God’s Word for You
Psalm 85:1-3 You covered over all their sins
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 8, 2019
This Psalm divides neatly into two parts. First there is a confession faith in God’s saving acts, and then there is a response to God’s salvation. It would be simple and by no means simplistic to say that here we have justification and sanctification divided only by a prayer (vss. 4-7) for God to carry out what he has promised.
For the choir director. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
This is another Psalm by the Sons of Korah, a group of Levites (perhaps priests) who served in the temple in the time of David or Solomon and who loved singing praises to our Saving God.
1 You showed favor to your land, O LORD,
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered over all their sins. Selah
3 You set aside all your wrath
and turned away your fierce anger.
Our ‘Son of Korah’ gets right to it. This is the most important point in all of religion; all of theology. What is man’s relationship to God and to his own sinfulness? David had said, “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the LORD’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). Our Son of Korah restates David’s words and states it four more ways for good measure. What does it mean that God “forgave” iniquity (guilt)? It means that God “set aside” all his wrath; he turned away his fierce anger. What does it mean that God “covered over all their sins”? It means that he showed favor to the land, that he restored the (ruined) fortunes of Jacob. Jacob here stands for all the children of Israel, wherever they might be.
This happened because of God’s mercy, and it happened through God’s promise. His promise was given to Noah: “I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures” (Genesis 9:15). He will draw back his hand from destroying the earth with water, and he will only bring about the final destruction of the world (with fire) after everything else has been fulfilled. To Jeremiah he said: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This forgiveness is offered to everyone in the world, and only those without any faith in Christ lose hold of it.
This forgiveness was the Chief Event of history. Outside the walls of Jerusalem, on the hill called Golgotha, the Son of God was lifted up on the tree of the cross to pay for the sins of all mankind. His payment was sufficient because the One crucified was the Son of God. His blood has infinite value. His payment was possible because the One crucified was also the son of man, the child of Mary of Nazareth, a human being who was able to bleed and die. He took the full brunt of God’s wrath on himself, which is the reason that God’s wrath has turned aside from us. The payment we owed has been paid. We put our trust in Jesus, and the payment stands on his merits, not ours. We are forgiven, and that good news motivates everything we do. Share that gospel with your words and with your life. Be a mirror today and not a cloud, so that you “reflect the Lord’s glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is true that “as water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19), but we should all strive to reflect the love of Christ, and the forgiveness he offers to all.
Pastor Timothy Smith