Commentary on Psalms (42 - 89)
© by Francis Foulkes
& Cyril Okorocha



"1. LORD, you were favourable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2. You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah
3. You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.

4. Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us.
5. Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6. Will you not revive us again,
so that your people may rejoice in you?
7. Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.

8. Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12. The LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13. Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps."

Like many other psalms this one looks back and recalls the goodness of God in the past, forgiving and restoring his people after they had suffered great loss through turning away from him (verses 1-3). It then describes the troubles being faced in the present. The people had turned aside again from the Lord and were suffering under God's righteous anger and chastening, so that they pray for his mercy and saving power (verses 4-7). Then there is hope because God gives a message of peace (verses 8-9). That made them think of the blessing of knowing the steadfast love and faithfulness of God in a new way, by the people responding to live righteous lives and so finding God's blessing anew on their land (verses 10-13). Prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel made very clear that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 587 B.C. took place because of the people's unfaithfulness. But God restored the people, forgave their sin and brought them back to their land (Isaiah 40:1-11 and Jeremiah 33:7-9 speak of this restoration). That may be the restoration of which verses 1-3 speak. Then there were difficult times as the books of Haggai and Zechariah describe, and later the times of Nehemiah and Ezra. Haggai 1:1-11 shows how they failed to put God first and therefore they lost his blessing on them. So they prayed for a renewal of God's work among them, and looked forward to the time when righteousness and peace would flourish in the land.

Looking back

We can always look back and see God's blessings on us in the past. So Israel could do, and could say how good God had been to them. They knew that they had not deserved his favour, but he had forgiven them. The word translated "pardoned" in verse 2 is literally "covered". All their sin had been pardoned by God's grace, and all his righteous anger that they deserved because of their rejection of his laws had been taken away.

Looking round

The people were in need of God's mercy again. They had sinned, and their sin and rebellion stood between them and God, and they were unable to enjoy the blessing of his presence. God seemed far away. Would their failure separate them from God's blessing for ever? We have found the plea of verses 5 and 6 in some of the psalms before this one (see 74:1, 79:5 and 80:4). "Will you not revive us again?" they asked. It was nothing less than new life that they needed, like the dry bones coming to life in Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Then too they would be restored the joy of God's salvation of which Psalm 51:12 speaks.

Looking forward

Often God's word comes in answer to his people's prayers. Those who ask for guidance and help should take the attitude of the psalmist in verse 8, "Let me hear what God the Lord will speak". God's word was "peace". We have noted before that the Hebrew word shalom is the same as has come into many African and Asian languages as salaam or something similar, with the meaning of 'perfect wholeness' or 'total well-being'. It means more than the English word 'peace'. It speaks of true welfare and so really involves God's "salvation --- for those who fear him", and the "glory" of his presence (verse 9).

If people experience the "steadfast love" and "faithfulness" and "righteousness" of God (verse 10), what more could they want or need? True righteousness and real peace belong together, as God's gifts, in the lives of individuals or nations. One cannot exist without the other. That is what the Igbo of S. E. Nigeria describe as Ezi-ndu, life that involves total well-being as well as the fullness of justice and moral uprightness. Then verse 11 may mean that it is cause for celebration when God's righteousness (from heaven) and human faithfulness (from earth) meet together. When they meet in the life of a nation, there will truly be blessing in the land. When they meet in the life of an individual, peace and joy result. The last verse of the psalm reminds us that the paths that God sets for us to follow are always paths of righteousness. That is the message also of the Shepherd Psalm, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:3, New International Version). It is when we order our lives along those "paths of righteousness" under the guidance of the word of God that we can enjoy "good" or lasting success, God's shalom (Joshua 1:8). The teaching of Jesus is the same when he says, "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness" and leave everything else in God's hands (Matthew 6:33).

Meditation "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6).

For further thought and study

a. In what ways should we think of the words used in verses 10 and 11 as describing God, and in what ways should we see those qualities and the ones that God wants to see in our human lives?

b. Think out how the blessings spoken of in this psalm are blessings that we find realised most of all in Jesus Christ, in his life, and in what he has done for us by his death and resurrection.


1. Verse 4 could be translated "restore us" or "turn us" (Revised Version); Good News Bible has "bring us back". In fact we depend on God's help to turn as back to him and to restore us to a right relationship with him when we stray from him. Both God's part and our part are expressed in the words of Lamentations 5:21, "Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored". Many of us know from experience that new year resolutions come to nothing, and mystic guides to perfection or the perfect life are frustrating at best in dealing with the sin factor in human life (see Colossians 2:20-23). We cannot do without the help of God.

2. Our translation at the end of verse 8 "to those who turn to him in their hearts" depends on the early Greek and Latin translations, but the Hebrew text means "let them not return to folly" (New International Version). If that is read, it is a warning. God offers peace to those who turn to him, but they must not go back to folly or unfaithfulness (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).