Psalm 85:13
Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
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(13) Righteousness shall . . .—Better, Righteousness shall walk in front of Him, and follow in His steps.

Nothing is more instructive than the blending in Psalm 85:12-13 of material and moral blessings. They do go together, as experience, especially national testifies. In the same spirit is Wordsworth’s well-known Ode to Duty:

“Stern Law-giver! Yet thou dost wear

The Godhead’s most benignant grace,

Nor know we anything so fair

As is the smile upon thy face.

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,

And fragrance in thy footing treads:

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,

And the most ancient heavens through Thee are

fresh and strong.”

85:8-13 Sooner or later, God will speak peace to his people. If he do not command outward peace, yet he will suggest inward peace; speaking to their hearts by his Spirit. Peace is spoken only to those who turn from sin. All sin is folly, especially backsliding; it is the greatest folly to return to sin. Surely God's salvation is nigh, whatever our difficulties and distresses are. Also, his honour is secured, that glory may dwell in our land. And the truth of the promises is shown by the Divine mercy in sending the Redeemer. The Divine justice is now satisfied by the great atonement. Christ, the way, truth, and life, sprang out of the earth when he took our nature upon him, and Divine justice looked upon him well pleased and satisfied. For his sake all good things, especially his Holy Spirit, are given to those who ask him. Through Christ, the pardoned sinner becomes fruitful in good works, and by looking to and trusting in the Saviour's righteousness, finds his feet set in the way of his steps. Righteousness is a sure guide, both in meeting God, and in following himRighteousness shall go before him - Shall anticipate his coming, and prepare his way. The idea seems to be, that in order to his appearing, there would be a proclamation of righteousness, and a preparation for his advent by the diffusion of righteousness among the people; in other words, the nation, in the prospect of his coming, would turn from sin, and would seek to be prepared for his appearing. Thus John proclaimed the coining of the Redeemer, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:2. So also "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Matthew 3:3.

And shall set us in the way of his steps - This might be rendered, "and set its steps for a way;" that is, the steps which would be taken by him would indicate the way in which his people should walk. Perhaps, however, the common interpretation best expresses the sense of the passage. According to that, the idea is, that the effect of his coming would be to dispose people to walk in the way of the steps which he took; to be his imitators and followers. The general thought is, that his coming would have the effect of turning the people to the paths of righteousness and truth. This is the designed effect of all the visitations of God to our world.

12, 13. and, under this, the deserted land shall be productive, and men be "set," or guided in God's holy ways. Doubtless, in this description of God's returning favor, the writer had in view that more glorious period, when Christ shall establish His government on God's reconciled justice and abounding mercy. Go before him, as his harbinger or attendant. He shall work and fulfil all righteousness, he shall glorify and satisfy the righteousness of God, and shall advance the practice of righteousness and holiness among men.

Shall set us in the way of his steps, i.e. shall cause us to walk in those righteous ways wherein he walketh, and which he hath prescribed to us. But this us is not in the Hebrew, and may seem too liberal a supplement. And the words may be, and are by almost all other interpreters, rendered otherwise, he (i.e. God) shall set (which may note his stability and constancy in so doing) it (to wit, righteousness last mentioned) in the way of his steps, i.e. in the way wherein he walketh. So the sense of this last clause is the same for substance with the former, as is very usual in this book; righteousness in that clause goes before him, and in this it goes along with him. Righteousness shall go before him,.... The incarnate Saviour, the increase of our land, and fruit of the virgin's womb; and righteousness may be put for a righteous person, as Aben Ezra interprets it; and may design John the Baptist, a holy and just man, Mark 6:20, who was the forerunner and harbinger of Christ, went before him, and prepared the way for him, Luke 1:76.

and shall set us in the way of his steps; the business of John the Baptist being not only to prepare the way of Christ by his doctrine and baptism, but to guide the feet of his people into the way of peace; or to direct them to believe in Christ, and to be followers of him, the Lamb of God, whithersoever he went; who has left an example of grace and duty, that we should tread in his steps, Luke 1:79, the Targum renders it, "in the good way"; and such a way John taught men to walk in.

{h} Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

(h) Justice will then flourish and have free course and passage in every place.

13. Jehovah Himself appears to lead His people forward. Before Him as a herald goes the righteousness which moves Him to the salvation of His people; and (it) shall make his footsteps a way (to walk in); so that His people may follow without let or hindrance; an allusion possibly to the ‘way’ so often spoken of in the later chapters of Isaiah (Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 42:16; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:11; Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10). The words are obscure, but this rendering, adopted by R.V., is the best. Other renderings are; (1) and shall set its footsteps in the way of his footsteps, i.e. follow Him closely, cp. Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 52:12; or, (2) which gives a similar sense, shall give heed to the way of his footsteps; or (3) and shall set its footsteps in the way, march forward freely and unrestrainedly, in contrast to the gloomy picture of Isaiah 49:14; or (4) shall set his footsteps in the way, move God to march forth in saving might.Verse 13. - Righteousness shall go before him. Prepare the way, i.e., for the restoration of the people to God's favour (compare the first clause of ver. 11, and the second of ver. 12). And shall set us in the way of his steps; i.e. cause his people to walk in the way marked out by his footsteps - i.e. by the indications of his will either in nature or in the written Word.

The poet now prays God to manifest anew the loving-kindness He has shown formerly. In the sense of "restore us again," שׁוּבנוּ does not form any bond of connection between this and the preceding strophe; but it does it, according to Ges. 121, 4, it is intended in the sense of (אלינוּ) שׁוּב לנוּ, turn again to us. The poet prays that God would manifest Himself anew to His people as He has done in former days. Thus the transition from the retrospective perfects to the petition is, in the presence of the existing extremity, adequately brought about. Assuming the post-exilic origin of the Psalm, we see from this strophe that it was composed at a period in which the distance between the temporal and spiritual condition of Israel and the national restoration, promised together with the termination of the Exile, made itself distinctly felt. On עמּנוּ (in relation to and bearing towards us) beside כּעסך, cf. Job 10:17, and also on הפר, Psalm 89:34. In the question in Psalm 89:6 reminding God of His love and of His promise, משׁך has the signification of constant endless continuing or pursuing, as in Psalm 36:11. The expression in Psalm 85:7 is like Psalm 71:20, cf. Psalm 80:19; שׁוּב is here the representative of rursus, Ges. 142. ישׁעך from ישׁע, like קצפּך in Psalm 38:2, has ĕ (cf. the inflexion of פּרי and חק) instead of the ı̆ in אלהי ישׁענוּ. Here at the close of the strophe the prayer turns back inferentially to this attribute of God.
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