The Church’s Sending & Receiving
The Dove Of Peace

a brief study of Psalm 85, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 30 April 2009

Psalm 85 is probably a post-exilic psalm together with Psalm 126, whereas Psalm 137 was probably written in the early years of the Babylonian Captivity.

We do not know who the author is, but he probably returned from exile with Zerubbabel or Ezra. Now, as we can imagine, during those years, things were still very difficult for the returnees. The seventy years appointed by the Lord for the chastisement of the nation was over. But tokens of the Lord’s displeasure were still evident everywhere. The population was decimated. The city needed to be rebuilt. The pains and sorrows of the earlier years were still being felt.

It was in this context that the Psalmist both praises the Lord for deliverance and petitions Him for further restoration.

Matthew Henry likens the situation that the people of God were under to that of Noah in the Ark when the rain had stopped and the water started to subside. He likens the first part of this Psalm, verses 1-7, to Noah sending out the dove; and the second part of the Psalm, verses 8-13 as the dove returning with an olive branch in her beaks.

This is a beautiful picture, isn’t it? And does it not also help us to see how relevant this Psalm is to us today? For are we not like Noah in the ark? The Wrath of God is over for us, but the power and consequence of sin is everywhere present, and threatens to cast a pall of gloom over us. Oh how we need the Lord’s assurance through the dove with her olive branch. And this is what the Lord provides us with when we sing this Psalm together to teach and admonish one another.

We may entitle this Psalm, “the Church’s Sending and Receiving the Dove of Peace.” It is a song given by the inspiration of Christ that the Church may sing in union with Him as she awaits the day of Her full redemption.

Let’s consider first, the sending of the dove.

1. The Dove Sent

1  LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. 2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. 3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.

The Jews returning from exile have much to thank God for, for the LORD had not dealt with them after their sins; nor rewarded them according to their iniquities (Ps 103:10). Instead, He had forgiven their iniquity and covered their sin (v. 2). He has set aside His anger and wrath. He looks upon them with favour and love.

Is this not also our own experience individually and corporately?

We were children of God’s wrath deserving eternal damnation for our sin against Him. We were under the bondage of sin and Satan. But God in His mercy has redeemed us by the blood of Christ and freed us from captivity; and gave us the assurance that His anger has been turned from us. We are no longer children of God’s Wrath, but His adopted sons and daughters; no longer aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, but citizens of heaven.

But like the Jews of old, we have not reached heavenly rest. There remains a rest unto the people of God. There remains evident tokens of God’s wrath in our lives individually and corporately. Are there not the struggles against sin? Are there not the assaults of the wicked one? Are there not quarrels and disharmony?

Shall we not like the Jews of old send out the dove?

 4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. 5 Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? 6 Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? 7 Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation.

Thus must be our plea. Turn us, revive us, show us mercy, grant us salvation!

Though we have the assurance that we have been reconciled to God, the flood waters have not receded. The serpent whose head was crushed at the cross is still thrashing about seeking to destroy whom he may.

And at the same time, there is also the remnant of corruption remaining in us. And as such we will sin against the Lord. Therefore, although we are judicially forgiven, we still incur God’s fatherly displeasure.

What manner of a child who loves his father will endure the father’s loving chastisement yet not seek the father’s mercy and help that he may enjoy him more?

And so let us send our dove. Let us cry: Turn us, revive us, show us mercy, grant us salvation! Change us, increase our zeal and love for thee. Forgive and save us. We desire, heavenly father, to rejoice in thee more and more (v. 6).

But look, …

2. The Dove Returns

She is returning with an olive branch of peace in her beak:

8 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. 9 Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.

“I will hear.” But who is this “I”. I would put it to you that there is no good reason to think of this “I” as anyone but Christ who can be part of us when we sing “we” and “us”, who is also God’s prophet to convey God’s Word to us.

What does the Lord hear? He hears that God will show compassion to His people. He will speak peace to us. But listen, there is a “but”… “But let them not turn again to folly.” Let us therefore gratefully take heed not to turn again to folly and so incur the Lord’s displeasure.

If we walk in His fear, we will know His salvation. That is, we will know His help to grow in grace. We will bask in His glory and have the firm hope of being glorified ourselves one day.

Why will this be so? This is so because God has graciously brought together mercy [or grace] and truth, righteousness and peace and bestowed them to us.

10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

How did God do that? Listen first to the apostle John in John 1:14—

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Mercy or grace and truth is met together in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about righteousness and peace? Did they not also kissed each other in the Lord Jesus Christ who is a priest after the order of Melchizedek? What did the writer of Hebrews say concerning Melchizedek? His name, says the writer is “by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace” (Heb 7:2).

“All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2Cor 1:20).

Through Him, we have grace and mercy because, it is for His sake we are not consumed. It is for His sake the Wrath of God towards us has been replaced by love.

And through Him, truth and justice is upheld for He suffered and died to pay for our sins.

Because of Him, we can have both mercy and truth. Were it not for Him, we may have either but not both. If we have mercy, truth will be violated because sin has to be overlook. If we have truth, then mercy must be forfeited because our sin must be punished or else justice is destroyed. But because of Christ, the Son of God, mercy and grace does not violate truth and justice; and truth and justice does not preclude mercy and grace.

Christ was punished as the God-Man, and our covenant representative on our behalf. We deserve everlasting hell for our sin against God. Christ our Lord, the Son of God suffered the equivalent of everlasting hell while on the Cross for us, for there on the Cross our Lord was forsaken by the Father. Hell is where there is an absence of favourable presence of God and a pervasive presence of the infinite Wrath of God. Christ our Lord experienced that for a full three hours when the sun could not shine. For three hours all that the eternal Son of God saw of His Father was His burning wrath. At the end of the three hours, our Lord cried out ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!”

It is because Christ our Lord was punished on our behalf that we will never be punished again. In Him is mercy and truth.

And likewise, Christ is our righteousness, for He kept the law perfectly on our behalf so that His righteousness, which is a righteousness acceptable to God is imputed to us.

And Christ is our peace for through Him we have peace with God and with one another.

Christ is our mercy and truth, and our peace and righteousness.

It is because of Christ that we can have the assurance that all things, including thing that do not appear so good to us, are working together for our good.

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” asks the apostle Paul (Rom 8:32).

And look at verse 12—

12 Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. 13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

What good will the Father withhold from us, when he withheld not His only begotten Son for us?

Whatever struggles we may experience, let us run on in the Christian race with this assurance. For Christ’s sake, the Father will bless us. We shall grow in grace and strength. We will continue to bear fruit unto His glory.

He who is the Sun of Righteousness will lead us in the paths of righteousness as righteousness went before Him. Righteousness went before Him not only in that the Preacher of Righteousness, John the Baptist prepared his way. Righteousness went before him too in that his path to glory was the highway of righteousness.


Beloved brethren and children, what is Christ to you?

Is the Lord your all in all? He is appointed by the Father to be He in whom mercy meets with truth; and righteousness and peace kissed each other.

He is not only the basis of our Christian life. He is our hope and assurance.

Without Him, the Christian life is meaningless and without hope. Indeed, had He not died for us, we would have no Christian life, for we would have no mercy nor peace. It is for this reason we must remember His death often.

May the Lord grant us His help not only to remember His love for us, but to follow “in the way of his steps” that we may glorify Him with our lives.


—JJ Lim