is the cross of Jesus. On the cross God’s attributes of mercy and Truth met together, because there… Sin was answered for, and judged. The wrath of God was fully expressed upon the God appointed substitute.
But also on the cross of Jesus, the mercy of God was fully expressed. It was there that “God loved the world….”, in sending his Son to take our place in judgment. By his death, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God against sin
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Colossians 2:13-14)
Finally, Righteousness (Right standing with God), and Peace, (Reconciliation with God have embraced).God has made a righteous way for sinners to come to Him.
No wonder we worship and adore him with trembling lips singing, “Holy God we Praise thy name, Lord of all we bow before thee…”.